The end of a marriage is always difficult, and a divorce can be as complex as it is painful. When going through a divorce, many people wonder what factors will matter, if their marriage will be treated differently than any other marriage, or if they will get stuck making alimony payments for the rest of their lives. Some people are uncertain as to whether they are even legally married. No matter what questions and worries you have, our experienced team will help you navigate the divorce process with ease.
Informal Marriage (‘Common-Law Marriage’)
An informal marriage exists when partners consider themselves married, but did not have a legal ceremony or otherwise enter into a marriage legally. An informal marriage requires that you and your partner ‘hold yourself out’ as married. ‘Holding yourself out’ means that you both present as married by taking actions such as filing a joint tax return with a married status, referring to yourselves as married when speaking with others, and insuring your partner as your spouse.
Proof of an Informal Marriage
According to the Texas Family Code, Section 2.401, an informal marriage is one that exists if the following factors are present:
- A declaration of their marriage has been signed; or
- The couple agreed to be married, and after the agreement they lived together in this state as husband and wife, and represented to others that they were married.
If you separated and plan on proving a marriage, you must do so before the second anniversary of the separation. If you try to prove the marriage’s existence after the second anniversary of the separation, the court presumes that the parties did not agree to be married. Even if the above requirements are met, an informal marriage cannot exist if a party is presently married (formally or informally) to a person who is not the other party to the informal marriage, or if a party is under 18 years of age.
It is essential to clarify the status of an informal marriage because once an informal marriage is established, it will affect property distribution if and when a couple ever decides to divorce.
Challenging an Informal Marriage Claim
Sometimes one party files for divorce, and the other party does not believe they entered into an informal marriage. In this instance, the party asserting the informal marriage claim would need to prove the existence of the marriage.
The absence of a marriage certificate does not always indicate the absence of a marriage. Our team has extensive experience contesting and proving informal marriages, so if you need to challenge a claim or prove that a marriage exists, don’t fight it alone.