Each U.S. state has a unique set of laws that help determine what is officially recognized as “marriage.” As you dive deeper into state laws, you will see that some states recognize common law marriage and others do not.
You might be wondering does Texas recognize common law marriage? The answer is yes. Texas is one of a handful of U.S. states that does acknowledge common law marriages.
There are specific stipulations for your relationship to be officially acknowledged in this manner. Let’s further examine how Texas treats common law marriage so that you can better understand whether to pursue this formal designation for your relationship.
Standard Marriage vs. Common Law Marriage in Texas
The Texas Family Code deals specifically with the marriage relationship to help each county determine whether to issue a marriage license to couples that wish to have their relationship legally recognized by the state.
– A standard marriage: The law includes basic guidelines for couples that desire to “enter into a ceremonial marriage” on the path to obtaining a marriage license.
Couples must meet certain requirements, not be disqualified for reasons such as related by blood, provide proof of their identity and age, and file an application. After satisfying all requirements, couples will be issued a license in the county where they applied for a marriage certificate.
– Common law marriage: The Texas Family Code also includes a specific set of laws related to what’s legally known as “marriage without formalities,” also known as informal marriage. The state of Texas has the ability to recognize this type of marriage if the following criteria are met:
- Both parties agree that they are married.
- The couple lives together as if they are married.
- The couple represents themselves to others that they are married.
However, there are certain restrictions for common law marriage. A person under the age of 18 may not be part of an informal marriage, you cannot be related by blood or adoption to the other party, and you cannot already be in a standard or informal marriage. Other factors may be considered on a case-by-case basis that could disqualify a person from entering into a common law marriage.
If you satisfy all requirements, then you can apply for a marriage license through a form titled, “Declaration and Registration of Informal Marriage.” You will file this application in the county where you and your spouse reside.
In addition to providing the information required on the application, the county clerk will require proof of your identity and age. Providing false or incorrect information could create legal issues, so it’s important to make sure that you provide truthful and accurate information on the application.
How to Obtain Common Law Marriage Designation in Texas
After receiving your application, the county clerk will determine that you and your spouse have provided all necessary information and documentation. The clerk will then record a certificate or declaration of informal marriage.
At this point, the clerk will administer an oath to you and your spouse, have each of you sign the declaration in the presence of the clerk, and execute the certificate to formally recognize your marriage.
Once the marriage becomes official, then the clerk will file the marriage certificate with the state, provide you with a copy of the certificate (or prepare for it to be received at a later time), and provide you with formal evidence of the marriage between you and your spouse.
Benefits of Common Law Marriage
Common law marriage carries many benefits. You will have the opportunity to utilize the formal record of your marriage to support key matters such as:
- Tax purposes to file married jointly with the IRS.
- Establishing a formal parent-child relationship with the other party’s children.
- Medical purposes to have the other party make medical decisions on your behalf.
- Receiving Social Security benefits tied to the other party.
- Inheritance purposes to leave assets or an estate to the other party.
- Division of property in the event of a future divorce.
- Determining alimony (or spousal maintenance) following a divorce.
There are other benefits that may relate to the specific nature of your relationship. If you are on the path to having your relationship formally recognized by the state of Texas, then you should consider working with a family law attorney to help you realize these benefits.
Work With a Family Law Attorney for Marital Legal Support
Every relationship is unique. The laws in Texas are designed to create a standard by which each relationship is measured to help determine whether it should be formally recognized as a marriage relationship. I can help you make this determination for your specific situation.
If you are thinking about entering into a common law marriage with your significant other, then let’s discuss your case so that you can make an informed decision. Fortunately, Texas recognizes common law marriage to provide you with that opportunity.
I currently help couples in Brazoria County, Fort Bend County, and Harris County with family law matters. If you live in one of these counties, then contact me to discuss your circumstances.
Call my offices today at 281-944-5485 or 979-267-7660 to learn more about how common law marriage works in Texas. I’m here to help you and your spouse!