Pasadena Texas Common Law Marriage
Common Law Marriage: How to Keep From Accidentally Getting Married
Common Law marriage, also known as an informal marriage, is a type of marriage
between a man and a
woman who have agreed to be married, who "hold themselves out"
as married to third parties, and live together during this agreement.
Couples that meet these requirements can find themselves married even
though they have never obtained a marriage license or participated in
a formal marriage ceremony.
Texas Family Code section 2.401 lists out the elements that must be shown to prove an informal marriage.
In order to show a "common law" marriage it must be shown that
1. Agreed to be married, and
2. lived together as husband and wife in the State of Texas, and
3. tell other people in Texas that they are husband and wife.
Agreement to be Married
The parties have to agree to be married. The agreement must be for a present
and permanent marital relationship, it cannot be an agreement to get married
sometime in the future. To prove this agreement to be married, the parties
can offer direct testimony of an agreement to be married or can offer
an actual written agreement made by the parties. The agreement may also
be proved by circumstantial evidence of the last two elements to a common
law marriage. So just by proving that the parties lived together and held
themselves out as married can be enough to prove the agreement.
Examples of courts finding an agreement to be married:
1. Wife testimony that husband did not contradict that the two of them
had "agreed to be married."
2. Wife testimony that the couple had agreed to "live like husband
3. Husband calling woman his "wife," his parents calling her
their "daughter-in-law," and the woman being listed as his wife
on loan documents.
4. Woman's testimony that she and the man had agreed to be married
even though man denied they had agreed to be married.
Examples of courts finding
no agreement of marriage:
1. Man promised to stay with woman through her illness
2. Behavior that could also be construed as courtship, like living together,
holding hands, and showing affection.
3. Man's testimony he was engaged to woman, she was his girlfriend,
and he did nt consider them officially married yet.
4. Marriage proposal and giving of engagement ring.
Live together as husband and wife in Texas
In order to find an informal marriage exists, there parties must live together.
The "cohabitation requirement consists of a couple living together
as husband and wife, maintaining a household, and doing things that are
normally done by married couples, not just having a sexual relationship
while living together. There is no formal requirement for how long a couple
must live together to satisfy this prong of the common law marriage.
Examples where courts have found cohabitation exists:
1. Evidence that man and woman lived together in one house for two and
a half months.
2. Evidence that a man regularly stayed at a woman's house even though
he occasionally stayed at his former home where his kids lived.
3. Testimony that a man who was employed in another country, would come
back to Texas and stay with a woman often and would travel with her as well.
Examples where courts have
not found cohabitation exists:
1. Evidence that man and woman had sex at parents home, never stayed full
night together and never moved any items into a common room together.
2. Evidence that man and woman had separate beds and lived in separate
rooms, even though they sometimes lived in same house.
Contact a Pasadena Texas Divorce Lawyer today
Holding out to other people that the couple is married
After proving that there was an agreement to be married, and that the parties
actually lived together, the last element to be proven is that the parties
told other people in Texas that they were married. Texas law says that
there can not be a "secret" common law marriage. If a couple
only tells close friends and relatives but tries to conceal the marriage
from the general public, the holding out requirement has not been met.
Holding out can be established by the parties conduct alone, there does
not have to be a spoken outcry admitting a marriage. The holding out requirement
cannot be done by only one party, both parties must hold out to find a
Examples where courts have found that parties have "held out:"
1. Testimony that the parties called each other "husband" and
"wife" to friends and had filed a notarized property deed listed
them as spouses.
2. Evidence one party was listed as a spouse on the other party's life
3. Evidence that a couple filed a signed credit application as husband and wife.
Examples where courts have
not found the parties have "held out.
1. Evidence that a couple told people an unknown number of times they were
husband and wife.
2. Evidence that wife had introduced husband to her two close friends as
her husband, and that she told a couple other fiends she was married.
3. Evidence that man only told a few friends he was married, and no evidence
that wife had ever done so.
A "common law" marriage begins at the first date that all three
of the elements are met, and will last until the parties either
divorce each other, annul the marriage, or by the death of one party. an informal
marriage has the same legal effect as a formal or ceremonial marriage
with regards to the divorce court being able to
divide the assets accumulated during the common law marriage. In order to have a court declare that there is a valid "common law"
marriage, a divorce case must be filed in the family law courts in your
county. The family law court will decide whether there is enough evidence
to prove the "common law" marriage, and once the court rules
there is a valid marriage, the court will then divide the assets and debts
accumulated in the marriage in a just and right division of the estate.
If you are involved in a common law marriage and your spouse is denying
that your marriage exists, you need to
quickly contact a family law attorney to discuss your situation. A suit to prove an informal marriage must be
filed within two years of the last date the couple resided together. Failure
to bring the suit in that two year period of time waives the ability to
file a divorce on the marriage.
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Here at the
Dennis M. Slate, Attorney at Law, we offer a full range of family law and legal services including
child custody and
grandparent visitation and
custody, etc. We have
3 Houston area locations including Deer Park, Houston, and Porter, Texas. Call our offices today
and we can set an appointment with an attorney: (281) 407-9254.