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Common Law Marriage


A common law marriage is a special form marriage of that is recognized in Texas. Under Texas law, it is called an “informal marriage.” Basically, if a couple meets certain statutory requirements, the couple will be recognized as married and will receive the benefits of a married couple even though they have not participated in a formal marriage ceremony. So even though there was not a marriage ceremony, and even though the couple does not have a marriage license, the couple can still be acknowledged as married.


To have a common law marriage in Texas, a couple must meet the three requirements under Texas Family Code 2.401. The couple must (1) have a present agreement to marry; (2) the couple must live together; and (3) the couple must hold themselves out to be husband and wife. Though these elements appear to be simple enough, a couple can run into some problems. For instance, the first element is probably the most difficult to prove because all that is needed in an agreement to be married. Most individuals do not put marriage proposals in writing so there is no evidence of the proposal if it was just an oral promise; however proof of a proposal, like a video, or even an engagement ring could be sufficient evidence to show the agreement to be married.

The second element is self-explanatory – The couple has to live together. The thing to note about this element is that it does not matter how long the couple has lived together. A mistaken belief is that if a couple lives together long enough, then it’s automatically a common law marriage. That is not the case because you must meet all three elements to have a common law marriage, and there is not a designated time length for the second element.

The third element is easy to prove because a couple can hold themselves out to be married through several ways. The couple can file a joint tax return, or sign a lease as a married couple, or fill out a credit card application as a married couple. It could even be sufficient evidence if the couple introduced themselves to people as a married couple.

An additional requirement to consider is that minors cannot be a part of a common law marriage in Texas. You must be 18 years old before you try and enter into an informal marriage. In other words, both spouses must be adults. Furthermore, you cannot enter into a common law marriage if you are currently married, either formally or informally. You must first get a divorce before entering into a common law marriage.


If you or a loved one is thinking about entering into a common law marriage, we can help. We are located in old downtown Forney across from City Hall. The lawyers of Guest and Gray Law Firm have decades of combined Kaufman County experience. We proudly serve all of Kaufman County, including Forney, Terrell, Kaufman, Crandall, Mesquite, Mabank and Scurry-Rosser. Call today for a consultation.

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