What is Common Law Marriage?


A common law (or informal) marriage is a legal marriage recognized in the State of Texas. It is created only if certain specific legal requirements are met. Proving a common law marriage does NOT depend on how long you have been living together or whether you have children together.

If you want to prove a common law marriage, you have to show that all of the following have been met:

  1. You and your partner are not already married, informally or formally, to anyone else at the time the marriage was created; and

  2. Both you and your partner were at least 18 years of age when the marriage was created; and

  3. You agreed to be married; and

  4. Lived in Texas as a married couple; and

  5. Represented to others that you are married.


Declaration of informal marriage

If you agree, you and your partner can sign a ‘Declaration of Informal Marriage’ with the county clerk. Once signed, the Declaration is valid proof of marriage and you are considered married for all legal purposes. The Declaration form is available from the county clerk.


How do I prove that we agreed to be married and represented to others that we were married?

It does not depend on one particular fact. The court can infer an agreement to be married by weighing multiple factors. The court would consider evidence that you lived together, told others that you were married, used your partner’s last name, filed joint tax returns as spouses or as a married person filing singly, signed leases or other documents as spouses, made joint purchases, included your partner on your health insurance, made your partner the beneficiary of a life insurance policy, made joint loan applications or agreements, applied for public benefits and listed your partner as “spouse”, and having children together.


How long do I have to prove we were married at common law after we separate?

If you are separated for more than two years and have not taken any action to end the marriage (such as filing for divorce), the law presumes that you and your partner never intended to be married.

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© 2021 by John T Montgomery

Attorney At Law