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Does Texas Recognize Common Law Marriages?

Because many couples today cohabit and have children together without formally marrying, it is good to understand whether Texas recognizes their relationship as a legal marriage.

Sixteen states recognize common law marriages. However, some states only provide recognition for marriages that occurred before a certain date. Texas recognizes informal marriages. There is no date that precludes an informal marriage from being valid in Texas. The Texas Family Code covers informal marriages under two statutes, 2.401 and 2.402, which outline the two ways in which couples can establish an informal marriage.

Couples in informal marriages have the same rights as couples under ceremonial marriages or marriages through a justice of the peace.

Texas Family Code statutes defining informal marriages

Under section 2.401, a couple is informally married if they:

  • Signed a declaration of their marriage as stipulated by the Texas Family Code subchapter
  • Agreed to be married and subsequently lived together in Texas as husband and wife and represented to others that they were married

Persons under the age of 18 or persons who are already married cannot be party to informal marriages or execute declarations of informal marriage.

Section 2.402 outlines the requirements for a valid informal marriage declaration and registration. The county clerk provides forms as prescribed by the Bureau of Vital Statistics and the form must contain spaces to fill in information about:

  • Names, residence, birth date and location
  • Proof of identity
  • Testimony that no kinship relationship would make the marriage void (related by blood, ancestry, brother, sister, son, daughter, adoption, etc.)

Courts can find that a couple is married based on evidence that the parties intended to be married and cohabited for a time.  One way to prove intention to be married is if the parties held themselves out as married. For example, if the parties filed income taxes together as a married couple that is strong evidence of an intention to be married.

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Robert Reid McInvale
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Robert Reid McInvale is an experienced family law attorney with a comprehensive practice in Houston. He provides dedicated and strong advocacy for his clients, helping them with all the issues surrounding their divorce, separation, child custody, and other marriage and family matters. Attorney McInvale—Reid to clients and friends—seemed destined for a law career. Born while his father was attending Emory University Law School, Reid grew up in Manchester, GA. His father was the city attorney for many years, as well as head of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce. It is in the family blood to become lawyers and help people get justice. U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall is part of the McInvale family tree.

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