Public ideas concerning marriage have evolved tremendously in recent years, and many couples are opting for alternatives to traditional marriage like cohabitation and common law marriage. While these options aren’t as formal or binding in most cases as a typical marriage, the couples in these arrangements still have legal options for financial security and asset protection. Cohabitation agreements and declarations of informal marriage are important topics in Texas family law. If you have questions regarding your legal options in a cohabitation situation informal marriage, contact Austin cohabitation agreement lawyer Abraham Kant to schedule your free initial consultation.
Some couples choose to live together but decide against traditional marriage for one reason or another. Depending on the living situation and the each of the partners’ employment status, asset division and property rights can become points of contention later. (rewrite, confusing) For example, a couple living together may share a vehicle registered to one partner. However, the other partner may use the vehicle more than the partner who owns it and relies on the vehicle to get to and from work. During a separation, the non-owner may claim that he or she depended on the vehicle and used it for so long that he or she has a right to the vehicle, or that the vehicle falls under shared property.
Believe it or not, oral agreements do in fact carry weight in legal disputes. If one partner claims an oral agreement about the use and ownership of a shared vehicle or another asset, the other partner will need to find a way to disprove the claim.
A cohabitation agreement is a great way of preventing these issues before they happen. Partners who sign a cohabitation agreement can carefully outline each of their financial obligations to the shared household and define each partner’s property rights. Many people opt for cohabitation before marriage to ensure the partnership works well in a more intimate setting and proceeding with a cohabitation agreement adds financial security for both partners.
Most Americans are familiar with the concept of a common law marriage. This type of marriage is less formal but no less legally binding than a traditional marriage with an officiated ceremony. In a common law marriage, the couple simply agrees to be married under a certain set of legal rules and receives a Declaration of Informal Marriage as proof of the union. This form is a valid proof of marriage, and the couple is married for all legal purposes.
Texas law simply requires both partners to be over the age of 18, live together in Texas, and not be married to anyone else. The law also requires that the couple present themselves as a married couple to others. This can include the couple stating publicly they are married or keeping up the appearance of being a married couple with friends and relatives. This aspect of common law marriage does not necessarily require documented evidence. The court can infer this aspect of the marriage based on the evidence on a case-by-case basis.
A Declaration of Informal Marriage is a crucial document for couples in these situations, especially when it comes to divorce and inheritance. A spouse in a common law marriage can claim a share of a deceased partner’s estate if the decedent did not have a will stating other intentions. In a divorce, a Declaration of Informal Marriage may determine each divorcing spouse’s property rights.
Abraham Kant Esquire, of SSJM Family Law, provides robust legal services to our clients in the Central Texas area for all types of family law cases. Contact us today for a consultation if you believe you are heading for any type of common law marriage or cohabitation dispute, or better yet before any dispute arises.