Texas is one of the few states in the nation that still recognizes common law marriage as a legal mechanism for tying the knot. Rather than procuring a wedding license and having an officiant licensed by the State of Texas presided over the ceremony, a couple may choose to be wed informally.

An informal marriage requires that a man and woman have an agreement with one another to be married, the man and woman must live together as husband and wife, and they must hold themselves out to third parties as a married couple.

Provided a person can prove the existence of these three elements, Texas law recognizes that a valid marriage exists. Once a valid marriage has been formed, whether formally or informally, the only way to end the marriage is through divorce or death.

Although entering into an informal marriage is easy, proving the existence of the marriage itself is a bit more troublesome. When couples are separating the split is rarely amicable. Given the financial implications at play in a marriage vs. dating relationship, parties to a common law marriage will often quarrel over the existence of the marriage in the first place.

When this occurs, a review of the parties’ tax returns, health insurance policies, life insurance policies and other documents that identify the marital status of the parties involved is warranted.

It is also worth noting that couples that are wed informally may also choose to file a declaration of informal marriage at a later date. This document must be signed by both spouses, notarized and filed with the county clerk in the county in which the parties reside.

Provided the clerk confirms the declaration includes all necessary information, the clerk will then sign off on the declaration itself thereby creating prima facie evidence that the parties are indeed married.

Angela Stout

Angela A. Stout was admitted to the State Bar of Texas in 2007. Ms. Stout has practiced law since 2007, with an emphasis in representing clients in family law matters. She earned her Juris Doctorate degree from South Texas College of Law in May of 2007. Ms. Stout became Board Certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in December of 2015. The Texas Board of Legal Specialization is a specialized group of attorneys that must obtain exceptional experience in a specific area of law, pass a comprehensive exam, and complete ongoing continuing legal education in that specialized area. Additionally, Ms. Stout is certified as a mediator by the A.A. White Dispute Resolution Center.


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