Understanding Texas Marriage Laws
Marriage is an institution that not only unites two individuals in a personal relationship but also binds them in a legal contract. In Texas, as in other states, there are specific requirements and laws that govern the legalities of marriage. Understanding these laws is crucial for couples wishing to marry in the Lone Star State.
In Texas, the legal age for marriage without parental consent is 18. However, individuals as young as 16 can marry with parental consent, and those under 16 can marry with both parental consent and a court order, typically reserved for special circumstances.
Marriage License and Waiting Period
Couples must obtain a marriage license from a county clerk's office before getting married. There's a 72-hour waiting period after the license is issued before the ceremony can legally take place. This waiting period can be waived for active military personnel or if the couple completes a state-approved marriage education class.
Identification and Residency Requirements
Both parties must provide valid identification (state ID, driver’s license, or passport) and proof of age when applying for a marriage license. Texas does not have residency requirements for marriage; non-residents are free to marry within the state provided they comply with all other legal stipulations.
Texas law prohibits marriages between ancestors and descendants, siblings, and certain other close relatives. Additionally, bigamy is illegal; thus, one cannot be married to someone else at the time of their marriage ceremony in Texas.
Common Law Marriage
Texas recognizes common law or informal marriages, where couples present themselves as married without formalizing the relationship through a ceremony or obtaining a marriage license. To be considered married under common law, a couple must agree to be married, live together in Texas as a married couple, and represent to others that they are married.
The state does not mandate a specific form of ceremony or officiant credentials beyond those who are authorized to conduct marriages, which includes members of the clergy, judges, justices of the peace, and certain other public officials. After the marriage ceremony, the person who conducts the ceremony must sign the marriage license and return it to the county clerk's office.
Following the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), same-sex marriage became legal across the United States. Texas complies with this ruling, so same-sex couples have the same rights and responsibilities as opposite-sex couples under Texas marriage laws.
Name Change After Marriage
Couples may choose to change their last name after marriage. To do so legally in Texas, they need to update their name on their social security card and driver’s license or state ID. The process involves presenting a certified copy of the marriage license to relevant agencies.