By: Abigail Grieve
If you have been living with your significant other for a long time, but have never married, you may wonder if your relationship could be considered a common law marriage. However, in Texas, these are common misconceptions. Living together does not automatically mean you are common law married, nor is there a minimum amount of time you must live together in order to be considered common law married. Instead, a common law marriage is a legal marriage between two people without the requirement of a formal ceremony or license, but there are other requirements that you must meet.
In order to be common law married in Texas, you and your significant other must (1) agree to be married, (2) live together in Texas as spouses, and (3) hold yourself out to others in Texas as spouses1. Further, you must not have obtained a marriage license and not have participated in a marriage ceremony.
(1) Agreement to be married means that you and your significant other intended to have a present, immediate, and permanent relationship as spouses. As such, engagement (an agreement to get married in the future) is not enough. This agreement can be established through a direct, written intention, or through the actions and conduct of you and your spouse.
(2) There is no minimum amount of time for which you must live together in order to be considered informally married, you simply must cohabitate with your significant other in Texas while meeting the other two requirements.
(3) Lastly, holding out to others that you are married means that you have represented to those in your life that you and your significant other are spouses and you both act as such. This means that you cannot have a secret informal marriage. Further, the others that you represent your marriage to, must also be located in Texas.
All three requirements must be met at the same time in order to be considered a common law marriage.
Whether or not you are legally married has important consequences should you and your common law spouse decide to separate. Your common law marriage begins at the time that all three of the above elements are met, meaning that should you wish to separate, your marriage will only end by death, divorce, or annulment. Further, your marital status will affect the division of your property. If you believe that you may be common law married and therefore are entitled to a marital division of you and your spouse’s property upon separation, please reach out and we would welcome the opportunity to discuss your case and options with you.
 Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 2.401(a)(2).