How to Prove a Common-Law Marriage in Texas
By Stephanie Dube Dwilson
Updated July 21, 2017
You don't need a marriage license or a wedding ceremony to be married in Texas: it's one of the few states in which it is still possible to establish a legal common-law marriage. This is important in a number of situations, such as if one of you dies without a will, or if you separate and need to divide your property. In Texas, you must pass a three-pronged test to prove a common-law marriage.
Covering the Basics
First, you must meet the basic legal requirements for married couples in Texas. A common-law marriage isn't a means to create a union that would otherwise be illegal in the state. This means that the parties must be a man and a woman, and neither can be married to anyone else. You must not have had a divorce in the previous 30 days. The parties can't be related to each other and must be at least 18.
To prove a common-law marriage in Texas, you must meet three requirements. First, you must mutually agree to be married. For example, a man can't insist he's your husband if you don't consent. Second, you must tell other people you're married. This can be done through several means, such as introducing your partner as your husband, signing an apartment lease as husband and wife, or filing a joint tax return or credit card application as spouses. Finally, you must live together in Texas as husband and wife. For example, if you told people in Louisiana that you were married, but never represented yourself as a married couple after you moved to Texas, you wouldn't qualify for common-law marriage in Texas.
Making It Official
If you meet the requirements, your union will be considered a legal common-law marriage. You can formalize the common-law marriage in Texas by filing a declaration of marriage form with the Bureau of Vital Statistics at your county clerk's office. Keep in mind that not all states will recognize the validity of your union. If you decide to move from Texas to another state, consult with an attorney or contact the new state's county clerk to find out if your common-law marriage will be valid there.
You may need to provide proof of your common law marriage in court if, for instance, you are getting divorced and need your property divided. If you have proof of all three elements -- mutual consent to being married, living together in Texas as husband and wife, and telling other people you're married -- then the court will recognize your common-law marriage. Your own testimony or testimony of witnesses can help. Documentation that you've lived together in Texas is a form of proof, as is showing joint tax returns or credit cards you signed as spouses.
With features published by media such as Business Week and Fox News, Stephanie Dube Dwilson is an accomplished writer with a law degree and a master's in science and technology journalism. She has written for law firms, public relations and marketing agencies, science and technology websites, and business magazines.