Common-Law Marriage in Texas


When it comes to marriage, many people are familiar with the traditional concept of a wedding ceremony followed by a legally binding contract. However, in Texas, there exists an alternative form of marriage known as a common-law marriage. Unlike traditional marriages, common-law marriages do not require a formal ceremony. Instead, they are established through specific actions and behaviors that demonstrate a couple’s intent to be married. In this article, we will explore the ins and outs of common-law marriages in Texas, the requirements to establish one, and what it means for couples who choose this type of union.

What is a Common-Law Marriage?

A common-law marriage, also known as a “marriage without formalities,” is a legally recognized marriage that does not involve a ceremonial wedding. Instead, it is established by the actions and conduct of the couple, which indicate their mutual agreement to be married.

Requirements for Establishing a Common-Law Marriage

Before a couple can be considered legally married under common law, they must meet certain criteria:

Age Requirement

Both partners must be at least 18 years old to be eligible for a common-law marriage.

No Blood Relation

The couple must not be related to each other by blood. In other words, they cannot be close relatives.

Unmarried Status

Both partners must be unmarried and not already in a legally recognized marriage or partnership.

Proving a Common-Law Marriage

To prove the existence of a common-law marriage in Texas, a couple must meet the following three conditions simultaneously:

Mutual Agreement

Both partners must agree that they are married to each other.


The couple must live together as if they were married.

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Holding Out

The couple must “hold out” or present themselves to others as a married couple. This can include introducing each other as husband and wife, wearing wedding rings, or filing joint tax returns.

Registering a Common-Law Marriage

Although Texas recognizes common-law marriages, it is recommended for couples to register their relationship officially. This can be done by completing a Declaration and Registration of Informal Marriage form with the Texas court system. Registering the marriage helps solidify the legal status of the union and provides clarity regarding property rights and other legal matters.

Recognition of Common-Law Marriages from Other States

Texas is one of several states that recognize common-law marriages from other jurisdictions. If a couple has lived in a state that recognizes common-law marriages and then moves to Texas, their union will continue to be valid in Texas.

Finances Between Unmarried Couples

Unlike married couples, unmarried partners in Texas do not benefit from community property laws. In the event of a breakup, each partner retains the property and assets they individually acquired. It is essential for unmarried couples to address property ownership and financial matters through written agreements or contracts.

Children of Unmarried Couples

In Texas, the legal rights and responsibilities of parents toward their children are not affected by whether they are married or not. Unmarried parents have the same obligations and rights as married parents, including child support and custody arrangements.


Common-law marriages provide an alternative to traditional marriage ceremonies and offer certain legal benefits to couples who choose this path. However, establishing a common-law marriage requires meeting specific criteria and demonstrating the intent to be married through actions and behaviors. While Texas recognizes common-law marriages from other states, it is still advisable for couples to register their union to ensure clarity and protection of their rights.

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Q1: How long do you have to live together to have a common-law marriage in Texas?

A1: There is no specific time requirement for cohabitation to establish a common-law marriage in Texas.

Q2: Can you get a common-law divorce in Texas?

A2: No, Texas does not have a specific common-law divorce process. If a common-law couple decides to separate, they must go through the regular divorce process to divide assets and debts.

Q3: Can same-sex couples enter into a common-law marriage in Texas?

A3: Yes, Texas allows same-sex couples to establish common-law marriages under the same criteria as opposite-sex couples.

Q4: Are there any financial advantages to being in a common-law marriage?

A4: Common-law marriages in Texas are treated the same as traditional marriages regarding financial matters and property rights.

Q5: Is a common-law marriage recognized outside of Texas?

A5: Not all states recognize common-law marriages, but some states do acknowledge such unions if they were legally established in another jurisdiction.

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