Ending a Common Law Marriage: Does an Informal Marriage Require a Divorce?

Marriage, for many people, is much more than simply having a piece of paper to make it official. Perhaps you and your spouse skipped the formal religious wedding, and even passed on the courthouse ceremony, but still consider yourselves to be married. Perhaps you and your partner have grown apart and are now ready to separate permanently. Do you know if your relationship can be categorized as a common law marriage and do you need a divorce?

Common law marriage is a marriage without a marriage ceremony and without a marriage certificate. Texas is one of a few states that still recognizes this legal framework. In order to get divorced when you have an informal marriage, you must first prove that there is a common law marriage.

You must prove that you and your partner agreed to be married and you organized your relationship as if you were married (told other people that you were married or filed tax returns as a married couple). You must also have lived together in Texas as husband and wife.

It can be difficult to prove these elements. For example, the agreement to be married can be a contested fact—one person may dispute that the agreement to be married ever occurred. If there was a proposal and an engagement ring, however, the courts view this as an agreement between the couple to marry in the future—and that a marriage was intended, but did not occur.

There are two significant reasons why you may want to claim that there is a common law marriage between you and your spouse: children and property. As is the case when almost any marriage ends, custody of the children comes into play, as does the decision about how community property should be divided. After a common law marriage has been established, the divorce process is the same as any other divorce.

Unsure if your relationship is a common law marriage? Call our office at 817-864-8594 to schedule a consultation. Ending a marriage can be confusing, but Hoppes & Cutrer is here to give your clear advice.

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