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Reviewing the implications of common law marriages

There may have been a time in San Antonio when the expectation was that couples who chose to live together would inevitably marry. However, recent statistics seem to suggest those days have passed. Information shared by NBC News showed a sharp increase in the number of couples cohabitating in the U.S. in 2010 as opposed to just 15 years earlier. Nearly 32 percent of those couples continued to live together without marrying. If one chooses to remain in such a relationship, he or she should understand how Texas views such unions, and whether or not they qualify as common law marriages.

According to the Texas Family Code, it may be proven that a couple is considered to be husband and wife if they enter into a declaration that recognizes their relationship as such. The same applies to couples who choose to live together and present themselves to others as married. This may be important to know due to the fact that if the relationship ends, the couple may be subject to the same rules and regulations regarding property and asset division that married couples are.

Many family law experts recommend that couples that choose to remain unmarried establish a cohabitation agreement. Such an agreement can establish parameters regarding issues such as:

  •          Income sharing and expenditures
  •          Asset and property ownership
  •          Debt liability

Should a cohabitating couple choose to separate, a cohabitation agreement may offer many of the same protections as a prenuptial agreement.

In the event that one party to a perceived common law marriage wishes to enjoy the protections of marital property division, he or she should act quickly upon the dissolution of the relationship. The law states that if proceedings are not initiated within two years of the relationship ending, it is not presumed to qualify as a marriage. 

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