How to Prove a Common-Law Marriage in Texas

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

How to Prove a Common-Law Marriage in Texas

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

A common-law, or informal, marriage is a legal union that exists without a ceremony or other formalities. Once proven, it has the same legal status as a formal marriage. Only about a dozen states recognize these unions, and Texas is one of them.

Couple looking at a tablet

A common misconception surrounding common-law unions is that two people only need to live together for a set period of time for their state to consider them married. This is indeed a myth. Each state has different requirements for what constitutes a union under these terms, but all of them require more evidence than simply living together. If you live in Texas and want to prove your common-law arrangement, it's important to understand the specific laws of the Lone Star State.

Proving a Common-Law Marriage in Texas

There are two different ways a couple can prove they are in a common-law in the state of Texas.

Declaration of Informal Marriage

To register an informal union in Texas, a couple can visit their county clerk's office for the correct paperwork.

  1. Obtain the Declaration and Registration of Informal Marriage form (VS-180.1) from the county clerk.
  2. Include your names and a sworn statement that you are not related to each other by blood or adoption.
  3. Affirm that you agreed to be married, have lived together in Texas, and have held yourselves out as married to the public.

Once signed, the declaration is valid proof that you are a legally married couple.

Unregistered Informal Marriage

A second way to prove a common-law marriage is to show that you and your partner have met all of the following criteria:

  • You were not already married, formally or informally, to another person at the time the union began.
  • You were both 18 years or older at the time the union began.
  • You agree to be married.
  • You represent that you are married to members of the public.
  • You have lived in Texas after the marriage was created.

You can prove that you agreed to be married and that you have held yourselves out as married to members of the public in a number of ways. A court looks at factors such as whether you use the same last name, live together, file joint tax returns as spouses or as married persons filing singly, list each other as beneficiaries on a life insurance policy, tell other people that you are, or have children together.

Separation and Divorce for Informal Marriages

If a couple in an informal union decides to separate, they must legally prove the marriage within two years of the separation. Otherwise, Texas law presumes that the couple never intended to be married. As a result, a legal divorce may become unavailable, and the couple loses the benefit of divorce laws protecting spousal rights and property unless they can overcome this presumption.

Texas, unlike many other states, recognizes common-law arrangements—but only if the couple meets specific requirements. If you would like to know more about common-law marriages in Texas or have a specific question in mind, it may be beneficial to reach out to an experienced attorney who can help guide you through the process and answer any questions you may have.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.