“Am I married?” Seems like a simple question, right? But, sometimes it isn’t, and the answer to that question can be surprising.
Common law marriage does exists in Texas, although, it is legally called “informal marriage.” So, how do you know if you have a common law marriage? Texas Family Code 2.401 states that two parties are informally married if they agree to be married, live together as spouses in Texas, and “hold out” to others that they are married.
The main issue that most people face is the "holding out" question, which is to say that they told or implied to third parties (in Texas) that they were married. There are many ways to represent to others that you are married, such as through filing joint tax returns, sharing health insurance, or simply by telling others that you are married.
Learn more about common law marriages in Texas, as well as your rights if you are in an informal marriage. Contact Walters Gilbreath, PLLC online or by phone at (844) 451-1220 today to speak with a matrimonial attorney.
Can Common Law Marriages Be Challenged?
In short, yes. Typically, common law marriages are challenged when one party files for divorce without ever having been formally married.
Many people wish to challenge a common law marriage because, in the event of a divorce, their property rights may be affected. Furthermore, a person seeking divorce in a common law marriage may be able to pursue spousal support/maintenance. If the couple shares any children, a divorce or separation can become even more complicated.
According to Texas Family Law code, it may be possible to challenge a common law marriage if:
- The couple did not intend to get married
- The couple did not live together in Texas
- The couple did not represent themselves to others as being married
- A proceeding to prove the common law marriage does not occur within two years of the date of separation or the date on which the parties stopped living together
- One or both parties is under the age of 18
- One or both parties was currently married to third party at the time they attempted to enter an informal marriage
For example, if a man is legally married to a woman and attempts to enter an informal marriage with another woman, he will not be able to do so. If a woman believes herself married to a man, but the two file separate tax returns, the man may challenge the common law marriage.
What Is a Declaration of Informal Marriage?
A declaration of informal marriage is a legal document that proves the couple intends to marry. The form is filed with the county clerk, but it is not a marriage license. It can, however, be very useful if the couple should ever divorce without a marriage license, as the declaration of informal marriage can serve as evidence that the common law marriage existed.
In addition to common law marriages, Texas recognizes putative marriages. Putative marriages are those that would be otherwise valid but are invalid due to some legal obstacle. For example, if two individuals get married, but one woman is technically still legally married to her previous wife on the date of marriage, the new marriage is considered invalid until her divorce becomes final. Though this is relatively rare, putative marriages do sometimes occur.
It is important to note that you cannot receive spousal maintenance or related Texas Family Code rights if you never had a legal marriage of some kind, formal or informal. Simply living with someone for a long time does not guarantee the same rights as a formal marriage or common law marriage.
Speak with a Member of Our Legal Team Today
If you are still not sure if you are in a common law marriage, or you wish to challenge a common law marriage, our family law firm can help. We also assist individuals in common law marriages who wish to get divorced or who have been served divorce papers. Regardless of your particular situation, we are here to answer your questions and help you clearly understand your legal rights.
Our Texas matrimonial lawyers have extensive experience navigating all types of complex family law issues, including informal and invalid marriages. We offer our clients a personalized approach, providing the compassionate and attentive service they need.
Reach out to our team today. Call (844) 451-1220 to request your initial case evaluation.