Texas Common Law Divorce: Is It Recognized?

Understanding Common Law Marriage in Texas

Texas is one of the few states in the U.S. that recognizes common law marriages, also known as "informal marriages." Under Texas law, couples who present themselves as married to the public and meet certain criteria can be considered legally married without a formal ceremony or marriage license. However, this recognition raises questions about the concept of common law divorce. Does it exist? Can a couple simply part ways without the need for legal divorce proceedings?

The Legal Framework of Common Law Marriage in Texas

To establish a common law marriage in Texas, a couple must do three things: agree to be married, live together in Texas as spouses, and represent to others that they are married. Once these criteria are met, the state views the couple as legally married, with all the rights and responsibilities that come with marriage.

The Myth of Common Law Divorce

Unlike common law marriage, there is no legal concept of "common law divorce" in Texas or anywhere else in the United States. Couples who are considered legally married under common law must go through the same formal divorce process as traditionally married couples. This means filing a petition for divorce and going through the legal proceedings necessary to dissolve the marriage.

Historical Context and Challenges

Historically, informal marriages were more common when access to formal marriage procedures was limited. As society evolved and access to civil marriage became more widespread, the number of common law marriages has decreased. However, for those who are in a common law marriage, dissolving it can present challenges. Proving the existence of the marriage itself can sometimes be difficult since there may be no official documentation.

Dissolving a Common Law Marriage

To obtain a divorce from a common law marriage in Texas, one must first prove that there was indeed such a marriage. Evidence might include joint bank accounts, tax returns filed as a married couple, or testimony from friends and family. Once recognized by the court, the couple must divide property, address spousal support, and make arrangements for child custody and support if applicable.

Conclusion

In conclusion, while Texas recognizes common law marriages and grants them the same legal status as formal marriages, there is no such thing as common law divorce. Couples must undergo traditional legal proceedings to end their marriage. Those considering or living in a common law marriage should be well-informed about their rights and obligations and be prepared to take formal legal action should they decide to separate.