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The basics of a common law marriage

On Behalf of | Oct 16, 2016 | Family Law

Common law marriage is a method of becoming married without formal wedding proceedings and legal documentation. You cannot become married via the common law simply by living together; it takes more affirmative actions. This post will go over common law marriage and how you might enter into one.

To become married under common law you must:

  • Maintain joint bank, credit cards, and other financial accounts.
  • You must be legally able to marry, for example, you are over 18, possess a sound mental mind, and you are not already married to someone else.
  • You intend to be married.
  • You live together for a given period.
  • You refer to one another as husband and wife, and you hold yourself out to the public as married.
  • You took each other’s last name.

These factors are not exhaustive nor are they exclusive. You can still become married under common law with separate accounts or if you fail to take the same last name. The circumstances of the relationship determine if you are married.

Common law marriage is dying out as a legal method to become married. However, it is still recognized in a handful of states, including Texas.

These marriages do not end just by splitting up. As you can see, getting married under the common law is complicated and takes effort. The same effort applies to divorce. You must file for divorce and go through the legal procedures as if you were traditionally married.

If you are concerned as to your legal status, as a married or unmarried couple, then you may want to seek the advice of an attorney. A lawyer can review the requirements for a marriage with you and advise you of your legal status.


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