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Same-sex couples and common law marriages

The recent ruling legalizing same-sex marriage across the country is very happy news. Many Texas same-sex couples who are affected by the new laws may even have been caught off-guard by the change. So, while the U.S. Supreme Court's decision is welcome, it also necessitates that gay couples carefully examine their marital status.

For instance, a same-sex couple does not necessarily need a marriage license in order to be considered legally married. An informal or common law marriage arrangement is typically employed by couples who wish to declare themselves as married without actually going through the formal licensing process.

In order for a common law marriage to be recognized in the state of Texas, the couple must do the following:

  • Present themselves as a married couple to others.
  • Make an unconditional agreement between themselves that they are married.
  • Share a residence as a couple within the state.

 All three of these conditions must take place concurrently. Also, the minimum age for an individual to be part of a common law marriage is 18.

One area of concern for an individual involved in a common law marriage is what may happen if the relationship ends. Let's say a couple, who previously could not get legally married, lived together for a period of time and for all intents and purposes, they were married. However, what happens if the decision is made to part ways? It is possible that one of the parties may wish to pursue a legal divorce while the other contends that no marriage ever existed.

This could make settling such issues as property and asset division very difficult. Ultimately, it may be left to the court to assess if a couple was actually married.

If you are in a same-sex relationship and need clarification regarding your legal status, you may wish to contact a Texas family law attorney. The attorney could help you establish whether or not you have a valid marriage as well as represent your interests in case of divorce.

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