Couple holding hands in a common law marriage.

Are There Any Benefits to a Common Law Marriage?

If you and your partner meet certain criteria, you may be considered married by common law in Texas. There are several benefits to common law marriage, the primary one being legal recognition of your relationship. In addition, common law marriage offers couples property division rights, inheritance rights, and possibly spousal maintenance if the relationship ends. Therefore, you should have a clear understanding of common law marriage and its benefits, particularly if you are currently in an unmarried relationship. Below is an overview of common law marriage in Texas. If you have any additional questions, please contact a Texas family law attorney

What Is Common Law Marriage? 

Contrary to popular belief, living with your partner for a certain period of time doesn’t automatically create a common law marriage. Rather, in order to be considered married by common law in Texas, both parties must:

  • agree to be married, 
  • live together as a married couple in Texas, and 
  • represent that they are a married couple to others. 

A common law marriage is a legally recognized marriage, so a couple that wishes to end their common law marriage must obtain a divorce just like a couple in a traditional marriage. However, unlike a ceremonial marriage, if neither party has filed for divorce within two years after the parties separate the law presumes that the parties never intended to be married, which would invalidate the common law marriage. Although common law marriage can be beneficial, it also has some drawbacks. For example, an individual in a common law marriage is more likely to face family challenges when attempting to claim an inheritance from his or her spouse. In addition, states that don’t support common law marriage are unlikely to recognize a Texas common law marriage as valid. Still, the benefits of marriage, whether common law or traditional, tend to outweigh the drawbacks. 

Benefits of Common Law Marriage

In order to receive a marriage certificate in Texas, a couple must meet certain age and waiting period requirements. In addition, a couple that wishes to get married must undergo some form of formal ceremony. Common law marriage doesn’t impose these requirements, making it an option for those couples who would rather avoid these formalities. 

Parties who wish to avoid some of the formalities of a ceremonial marriage but want more certainty about how their relationship will be viewed in court have the option of filing a “Declaration of Informal Marriage”. This declaration acts as a form of marriage certificate for persons in a common law marriage.  

In addition, married couples in Texas, whether married by common law or otherwise, enjoy certain estate-planning benefits. When a couple is married and one spouse passes away, the surviving spouse is eligible to inherit assets without paying estate taxes. Without this deduction, inherited assets could impose a heavy tax burden on the surviving partner. In addition, same-sex couples in common-law marriages may have the right to inherit assets without a written will in place.

Contact Our Texas Family Law Attorney Today

At Youngberg Law Firm, we understand how difficult issues like custody, domestic violence, and adoption can be for families. In addition, we understand the unique challenges faced by same-sex couples in the state of Texas. If you are facing family law issues of any kind in Texas, you need a compassionate legal advocate on your side. Please contact us today to schedule a consultation.