Common Law Marriage in Texas: Defining Your Relationship

In Texas, the concept of common law marriage has gained increasing relevance, particularly given the growing trend of couples choosing cohabitation over formal marriage. A Google search reveals that the number of married couples in the United States is currently lower than at any other point in recorded American history. This shift prompts the question: What are dating relationships based on in Texas?

This shift in living arrangements highlights the importance of understanding common law marriage in Texas 2019. Many people might unknowingly enter into a common law marriage. Texas law recognizes common law marriage. This is based on factors such as cohabitation, presenting themselves as a married couple, and mutually agreeing to be married. Recognizing the existence of such a relationship is crucial. This is because it carries significant legal implications in matters of property, inheritance, and even child custody.

Cohabitation prior to marriage, as the inverse of living together after marriages, is therefore on the upswing. Some individuals participate in such relationships without ever considering formal marriage. Regardless of the reasons and motivations behind these choices, when such patterns emerge in a society, they warrant thorough examination. If you don’t know whether you are in a simple relationship with your partner, or are actually in a common law marriage, you may be in for some surprises later in life.

Misconceptions about common law marriages

For as many people as there are out there who believe themselves to not be in common law marriages, there are as many people (if not more) that falsely believe themselves in a common law marriage. Let’s walk through some of the things I have heard that help to make a common law marriage that is absolutely false.

Misconception #1

The most common but incorrect belief about common law marriage is that living together in a romantic relationship for six months or more automatically constitutes a common law marriage. I don’t know if there is a movie or television show that has said something like this, but it is definitely a thought that many people share. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you want to look at it) this is a not a true belief.

Misconception #2

Another common but incorrect belief is that moving in with your partner automatically results in a common law marriage. The strange thing is that people out there think this and then never mention it to their partner. It’s like elementary school, thinking someone is your boyfriend or girlfriend when they’re unaware. This is similar to that.

Sometimes if you are in a relationship for long enough, you may find that your significant other (if that significant other is a female) may start to use your last name to apply for loans or just in their day to day life. I’ve come to understand that some individuals believe that if they consider themselves married to another person and begin using their surname, marriage will automatically occur. That is not the case, either.

Misconception #3

One of the most common situations where people mistakenly believe they are in common law marriages, even though they are not, is when they discuss getting married for an extended period without actually doing so. If you were to ask either person in that relationship, they might claim that all those years of planning and discussing marriage constitute a common law marriage. However, this belief is not accurate.

Misconception #4

Another common misconception is that if you and your significant other agree to enter a common law marriage, you can just as easily agree to a common law divorce. However, the process is not that simple. Entering a common law marriage involves more than just an agreement to be married, and similarly, dissolving it through a common law divorce requires more than a mutual agreement.

I don’t know if it’s something about being in Texas that we seem to develop a lot of beliefs that are not so much based in fact, but more so based on folklore and tall tales. Whatever the root cause of this trend, folks just seem to have a lot of mistaken beliefs on this subject. When it comes to matters of the heart as well as matters of the pocketbook this can be a recipe for disaster. Let’s try and eliminate some of those mistaken beliefs and restore some facts to this discussion, then.

What does it actually take to be in a common law marriage in Texas

Before we go any further, it makes sense to establish right off the bat what a common law marriage actually is in Texas. What does it take to actually be in a valid common law marriage?

The two people involved in the relationship must first agree to be married. That means that you and your partner must have had a conversation where you both consent to marrying the other person. While a common law marriage doesn’t require a formal proposal or a ring exchange, it does necessitate a mutual understanding between both parties that they consider themselves married.

Next, you need to live together as husband and wife. This doesn’t mean that you all can plan to live together or have two houses but spend the night frequently at the same house. You have to have one residence, used by both of you on a consistent basis. There should be no question about where you live and where your spouse lives.

Finally, and this is always the tricky one, you and your spouse have to represent to other people in Texas that you are husband and wife. Get-togethers with family and friends mean that you talk about your partner as your spouse and not your boyfriend. Co-workers need to think that you are living with your spouse and not a partner. So on and so forth. To meet this final requirement, it’s essential to use words like “husband,” “wife,” and “spouse” frequently to represent the mutual understanding of marriage.

All three of these elements must simultaneously exist to legally establish a common law marriage. Having just two out of three won’t suffice to establish a common law marriage under the law.

What else must be in place?

Being common law married in Texas isn’t as simple as it may seem. There are additional factors to consider. First of all, you must be able to prove that both you and your spouse had the capacity to enter into the common law marriage. To be eligible for a common law marriage, both parties must be over 18 years old, not related to each other, and not currently married to someone else. These are essential qualifications for consenting to a common law marriage.

Like everything else in Texas family law, the existence of a common law marriage is largely a fact-based determination. Whether you are in a common law marriage depends on the specific circumstances and facts of your relationship. If you need to defend your common law marriage claim, you must be ready to provide evidence in court.

An agreement between you and your partner to be married

As mentioned earlier, both you and your partner or significant other must actively agree to enter into marriage. This agreement entails an immediate and permanent desire to marry, rather than merely a future plan or passing consideration. It cannot be a fleeting decision that changes shortly after.

Something in writing evidencing this desire is a good place to start, but if you don’t have that you will need to have your actions show the desires of your heart (now that’s the kind of poetry you won’t find in any other family law blog post). Ultimately you are setting yourself up to be able to prove a common law marriage if your partner attempts to challenge that there was ever that type of relationship in place.

What does it mean to cohabit with another person?

For your common law marriage to be valid in Texas, you and your spouse must reside together as husband and wife in Texas. Being intimate with another in the same house does not suffice for these purposes, there needs to be more than that. To establish a common law marriage, you must maintain a household together, which involves sharing bills, chores, meals, and other tasks typically performed by spouses. If you can fulfill this requirement within a week, you may be considered common law married. There is no length of time that the cohabitation must occur.

Telling other people that you are married (or showing them that you are married)

Representing to other people that you are married is the other qualification of common law marriage in Texas. You cannot be in a super-secret common law marriage with your partner/spouse. While you do not need to shout out your relationship from the rooftops, that is certainly one