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What is a Texas common-law marriage?

What is a common-law marriage?

In Texas, a common-law marriage is an informal marriage between a man and a woman who live together, agree to be married, and hold themselves out to others in Texas as husband and wife, but they have not obtained a marriage license or participated in a marriage ceremony.

What are the requirements for a common-law marriage?

To prove a common-law marriage, a person must establish that he/she has the capacity to enter into the marriage AND: (1) the parties agree to be married, (2) the parties cohabitated in the State of Texas as husband and wife, and (3) the parties hold out to other people that they are husband and wife.  All three of these elements must exist at the same time for a valid common-law marriage to exist.

What does an “agreement to be married” mean?

To prove agreement, evidence must show that the parties intended to have a present, immediate, and permanent marital relationship, and that they did indeed agree to be husband and wife.  An agreement to be married in the future, such as an engagement, is not sufficient.  Evidence can include things like express written agreement, testimony by one of the spouses that there was an agreement, exchanging wedding rings, filing taxes as a married couple, and acts such as living together and telling other people that they are married.

What does “cohabitation” mean?

Cohabitation, or living together, must be more than just having sexual relations under a common roof, but it is not necessary that the cohabitation be continuous.  So even if one person lives somewhere else for a period of time, if they live with the other person in Texas for a period of time, then that could be considered cohabitation.  Unlike popular belief, there is no rule for how long the couple must cohabitate.

What does it mean to “represent to others” that the couple is married?

There can be no secret informal marriage. If the couple only shares with close family or friends that they are married but not to the community at large, then no informal marriage exists. This element can be established by acts and behavior, not necessarily words. Some examples include representing each other as husband and wife on a signed notarized and recorded deed, naming the other party as a spouse and beneficiary in your life insurance policy, signing a credit application as husband and wife, and including the other party as a spouse on health insurance. As such, if trying to prove “holding out”, then a party should offer testimony from as many different people as possible that the parties considered themselves as husband and wife.

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