In addition to a traditional, ceremonial marriage, Texas does also recognize what it terms as an “informal marriage”- what people commonly call a “common law” marriage.
An informal marriage in Texas requires three elements: (1) the parties agreed to be married, (2) the parties lived together in Texas as spouses, and (3) the parties hold themselves out to other as spouses.
The first element of agreement can be shown by evidence that the parties had a private ceremony in which they agreed to be married, but never got a marriage certificate. An agreement could also be established just by two people “agreeing” to be married. However, an agreement to be married is not simply two people living together without some discussion or act to enter into an actual marriage.
The second requirement that the parties lived together is generally one of easier elements to show. There is no set time limit requirement, but it must be that the parties established a home together and didn’t just stay some nights in the same house.
The last requirement of an informal marriage is “holding out” to others that the parties are married. This could be something like naming the other party as wife on a life insurance policy or filing taxes together as married, filing jointly. Each party must make some show that they are married.
An informal marriage has the same legal effect as a ceremonial marriage. Spouses who are informally married are entitled to the same benefits such as establishment of a community estate, homestead rights, and potentially spousal support. Community property would be divided among spouses the same as it would be with spouses who had a ceremonial marriage.
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