Texas Common Law Marriage by MaryJeanMenintigar

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									Common Law Marriage
By Aaron Larson
Law Offices of Aaron Larson
August, 2003

      Common law marriage is a marriage that results from the actions of a
couple, despite the fact that they have not obtained a marriage license or fulfilled
the requirements of a state's statutory marriage laws. This typically means that
the couple has cohabitated for a period of time, usually a year or more, while
having an agreement to be married and holding themselves out to the world as
husband and wife.

Not every state permits common law marriages. For example, Michigan has
elimated common law marriage by statute, and no period of cohabitation will
result in marriage. At the same time, where a couple became married under the
common law of a different state or country, their marriage is likely to be
recognized even in a state such as Michigan. The "full faith and credit" rule of the
U.S. Constitution ordinarily compels the recognition of a marriage made valid
under the laws of a sister state.

As a result of the laws of different states, actions which can result in common law
marriage in one state may not provide any legal rights or protections in another.
While in one state, a common law spouse might be entitled to a share of the
marital estate and even to spousal support, in a state which does not recognize
common law marriage that person may not be able to lay claim to jointly acquired
assets titled in their partner's name and won't be eligible for alimony or
"palimony". Similarly, if cohabitation does not result in common law marriage,
one partner may not have any say in how the other partner is treated in the event
of disability, may not even have a right to visit their partner in the hospital, and
won't have any right to inherit unless expressly named in the partner's will or
estate plan. You should also recall that if your common law spouse becomes
disabled or dies, it will be up to you to prove the validity of your marriage if your
spouse's family excludes you from medical decision-making or tries to exclude
you from inheriting property. In short, it pays to know the laws in your state and
that if you want your relationship with your partner to be officially recognized, to
take the steps necessary to give legal effect to the relationship.

In states which recognize common law marriage, once the requirements have
been met the marriage is typically treated in exactly the same manner as any
other marriage. By the same token, a valid common law marriage must typically
be ended through a formal divorce process. At present, approximately eleven
states and the District of Columbia still recognize common law marriages.

States Permitting Common Law Marriage
      Alabama
      Colorado
      District of Columbia
      Iowa
      Kansas
      Montana
      Oklahoma
      Rhode Island
      South Carolina
      Texas
      Utah

States Permitting Certain Common Law Marriages
      Georgia (if the elements were satisfied before January 1, 1997)
      Idaho (if the elements were satisfied before January 1, 1996)
      New Hampshire (for inheritance only)
      Ohio (if the elements were satisfied before October 10, 1991)
      Pennsylvania (if the elements were satisfied before January 1, 2005)

In states which don't allow common law marriage, an unusual situation can arise
- a couple which underwent what they thought was a valid, state-authorized
marriage can find that their marriage was invalid. For example, a divorce may not
be properly finalized before a subsequent marriage occurs, rendering that later
marriage invalid. Usually, once the problem has been remedied, states will
provide a remedy to correct the invalid marriage. For example, some states
permit a secret wedding ceremony to be performed by a judge, with a backdated
order of marriage, such that the marriage becomes valid from its inception and
the rights of the spouses are protected

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