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What do Texans need to know about common-law marriage?

Texas is one of the few states that legally recognizes common-law marriage, which may impact you if you are splitting up with your significant other. There are many myths surrounding common-law unions, perhaps the most pervasive being that anyone can be considered married by common law if they are living together for at least seven years.

This is not exactly true, according to HowStuffWorks. It can help to understand how common-law marriage originated. In the early days of the United States, when settlers still roamed largely uninhabited areas, some couples declared themselves married without an official ceremony if churches or courthouses were nowhere nearby. The law evolved to accept common-law unions in some states, including Texas. Today, you do not need an official ceremony to declare yourself married, as long as you meet several requirements: You and your partner present yourselves as a married couple to others; you plan to cohabitate for a lengthy period of time; and you agree to live as a legally married couple would.

Before same-sex marriage was legalized in all states, common-law unions were advantageous to same-sex couples. You may have decided not to formalize your relationship with a marriage ceremony after having been considered married for some time already. However, if you are splitting up, you should know that common-law divorces are treated in the same way as legal divorce in states that recognize common-law marriages.

For this reason, it may be necessary to consult with a divorce attorney to protect your rights pertaining to property division, child custody and spousal support. The information in this post should not replace the advice of a lawyer.

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