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How can I best protect against common law marriage claims?

I have been living with my partner for years…how can I best protect against common law marriage claims?

While the State of Texas recognizes informal, or common law, marriage, certain requirements must be met before the court can make a finding that an informal marriage exists. Living together, or cohabitating, is one of the required elements that must be proven to substantiate such a claim.

For an informal marriage to legally exist, there are three main elements that are required: (1) there must be a finding that the parties agreed to be married (agreement), (2) the parties must live together in Texas as a married couple after the agreement (cohabitation), and (3) the parties must have represented to others that they are married (“holding out”). Tex. Fam. Code 2.401.

As one can imagine, this type of litigation is fact intensive, costly, and time consuming. If an unmarried couple is contemplating living together, it would be extremely wise for that couple to enter into a written cohabitation agreement. This cohabitation agreement can clearly define each parties’ specific responsibilities for contributing to the household and, to an extent, each other. Even though there is not a specific statute that addresses cohabitation agreements, Texas allows parties to voluntarily enter into binding, contractual agreements.

A carefully drafted cohabitation agreement can avoid allegations of a common law marriage should a couple later decide to separate. Cohabitation agreements can be tailored to your individual needs and circumstances and can even include language that until an identifiable ceremonial marriage takes place, the parties agree that they are not married to each other and expressly disclaim that they are “common law married.”

If you are contemplating living with your girlfriend or boyfriend, a consultation with an attorney familiar with drafting cohabitation agreements can save you a great deal of money and headache down the road.

If you are considering a Texas cohabitation agreement, the attorneys at Justice Law Firm, PC would be happy to assist you.

The Justice Law Firm in Southlake, Texas is dedicated to helping individuals in Southlake and the surrounding areas with Divorce and Family Law issues. At the Justice Law Firm, you will find experienced and professional divorce attorneys.