What is Common Law Marriage? | Tessmer Law Firm
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What is Common Law Marriage?

What is Common Law Marriage?

In Texas, common law marriage, or informal marriage, is where a man and woman become husband and wife without getting a marriage license or  having a religious ceremony.  This form of marriage confers all the same rights we recognize in a formal or traditional marriage. Prior to its independence, Texas laws were based on Spanish and European civil laws. In 1840, The Republic of Texas adopted the English system of laws known as “common law.” This mixing of legal systems is why Texas is one of the few states to recognize both traditional and common law marriage as legally equivalent. Most common law marriages become important at the end of the marriage. For example, a spouse is entitled to half of the assets accrued during a common law marriage. Common law spouses also have inheritance rights at the death of a spouse.


In According to chapter 2.401 of the Texas Family Code, in order to have a common law marriage a couple must: 


Live together as man and wife in Texas;

Agree to be married;

Tell others in Texas they are married.


A common misconception is that a couple living together for a certain amount of time will automatically become married in the eyes of the law. In Texas, no matter how long you live together, you must agree to be married and present yourselves as husband and wife in order to have a common law marriage. The third requirement, representing yourselves as married to the community, includes examples like: filing joint tax returns, opening joint bank accounts, and simply referring to one another as husband and wife in front of others.


This week, we will publish more information on entering a common law marriage, exiting a common law marriage, and frequently asked questions.


Further reading:


Pro Se Resources-Common Law Marriage


Law-The Handbook of Texas Online


Common Law Marriage Fact Sheet


Texas State Law Library – Marriage and Divorce


Margaret Jasper – Publication Date: 2008


Learn more about common law marriage issues or contact us for your confidential consultation.