What Does Common Law Marriage Mean in Texas?

Almost all couples are aware of marriage, the legal process of entering a civil union between two people, sometimes accompanied with a religious ceremony. For some couples it is a benchmark to work towards, for some it is a grim spectre hanging over the future, and for some it is just simply a thing that other couples with more time can afford to do. Some couples belonging to that latter camp may be eligible for a common law marriage, whether they realize it or not.

A common law marriage is a marriage that exists without going through the typical legal process. Unlike a civil union, a common law marriage can lead to the same benefits as a regular marriage. Common law marriage is considered for couples who have lived together for a significant amount of time, have both consensually agreed to get married, hold each other as married, and are not married to anyone else. This means that despite not signing the legal paperwork, a couple consistently introduces and regards themselves as being married to each other.

Reasons for a couple finding themselves inside a common law marriage typically include financial inability to afford a formal wedding, a moral opposition to the formality of a wedding, or just being too plain busy to take the time to have one. Importantly, the reason for one is not necessary to the legality of it, just whether or not a couple meets the criteria. Few states acknowledge them, but common law marriage is legal in Texas.

Here are some of the potential benefits of entering a common law marriage:

  • Receiving Social Security benefits
  • Sharing health insurance provided through employers
  • Inheritance of their spouse’s property
  • Marital exceptions for their estate
  • Mortgage interest deduction
  • Hospital visitation rights
  • Tax deductions and exemptions
  • The ability to make emergency medical decisions
  • Exemption from gift tax
  • And more!

Although the advantage of a common law marriage is less legal involvement at the beginning, getting a Declaration of Marriage can be used to prove the existence of a common law marriage and when it came into being. Whether or not you need to dissolve the common law marriage if it ends is determined on a case by case basis.
If you have questions about common law marriages or their dissolution, contact Fraser, Wilson, & Bryan, P.C. today! We know family law in Texas and are ready to help you.