Two ways to marry and two ways to divorce

           Did you know that there are two ways to get married and two ways to end a marriage?  Texas defines marriage as a civil contract between a man and woman.  Unlike most contracts, however, a marriage contract can only be terminated by state intervention (divorce) or death.

            There are two ways to get married in Texas—ceremonial marriage and common-law marriage.  A ceremonial marriage is probably the type of marriage that you are most familiar with.  To have a ceremonial you must get a marriage license, wait at least 72 hours (unless an exception applies), and then have a ceremony.  That’s it!  Texas doesn’t require any particular type of ceremony for a marriage to be valid.

            The second way to get married is through an informal marriage.  An informal marriage, better known as a common-law marriage, requires that the parties both be at least 18 years old and meet three requirements:

            (1)  They must agree to be married,

            (2)  After the agreement they must cohabit (no minimum time requirement), and

            (3)  They must hold themselves out to others as married.

            Common-law marriage is a slippery slope.  People risk “accidentally” having a common-law marriage by doing some of the following: calling each other husband and wife; acknowledging your children as legitimate; filing joint tax returns; claiming you are married for immigration or health insurance purposes; co-signing promissory notes; wearing rings on left fingers; telling friends that you are married; using “Mr” and “Mrs” on hotel, airline, and other documents; allowing others to refer to you as “daughter-in-law,” “son-in-law,” etc.

            Unless the court holds that the marriage was void or voidable, there are only two ways to end a marriage—death or divorce.  The only other exception is that in a common-law marriage there is a rebuttable presumption that the parties didn’t enter into an agreement to marry if they don’t bring suit to prove the common-law marriage within two years of separating.  This means that if you don’t file for divorce within two years, it is as if the marriage never happened.  And you could be losing out on property rights.

            Basically, as you can see, it’s easier to get married than it is to end the marriage.  If you need to end a marriage or help with validating an informal marriage, experienced divorce attorney Chante Prox can help.  Call (817) 649-2700 today to make an appointment for a consultation.

            Disclaimer:  This information should not be considered as legal advice.  Decisions should be based on consultation with a licensed attorney.  This blog is for informative purposes only. 

2 thoughts on “Two ways to marry and two ways to divorce

  1. Thank you. Glad it was informative. I always get a kick out of this subject because I hear so many stories on how the law is misapplied and misunderstood. I hear all the time that the formalities are not necessary but I personally think it’s a failure to commit. LOL! But also, it can be an avoidance of the expenses on the front end and back in (costs associated with a divorce). You live like you married, walk away without a contest and all is well.

    Also, there is no minimum time requirement for cohabitation. It could be one day.


  2. Very educational sis! I’ve already heard about Common Law Marriage but you taught me some things I didn’t know. Tell me though, what are some instances a couple would want to agree to be married, cohabit and establish themselves as married publicly, but not just want to go ahead and do the traditional marriage?

    Also, in the second example where a couple accidentally becomes Common Law married, is there a minimum time they need to have been living together? I’ve always heard once you live together 6 months you’re officially “common law married.”


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