Common law marriage is recognized in a few states, and Texas happens to be one of them. Texas defines it as an informal marriage, rather than common law. Houston divorce lawyers are experienced in both traditional and informal marriage divorutions and can answer any questions you have on this subject. A Houston divorce lawyer understands this unique law and how it is applied in Texas.
Under section 2.401 of the Texas Family Code, an informal marriage can be established either by registering with the county without having a ceremony, or by meeting 3 requirements showing evidence of an agreement to be married; living together in Texas; and representation to others that the parties are wedded.
In order to register an informal marriage, a declaration approved by the bureau of vital statistics must be signed. Each party must provide proof of age and identity, and state that they are not related to each other in any way. Finally, they must agree to the printed declaration and oath found in section 2.402 of the Family Code. It reads:
"I SOLEMNLY SWEAR (OR AFFIRM) THAT WE, THE UNDERSIGNED, ARE MARRIED TO EACH OTHER BY VIRTUE OF THE FOLLOWING FACTS: ON OR ABOUT (DATE) WE AGREED TO BE MARRIED, AND AFTER THAT DATE WE LIVED TOGETHER AS HUSBAND AND WIFE AND IN THIS STATE WE REPRESENTED TO OTHERS THAT WE WERE MARRIED. SINCE THE DATE OF MARRIAGE TO THE OTHER PARTY I HAVE NOT BEEN MARRIED TO ANY OTHER PERSON. THIS DECLARATION IS TRUE AND THE INFORMATION IN IT WHICH I HAVE GIVEN IS CORRECT. "
Even if you do not register with a county in Houston, a couple may have a common law marriage if they meet these three requirements:
1. The man and woman agree to be married
2. The man and woman cohabitate in Texas
3. The man and woman hold out to other parties that they are married
Informal nuptials are recognized under Texas law the same as if the couple were formally wedded. This means that common law couples may need Houston divorce lawyers to help them legally end the relationship. Both partners are responsible for debts as well as care and support of any children from the marriage. Therefore, it is important to discuss a possible separation with a Houston divorce lawyer.
A new provision of the Family Code was added in 1995 that states either partner in a common law relationship has two years after separating to file an action to prove that the nuptials did exist. However, even if the time has expired for you to obtain a legal dispute, other measures can be taken to get orders for payment of child support and visitation for children. You should talk to a Houston divorce lawyer about your options.
There are two ways to end an informal marriage. If there have been children or if property and debts remain undivided, you will want to seek advice from a Houston divorce lawyer about a traditional divorce. However, if there are no children or contested property, you can separate; and under the new law, if neither person affirms that a marriage existed within two years of the date when the parties stopped living together in Texas, then it is assumed that the parties never entered into matrimony in the first place. While this does not automatically mean that the matrimony never exists, it does mean that the burden of proof falls on the person trying to prove there was a legitimate common law marriage.
When an informal marriage does exist; either person can file for a formal divorce. It is always advisable to hire a Houston divorce lawyer if there are contested issues involving property, finances or children. In formal divorce agreements, matters such as child support, child custody, and property division will be determined by the court. Thus, it is important to seek the counsel of an experienced Houston divorce lawyer.