Texas is one of the few states in the nation that still recognize “common law” marriages. Also called a “marriage without formalities” or an “informal marriage,” this is a legal marital relationship that begins without any official acknowledgment or ceremony.
Understanding when a common law marriage exists — and what it means later — is important if you want to protect your rights.
When does a common law marriage exist in Texas?
Under Texas law, both same-sex and heterosexual couples can enter into a marriage without formalities when:
- The parties live together within Texas as spouses after they make the agreement
- Both parties agree to be married
- The parties represent to others that they are a married couple
In other words, if you and another party agree to wed, live together as a married couple and tell other people that you’re married, you do not need a marriage license or any official blessing to begin your marriage.
Why does it matter if you have a common law marriage?
There are two main reasons you may need to prove you have a common law marriage: Your relationship is ending or your spouse has passed away and you are trying to assert your inheritance rights.
Married people are automatically entitled to part of their spouse’s estate when that spouse dies. Someone in a common law marriage may have to prove their marital relationship to receive what they are due.
Similarly, divorcing spouses have an automatic right to an equal share of the marital property in this state — but that means establishing both that the marital relationship was valid and when it began.
If you’re in a common law marriage and you’re concerned about the future, or you’re already approaching a split with your common law spouse, then you’ll want to find out more about what it takes to protect your legal interests.