Couples often live together for many years without formally marrying. Sometimes people take this step to progress their relationship without committing to marriage. Dating companions don’t have any automatic rights regarding inheritances from their partners.
Suppose, however, you’ve lived as spouses without the formalities of marriage. A common-law spouse is entitled to inherit just as a formal spouse would. Because common-law marriage offers benefits, you’d probably like to know how to prove common-law marriage in Texas so you can preserve your rights to marital property and inheritance. Below, Robbins Estate Law explains common-law marriage in Texas.
Establishing common-law marriage in Texas, especially after the death of your common-law spouse, can be complicated. Don’t hesitate to contact the attorneys at Robbins Estate Law for more information on proving a common-law marriage in Texas.
What Is Common-Law Marriage in Texas?
You may be wondering, What is a common-law marriage in Texas? Before discussing how to prove common-law marriage, you must understand the legal definition of common-law marriage.
Formal Legal Marriage
Texas law recognizes two types of marriage: formal marriage and marriage without formalities. Formal marriage is what most people imagine when they think of marriage—two individuals who obtain a marriage license from their local clerk’s office, hold a wedding ceremony, and record the marriage with the county clerk.
Common-law marriage, however, is marriage without formalities. A common-law marriage, for the most part, is created through the parties’ actions and statements rather than by filing a marriage license.
Types of Common-Law Marriage Recognized in Texas
In Texas, you can establish common-law marriage in two ways:
- Filing a Declaration of Informal Marriage, or
- Actions and words by the couple that express their intent to be married.
The steps to create a common-law marriage differ depending on which route you and your partner choose.
Declaration of Informal Marriage
In Texas, you can register a common-law marriage with a Declaration of Informal Marriage. You can obtain a Declaration of Informal Marriage form from your county clerk’s office. The county clerk will administer an oath where you and your prospective spouse swear to several things, including that you are common-law married to each other and not married to anyone else. Once you’ve filed this form, your common-law marriage is officially registered.
Common-Law Marriage Without Formalities
When most people think of common-law marriage, they think of people living together as spouses without formalities like registering their relationship with the State. In Texas, you can establish a common-law marriage through various actions and statements made by and between the parties.
There is no registration or filing requirement for this form of common-law marriage. However, you must prove certain things. You must prove the following elements of common-law marriage in Texas:
- The couple agrees they are married;
- The couple holds themselves out to the rest of the world as a married couple; and
- The couple lives together as a married couple in Texas.
You must show credible evidence to support each of these factors to establish a common-law marriage in Texas.
How to Prove a Common-Law Marriage in Texas
You may be wondering how to prove a common-law marriage in Texas. Suppose you’ve registered your common-law marriage through a Declaration of Informal Marriage. In that case, you can easily prove your common-law marriage by obtaining a certified copy of this document from your county clerk’s office.
Common-law marriage becomes more difficult to prove if you have not filed a Declaration of Informal Marriage. You will have to prove your common-law marriage by showing evidence of the elements described above.
First, you must show that you and your spouse agreed that you were married. This may be difficult if your spouse is deceased. However, you can prove this if you have documents, letters, or other evidence showing you both considered each other to be spouses.
Second, you must prove that you held yourselves out to the world as spouses. One of the best ways to prove this element is through friends and family who witnessed your relationship, particularly if they heard both of you refer to each other as spouses.
Lastly, you must demonstrate that you lived together as a married couple. You do not need to live together for a certain period to prove common-law marriage in Texas. However, you must demonstrate through evidence and witness statements that you lived together in Texas with the agreement that you were spouses for some period of time.
Contact an Estate Attorney About Common-Law Marriage and Inheritance Rights
You may be concerned about an unforeseen heir. Or perhaps your common-law spouse has passed away, and you believe you’re entitled to inherit all or part of their estate. The estate attorneys at Robbins Estate Law, can explain how to prove common-law marriage in Texas so that you understand your inheritance rights and obligations. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you.