Alimony and the Break-up of a Common Law Marriage

Walters Gilbreath, PLLC

In Texas, alimony is referred to as “spousal maintenance.” Spousal maintenance refers to a court order, issued at the end of the proceedings, which requires one ex-spouse to make support payments to the other one. A spouse who asks for support has a difficult hurdle to jump over. Family law courts in Texas begin with the assumption that an order of support is inappropriate.

A separate hurdle exists for those who were never formally married and never obtained a marriage license. Before even asking for maintenance, a party must prove that the couple had an informal marriage, also referred to as a common-law marriage. If a marriage is established, the same divorce laws concerning spousal maintenance apply. Three elements must be met in order to prove the existence of an informal marriage.

  • Both parties agreed to be married.
  • The couple lived together in the state of Texas.
  • The couple held themselves out to the public as a married couple.

The party requesting spousal maintenance will need to present evidence proving each one of the three elements. The party wanting to avoid paying maintenance will, of course, try to prove that a marriage did not exist.

The evidence supporting the existence of an informal marriage does not need to be overwhelming. Courts have held that an informal marriage existed when there was only one incident of a party introducing the other as a spouse. Documents, such as credit card applications or house or apartment leases, which refer to the couple as husband and wife are also sufficient to prove the existence of an informal marriage.

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