Do I Need an Attorney for Common Law Divorce

Do I Need an Attorney for Common Law Divorce

What Is Common Law Marriage?

Common law marriage is a legal concept that applies to couples who are in a relationship that has the appearance of a marriage, but hasn’t been formally sanctioned by the state (such as by the issuance of a marriage certificate). A valid common law marriage typically confers both the benefits and obligations of a formal marriage.

Whether a common law marriage exists depends on a number of factors. First and foremost, a state has to acknowledge the legitimacy of common law marriages. It if does, then the validity of the marriage will hinge in large part on how the couple view the relationship, and how they act on that perception.

Does Texas Recognize Common Law Marriage?

It does, but it’s in a distinct minority, as most states have now banned common law marriages. In addressing common law marriage, Texas statutes use the terms “marriage without formalities” and “informal marriage”.

Texas law provides the requirements for a valid common law marriage. Under Tex. Fam. Code §2-401(a) (2), you’ll have to prove three things:

  • you and your partner both agreed to be married
  • you and your partner lived together, like spouses, in the State of Texas, and
  • you and your partner have “held yourselves out” to other people as spouses, which means you represented to other people or behaved in such a way as to cause others to believe you’re legally married.

When Is It Important to Prove that a Common Law Marriage Is Legal?

Proving the existence of a common law marriage could be important in several different situations. These include inheriting property, claiming insurance or other benefits, or getting a divorce. Couples ending a common law marriage must go through legal divorce proceedings, just like any other married couple. However, unlike a partner in a certified marriage, a partner who is attempting to obtain either property rights or a right to financial support on the basis of a common law marriage will first have to demonstrate that the marriage was valid. (This will not apply to a claim for child support—states have laws protecting a child’s right to support regardless of the legality of the parents’ marriage.)

If one partner denies that a common law marriage existed, the other will need clear evidence that both partners intended to be married. In some cases, the length of the marriage will be very important—and may also be the most difficult element to prove, because the relationship may have existed for a period of time without meeting the definition of common law marriage, and then moved into common law marriage territory at some point. Different states require different types of proof.

Common Law: Obtain a Divorce

If you share children, property, assets, or debts with your common law partner, it may be in your best interest to work with an attorney when dissolving the marriage. This can help you to protect yourself and establish legal boundaries for the future. Attorney Dawn Renken works with individuals that are ending common law marriage in Texas to ensure they are considering all necessary legal factors.

Even if you do not have a marriage license, common law spouses seeking a divorce benefit from speaking with a divorce attorney before they start the divorce process.  It is especially important to speak with an attorney in cases where child custody and support are a factor.

Affordable Family Law Attorney in Houston, TX

Our team proudly serves the Greater Houston area. All marriages are different, making each divorce equally unique with its own set of needs that must be addressed. Our team is dedicated to helping you and your family move forward without legal matters complicating your life. Contact our law office to explore your options for traditional marriage divorce and common law divorce, and find out how we can help you resolve any legal problems you are currently facing.


Renken Law Firm, PLLC
11500 Northwest Fwy #586
Houston, TX 77092
(713) 956-6767
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