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Barbara L. Jouette, Attorney, P.C.
888-268-7997 / 214-385-4562

Why do I need a formal divorce if I am only common-law married?

In Texas, there exists a type of marriage termed common law. When a man and a woman live together and have indicated and have agreed that they are married, they are considered legally as married. This is without a ceremony and a certificate. If the man and woman have ever introduced themselves as married or referred to one another as husband or wife or have ever applied and signed for credit as a married couple, they have effectively presented themselves as married and fall into the classification.

Just like any other marriage, if the relationship fails and is irreconcilable, the couple needs to file for and be granted a divorce in order to end the common law marriage. The grounds for a common law divorce are:

  • Adultery.
  • Physical or mental cruelty.
  • Differences and arguments that cannot be resolved.
  • Abandonment, in which your husband or wife left you for at least a year.
  • Convicted of a felony, if your spouse was convicted of a felony and went to state or federal prison for one year or more. This reason cannot be used if you testified in court against your spouse.
  • You have not resided in the same dwelling for three years or longer.
  • Your spouse in mentally unwell and is confined to a mental hospital at the time you file and has been there for three years or more. The disorder must either be one that is not expected to improve or if it does, relapse is not uncommon.

It may seem that if you were never officially married, you should not have to officially divorce, but Texas marriage laws are complex. While you want a divorce, you first must prove you were even married in a common law fashion in order to file. It may save your sanity not to go at the process alone. A Texas family law attorney will know the ins and outs of common law marriage and subsequent divorce and may be able to minimize the confusion and stress at a time when additional stress is the last thing you need.

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