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Is yours a common law marriage or a domestic partnership?

Many couples both in San Antonio and throughout the rest of the U.S. choose to cohabitate rather than marry. The decision to do so may not necessarily be a reflection of their feelings towards each other and their relationship, but rather could simply be based on a personal preference. If this describes you and your partner’s situation, then you may think that the two of you are defined as being in a common law marriage. This assumption could have a dramatic impact on what could happen should you one day choose to separate.

Cohabitating couples like you will often enter into a domestic partnership so that certain advantages may be shared, such as employment benefits. These are written records registered in the county in which you and your partner reside. According to the Texas Family Code, domestic partnership agreements differ from common law marriages in that to be considering married by common law, you must agree to marry, live in the state as a married couple, and present yourself as such to others.

Why would this differentiation matter if you decide to separate? Texas currently does not recognize the validity of domestic partnerships, whereas it does common law marriages. Thus, if yours was a common law marriage, then upon separation, you would need to go through divorce proceedings. You may also be eligible for benefits such as spousal support and equitable property division. However, if yours was a domestic partnership, you may not be afforded the same rights.

The only exception to this scenario may be if you have children with your domestic partner. He or she may be obligated to pay child support due to him or her being the kids’ biological parent.  

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