What is common law marriage?
In essence, a “common law marriage” is a marriage without a ceremony conducted by an authorized person. A common law marriage exists when a man and woman agree to be married and, thereafter, live together as husband and wife while representing to others in their community that they are, in fact, married. In Texas, there is no specific period of time a couple must live together before establishing a common law marriage.
Thought to be a remnant of the “dark ages” of family law, it is surprising how often this issue arises, whether in matters of divorce or probate. I, personally, have noticed that this situation is much more prevalent in the poorer communities among us.
This is one of the reasons our firm provides pro bono services to the disadvantaged. The issue of whether a party is married under “common law” can have a big impact on a person’s rights under the law. We believe, as the Texas Lawyer’s Creed proclaims, that it is a lawyer’s responsibility to assure that all persons have access to competent representation regardless of wealth or position in life.