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Understanding Marriage in Texas: An Expert Overview

Your marriage is the most important relationship that you will ever have. The trouble is that when you are married you need to concern yourself with not only yourself but with another person. Being able to build a life with someone else while considering their thoughts and feelings is something that may not come easy to you. Rather, these are skills that you will need to build over time and with the guidance and help of those around you. Ideally, you and your spouse will become a team together. However, in some circumstances, the two of you may stop working as a unit and will instead act more as adversaries. In that case, marriage therapy may be a solution to your problem, or you may end up seeking a divorce.

The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are fortunate enough to be able to work with families from across southeast Texas who are facing difficult circumstances and trying times. We know that no two families are the same, so we work tirelessly to update our skills, and understand your life and what goals you have for yourself and your family. Your family deserves individualized care and treatment and that is what you will receive from the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan.

When it comes to marriage there are inherent advantages in Texas to being married than cohabitating with a person that you are in a relationship with. Not the least of which is that to end your marriage means that the community property laws of Texas go into effect. These community property laws protect both you and your spouse from having your finances not be considered in the “break up.”

Better to be married than a “couple” to buy a home in Texas

For instance, let’s say that you and your spouse purchased a home together during your marriage. You subsequently filed for divorce from your spouse which puts you in a position where the family home is subject to division in the case. Both you and your spouse would be able to receive something out of the home because of the divorce. It may be that the house is sold, and the profits are divided between the two of you. Or one spouse will remain in the home and the other will receive their portion of the equity in installments or from other parts of the community estate.

On the other hand, let’s consider what would happen in the above scenario where you and your partner are not married. Let’s assume that you bought a house with your boyfriend a few years ago. Now, you could have been married but neither of you was all that interested in getting married and as a result, you stayed in a relationship but not a marital relationship. The idea occurred to you both that it would be a good idea to buy a house since interest rates were at an all-time low back in those days. So, that’s exactly what you did. You bought a house with your boyfriend not stopping to consider your options and whether it was better to do so while you were married.

Ultimately you all decided that a wedding and marriage were not something that you would be interested in and just decided to stay together in a non-marriage relationship. The house was purchased using a little bit of each of your income as a down payment. The next step in the process would be to determine whose name the mortgage would be in. Since you have bad credit, your boyfriend put the loan in his name. Only his income was considered for the loan so you barely qualified for the loan and the interest rate wasn’t as competitive as it could have been had your name been on the document.

Next, the house would ultimately be deeded in your boyfriend’s name as well. You figured that since your name wasn’t on the mortgage then it made no sense for your name to be on the deed. Here is our recap: the deed is in your boyfriend’s name. The loan is in your boyfriend’s name as well. The two most important documents associated with the sale of the home are now completely in the name of your boyfriend. Your less-than-great credit and less-than-great knowledge of community property law led to your being in this situation. Let’s walk through what these circumstances can and likely would mean for you moving forward.

After buying the home, your income was certainly used in various ways that are connected to the house. You built a back deck, had to fix the A/C condenser in the attic, and made a host of other repairs, as well. Even if the home is titled to your spouse, your contributions to the home in income, sweat, and other ways would surely mean that you would be ok in the long run as far as getting what you deserve out of the house, right? Well, you may be ok in this situation but not under family law.

The reality is that while you may have contributed to the home financially it is not as if you are an owner of the home in a legal sense. Texas doesn’t have anything close to equitable ownership or ownership in fact or anything like that. If your name isn’t on the title documents, then you do not own the home. Even if your income was used to fix the air conditioner or update the backyard that doesn’t mean that you acquire home ownership. Think about it as if you were your boyfriend’s mother who lived with him and helped him pay the bills and do other things around the house. Would it make sense for her to become the owner of the house based on these things? No.

You are a roommate in the eyes of the law in Texas about your boyfriend. Whether you are married or single- there is no in-between relationship box that you can check off. Rather, you are a roommate of your boyfriend in his house. Now, you may have a claim for some sort of reimbursement for the money that you contributed to the home. Or your boyfriend could argue that you made those contributions to the house based on your desires. As a result, he would argue, he should not have to pay you anything for your monetary contributions to the upkeep and improvement of the home.

On the other hand, if you were married then the law would hold that you are entitled to at least some degree of reimbursement for community property funds that went towards the upkeep and improvement of the home. Suppose that the home was purchased by your boyfriend as we discussed earlier. A few months later the two of you got divorced. The house would be his separate property in this scenario. You would still not technically be an owner who is entitled to equity in the home if it were to be sold in the divorce.

However, you would be entitled to reimbursement given that community income was utilized to pay the mortgage, update the backyard, and make improvements on the home in general. Any community income or property that was used to perform those actions would need to be paid back to the community estate and then divided between the two of you. This is how being married can protect you in ways that being in a relationship cannot.

You could file a civil lawsuit against your boyfriend and ask a court to pay you back for all the money that went towards the upkeep and renovations of the home. However, you would want to investigate that further before you file a lawsuit. There is no sure thing in a situation like this. You would not be facing the same set of circumstances that you would have filed for a divorce and been married to your spouse rather than just dating him.

What does a marriage ceremony consist of?

A ceremonial marriage is the type of marriage that most people enter. You would need to acquire a marriage license by appearing before any county clerk in Texas with a document that shows your proof of age and identity. A marriage license application would also need to be completed and turned in. Finally, an oath would be administered to you and your fiancé which would allow you to obtain the marriage license that you seek. This would allow you then sign the application in front of the clerk’s employee and then get married validly in Texas.

How old do you need to be to get married in Texas?

You need to be over the age of 18 to get married in Texas. However, if you are over 16 years old and have parental consent then you can also have a marriage license issued to you. Your parent would need to submit something in writing to the county clerk where you are trying to obtain the marriage license. The county clerk’s office would need to provide the document and your parent would have to sign the form and complete any additional information that is being asked for.

Common law marriage in Texas

One of the most interesting areas of family law in Texas is that of being common law married. A common law marriage is one in which you and your spouse do not go through with a marriage ceremony. A marriage license is never obtained and the two of you do not go through with the pomp and circumstance that usually attends a wedding. However, if you and your spouse pay attention to the details of your habits and lifestyle then you can still be married. This type of marriage is known as a common law marriage and it is every bit as valid as a ceremonial marriage. However, the difficulty comes into play when you need to be able to prove that you are in a common-law marriage. Sometimes your spouse may argue that you were not in a common law marriage and then the situation is one where it becomes, he said, she said the battle over proving that the requirements of a common law marriage have all been met.

There are three requirements to a common law marriage that must be in place concurrently (at the same time) to qualify as a common law marriage. Those requirements are: 1) that you and your spouse lived together as husband and wife 2) engaged in marital behavior- activities common to married people and 3) represented to other people that you were married. You must have been doing all three of these things simultaneously for your relationship to qualify as a common-law marriage. Once any one of these aspects is no longer in place than the two of you are no longer married.

As I am sure you can imagine, there are circumstances where one person may argue that they were in a common-law marriage and the other person would want to argue that no such relationship had ever been initiated. An example of this type of situation would include where one person argues that a home or other asset is their separate property, while the other person argues that the home is community property due to it having been purchased after the two of you entered a common law marriage.

Whether a divorce is necessary or not is the question that would be put before a family court judge. Evidence would need to be submitted to the court to show that the three elements of a common law marriage were all satisfied concurrently. On the other hand, your spouse would be attempting to show that at least one element was not in place sufficiently to cause your relationship to become a common-law marriage. The implications of the judge’s decision in this type of situation can be humongous.

Marriage counseling and pre-marriage counseling

Receiving and engaging in counseling before you get married is a good idea. I say this because every one of us comes into the marriage with different amounts of baggage and other concerns in our lives. While we may feel like we are completely ready to get married the truth of the matter is that there may be parts of our lives that require some degree of introspection and further analysis before we get married. Marriage counseling is something where you and your fiancé can consider your own needs and limitations and build upon the foundation that was already laid in your relationship.

Premarital counseling can be something that you obtained through your church or even through a counselor or therapist approved by your health insurance provider. You can look into the availability of counseling and therapy by reaching out to your health insurance provider or even by contacting local marriage and family therapists and seeing what type of health insurance they accept. Reducing the cost and stress associated with marriage counseling can be extremely important to the overall success that you all experience in premarital counseling.

If working with an experienced marriage and family therapist is not something that you and your fiancé are interested in, then one way that I’m aware of that people experience success in preparing for marriage is by working to establish a budget for themselves moving forward. You may be scratching your head and wondering how a budget may work out to serve the same purpose as marriage or family therapy. However, I think that the skills that you would use in creating a budget can be something that transcends financial matters and will allow you to understand better the person that you are marrying.

By creating a budget with your fiancé, you are forced to work together towards a mutual goal. If the two of you have different viewpoints on any subject, then those differences will come to the forefront while you work on the budget. It is better to focus on these issues before you get married than to have to worry about them while you are married. This will leave you better prepared for marriage and may even give you a reason for pause if you have not yet tied the knot.

Overall, there are so many factors that go into a successful marriage That we could not possibly list all of them in this setting. However, if you have additional questions about marriage and divorce then you should certainly Talk with your partner about those issues and possibly reach out to an experienced Marriage and family therapist if that is your desire, as well.

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