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Texas court recognizes same-sex common law marriage

Common law marriage is where two people are legally married even though they did not have a marriage ceremony and do not have a marriage license. A couple that is common law married has the same rights and responsibilities as other married couples. Not all states recognize the concept of common law marriage. Texas is one of the states that does.

Recently, a Texas judge made an unprecedented ruling. The judge recognized a same-sex common law marriage for the first time ever in the state of Texas. In this case, two women met in 2004 and began a relationship. In 2008, they held a marriage ceremony. Because same sex marriage was not yet legalized in Texas, the marriage was not valid. One of the women died of cancer in 2014. This sparked a legal battle with the deceased woman’s family over her estate. The issue turned on whether the woman’s partner would be recognized as a spouse. 

After the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same sex marriage earlier this year, the Texas judge ruled that the two women in this case had a valid common law marriage. The surviving spouse is now entitled to inherit some of her late wife’s assets. This case marks the first time a Texas court has recognized a same-sex common law marriage.

In Texas, there are certain requirements a couple must meet to have a valid common law marriage. A common misperception is that if a couple lives together for a period of time, they are automatically common law married. Living together is just one of three requirements for a valid common law marriage under Texas law. In addition to living together, the couple must also agree to be married and present themselves as a married couple to other people. There is no set period of time a couple must live together before the marriage is considered to be valid under common law.

If you have questions about whether you are in a common law marriage, consider speaking with a family law attorney. It is important that you understand what rights you have and any steps you should take to ensure that the marriage is recognized under the law.

Source: HoustonChronicle, “In a first, Texas Court recognizes same-sex common law marriage,” Lauren McGaughy, Sept. 16, 2015

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