Could You Be Married in Texas and NOT Know It?
Weddings are often a complicated and expensive affair. You could hardly blame any couple for eloping.
In Texas, there are three ways a person can become married.
1) Ceremonial process: This is the traditional marriage. It complies with all the statutory requirements of the State of Texas Family Code. This requires obtaining a marriage license and participating in a marriage ceremony.
2) Marriage by Proxy: A proxy marriage occurs when one party or both parties to the marriage are not physically available at the ceremony. Generally, this occurs when one or both partners serve in the military. Texas is also one of a handful of states that allows Texas prisoners to get married to someone on the outside by proxy.
3) Common Law Marriage: This marriage doesn't require a license. Also called an informal marriage, in Texas, there are two ways to establish a common law marriage. A couple can establish a common law marriage by signing a declaration of their informal marriage, which must be certified by and filed with the county clerk.
Another way to establish a common law marriage is to do these three things.
A) A couple must agree to be married
B) After the agreement, the couple must live together as spouses in Texas and,
C) The Couple must represent to others that they are married.
Proving a common law marriage only depends upon those three things. It doesn't matter how long the couple has been together or whether they have children. Once proven, a common law marriage has no lesser status, which means it is just as legally valid as a formal marriage.
Sadly, no matter how your marriage begins in Texas, once formalized, there is only one way it can end--divorce. If a common law couple decides to split up, they must file for divorce. Texas law presumes a common law marriage never existed if court proceedings are not filed within two years of the separation. Unless it is proven otherwise, using the three criteria presented above.