Texas Common Law or Informal Marriage, and Its Dissolution


Texas is one of a few states in the United States that recognizes informal or common law marriages. In fact, Section 2.401 of the Texas Family Code establishes the requirements for an informal marriage, without obtaining a marriage license or having a marriage ceremony.

One of the ways an informal marriage is established is by registering a duly executed declaration and oath with the county of their residence. The parties must show proof of identity, be over 18 years of age and affirm that that they are not related to each other in any way. The precise language required in the declaration is located in Section 2.402 of the Texas Family Code but essentially states that the couple has agreed to be married, after that agreement they have lived together as husband and wife and held themselves out to others as being married. This declaration must be accompanied by a certificate of the county clerk attesting to the date and place that the couple made this commitment.

The other way an informal or common law marriage can be established is by meeting a three pronged test by (1) having an agreement to be married, (2) living together in Texas and (3) holding themselves out to others parties as being married.

It is extremely important to remember that once an informal marriage is established, the couple is bound by the same laws governing the dissolution of a ceremonial marriage, such as the distribution of any property acquired during the marriage and the custody and support of any children from that marriage.

In some cases where there were no children born during the marriage or accumulation of property, the parties can simply separate. Unless one party files to affirm the existence of an informal marriage within two (2) years from the date they stopped living together, the presumption is that they never intended to be married anyway.

However, in common law marriages that produce a child or children, acquired property such as cars and a house and have shared banking accounts, it would be advisable to seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney to determine what your rights are and to file formal divorce proceedings. This will ensure that the accumulated property is equitably distributed and the custody and support of the children are established and reduced to writing in agreements signed by the parties and approved by the court.

San Antonio family attorney Allan R. Manka has more than 40 years of experience practicing family law and has a sterling reputation with the judiciary and his peers for his commitment to those he represents. He has helped many clients in San Antonio and the surrounding areas of Pleasanton, Jourdanton, Hondo, Boerne and New Braunfels, in addition to serving those at Lackland and Randolph Air Force Bases and throughout the state.

Contact us at (210) 807-8629 or (866) 621-7085 (Toll-free) to schedule your confidential, no obligation consultation to sit down and discuss your particular situation.

Other Resources:
Texas Family Code

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