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Common-law marriage and divorce

These days, the notion of a common-law marriage can seem a bit antiquated. However, in a handful of states, including Texas, this type of marriage still exists. The rules of common-law marriage can vary from state to state. Individuals in a recognized common-law marriage may still find themselves eventually in need of a divorce. In that case, the couple must still undergo the usual divorce proceedings.

There is a common myth that one enters common-law marriage once he or she has cohabited with a partner for seven years. It remains unclear where the seven-year myth originated, because it typically is not a requirement in places where this relationship is recognized. Usually, the couple must declare themselves as married, live together for a certain significant period of time and also present themselves to the public as a married couple. 

If the couple finds themselves headed to divorce, the process is similar to any other divorce. A special common-law divorce option does not exist. A person ending a common-law marriage will need to handle the division of property, child support and custody arrangements in the same way as other marital dissolutions are handled in the state. 

Even if an individual moves to another state that doesn't offer common-law marriages, the other state will still recognize a Texas common-law marriage. A person would still need to obtain a divorce in any state of residence according to local divorce laws. During any divorce, individuals may find themselves in need of legal help. An experienced and knowledgeable family law attorney can offer assistance throughout the process. 

Source:, "Common-law Marriage and Divorce Differ by State", Patrick J. Kiger, March 1, 2018

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