Common Law Marriage: How to Avoid Being or Getting Married Without Your Intent

Marriages often occur for reasons beyond romantic love, such as financial stability, security, or impending parenthood. These unions, sometimes referred to as marriages of necessity or convenience, serve practical purposes rather than solely emotional ones. As you continue reading, it’s likely that you can envision individuals who find themselves in such marriages, where factors beyond romantic affection drive the relationship forward.

Then there are those who are on the other end of the marriage spectrum. They are people who are unwittingly married or have no intention of marriage at all. Common law marriage is known as an informal marriage for a reason. The formalities associated with a proposal, exchanging of vows, the wedding itself, etc. require forethought and planning. People that are common law married oftentimes don’t even know that they are married. Until one or the other of them asserts that they are.

What if your roommate, partner, or someone claims you’re in a common law marriage? This designation carries with it real life consequences and responsibilities. How can you avoid common law marriage? The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC is here to help walk you through the essentials.

A breakdown of Common Law Marriage in Texas

Common Law Marriage is a marriage in which two people agree to be married. They live together as a married couple and hold themselves out as being married to other people. This is all in spite of never going in front of a judge or preacher to be formally married. They never contacted a county clerk to get a marriage license. These are the qualifications for a common law marriage in Texas as set out in the Texas Family Code.

To start with, you and another person have to actually agree to be married. This can be done by an oral agreement or something in writing and must take place presently. It cannot be a “promise to get married when we both turn forty if neither of us is married yet”. By proving the second and third elements, you may have agreed to marriage without any direct discussion with your partner. That’s the tricky part, and it can make defining the agreement aspect complex.

Life circumstances can lead to a common law marriage

Unknowingly entering a common law marriage would be less likely if it started with an oral or written agreement. Texas courts have decided that you can skip the formal agreement step. That is if you live together and present yourselves as a married couple. These can establish a common law marriage in the eyes of the court.

Living together as a married couple would be an important aspect to consider then. If you pay bills together and cook meals together, then you may meet this requirement. Consistently spending the night at a person’s home and having a sexual relationship could be used to prove cohabitation.

Third, we have the requirement that you and this person must have told other people that you were in fact married. Your actions by themselves can be enough for a court to determine that you are in fact common law married. Referring to one another as husband and wife is a basic way to satisfy this requirement, but it must be done to more than just your close friends and family.

If you involve this other person in your financial life – taking out a loan (like a mortgage) with them or listing him or her as a beneficiary on an insurance policy can satisfy this requirement as well, potentially.

When does a common law marriage actually begin and how can it end?

You may be wondering when a common law marriage can actually be said to have begun. Since you’re not going to the courthouse or chapel to exchange vows the beginning of a common law marriage can be a little more difficult to nail down. However, the law in Texas is that as soon as all three of the above requirements are met simultaneously then your common law marriage will have begun.

A common law marriage can end in the same way that a “traditional” marriage can – death, divorce or annulment. A key to understanding the end of a common law marriage is that a common law marriage carries with it the same consequences in terms of a division of your estate upon divorce. While you may think you are just in a dating or “roommate” relationship with another person, he or she may disagree and seek a formal divorce. A judge would consider evidence not only about the nature of your relationship with that person but potentially could be needed to divide up property should a common law marriage be found to be in place.

In conclusion, implementing proactive measures outlined in this article can significantly reduce the risk of unintentionally entering into a common law marriage. By understanding the legal requirements and implications, individuals can take steps to safeguard themselves against unintended commitment. From clarifying relationship status through written agreements to maintaining separate financial accounts and refraining from presenting as married, these strategies serve as effective ways to avoid common law marriage. Seeking legal advice and staying informed about jurisdiction-specific laws further strengthens protection against potential legal entanglements. Overall, proactive awareness and deliberate action are key in preventing the complexities associated with common law marriage.

Questions about common law marriage in Texas? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC

If you believe that you may be in a common law marriage and have questions about the consequences of that relationship please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC today. Our office works with clients across southeast Texas and would be honored to speak to you about your situation. In Texas you must bring a lawsuit to prove an informal marriage within two years of the last time you and the alleged spouse lived together to avoid a presumption against the marriage so contact our licensed family lawattorneys today. A free of charge consultation is available six days a week.


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  1. Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Common Law Marriage and Divorce
  2. Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Texas Marriage
  3. Non-Marital Conjugal Cohabitation Agreements for the Unmarried Couple in Texas
  4. Common Law Marriage and Texas Divorce Guide
  5. How to get a Common Law Divorce in Spring, Texas
  6. Am I Married? – Marital Status in Texas
  7. Can I sue my spouse’s mistress in Texas?
  8. When is, Cheating Considered Adultery in a Texas Divorce?
  9. 6 things You Need to Know Before You File for Divorce in Texas
  10. Common Questions about Texas Prenuptial and Marital Agreements

Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it’s important to speak with one of our Houston, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.

Our divorce lawyers in Houston TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles Divorce cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.

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