If you make a life with someone, you may have rights if that relationship ends, either through one partner’s death or through the dissolution of the relationship. Texas is one of several states that recognizes common law marriage. Common law marriage is as legally viable as a formal marriage, and provides the same protections for both partners.
There are a number of misconceptions about Texas common law marriage, including the idea that you can be considered married under common law simply by virtue of living together or having children. Common law marriage in Texas is proved by showing that a number of conditions have been met. These include:
• living in Texas as a married couple.
• agreeing with one another that you are married.
• telling others that you are married or one partner using the other’s last name.
• showing that you and your partner are not married, either formally or informally, to anyone else at the time that your marriage to each other was created.
Although it is not necessary, a common law marriage claim can be strengthened by singing a “Declaration of Informal Marriage” with your county clerk.
It may be necessary to prove the existence of a common law marriage when determining inheritance rights or if the relationship is ending through a common law divorce. Texas law provides a number of protections for married partners that apply to the end of a relationship. These can include:
• community property. Texas law states that all property that is accumulated during a marriage is considered community property, which means it belongs to both partners equally. This applies in both common law and formal marriages.
• inheritance. If one partner dies, their spouse is entitled to inherit property if there are not directions in a will. This is especially important when a partner dies intestate, which means they died without a valid will in place. If the surviving partner can demonstrate that they were married through common law, they may be able to legally claim a share of the deceased partner’s estate.
If a couple has been separated from one another for more than two years without taking any action to formally end their marriage, such as divorce, the law will presume that you did not intend to be married. Waiting too long can harm your claim in a common law divorce. It is necessary to act quickly to ensure that your rights are protected.
The recognition of common law relationships in Texas is designed to ensure that rights of both partners both during a relationship and if it ends. By learning about your rights under the law, you can be sure that your rights are taken care of. Do you need legal help with a common law marriage issue? Get in touch. We can help you assemble the proof that you need to support your claim and help you advocate for yourself before the law.
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