So you’ve lived with a boyfriend or girlfriend for a few years. That means y’all are common law married, right? Not necessarily.
Under the Texas Family Code, common law marriage is referred to as an “Informal Marriage” and there are 3 requirements that must be met in order for a couple to be informally married. The 3 requirements are:
- There is an agreement to be married in Texas between the couple;
- After the agreement, they live together in Texas as husband and wife; and
- They hold out or represent to others that they are married in Texas.
Yes, as simple as it sounds, that’s all that is required to be common law married in Texas. There is no time element as many of us have been told throughout the years. In addition, the agreement between you and your spouse does not have to be written—it can be oral! The evidence that y’all are married is in the way you behave after the agreement—living together and holding out to the world that you are married.
To be clear, you could live with a boyfriend or girlfriend for 5, 25, or 100 years and not be married by common law if the 3 requirements above are not met. Repeat—you are not automatically married to a person because you’ve lived with them for X amount of years.
The elements work the other way as well, there’s no time requirement before entering a common law marriage— you could literally meet a stranger, come to an agreement, live as husband and wife in Texas, and tell the world that y’all are married. That’s right folks, it’s that easy to get married. Just think of all the money you could save by not having a traditional wedding ceremony… (BTW, the average cost of a traditional wedding in the US for 2017 was $29,858). Speaking of money, make sure to protect yours with a pre-nuptial agreement—they work for formal as well as informal marriages.
Remember, all of the elements listed above must be done in Texas. You can’t take a romantic weekend trip to another state and agree to be married there or only act as husband and wife in another state. All of the elements must be done in Texas in order for the marriage to be valid.
Although there are two ways to enter a marriage (formally and informally), there’s only one way to get out of it (assuming no one has died): divorce. Even if you and your spouse opted for the informal marriage route, you must go to court and sue for divorce in order to get out of the marriage. Meaning, there is no such thing as common law divorce! So if you have any questions on how to get in or out of a common law marriage give us a call at 214-494-9916.
 Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 2.401(a)(2)