Common law marriage



Am I Married?

A question in any divorce: when were you married?  If you’re not married, you don’t need a divorce.  Seems obvious, but the answer isn’t always obvious.     Sometimes, the first question is: ‘Am I Married?”.  So, let’s start there today on this discussion of some divorce basics.


Valid Marriage for Divorce

There are two ways to be married. A formal marriage- the traditional wedding with a minister, priest, judge or another official would be an example of a formal marriage. And, there is an informal marriage- what people usually mean when they say ‘common law marriage’ or common law husband and wife.


Formal Marriage for Divorce

It is definitely easier to answer the question of whether you have a formal marriage- did you get married and was your marriage valid where you got married?  But even that isn’t always easy to know and sometimes that is a little bit of a sticky question to answer clearly.  If you don’t know if your marriage was valid at the time that you got married then you should definitely find a good divorce attorney or family law attorney to talk to about your marriage and divorce questions.  And, if your answers to the formal marriage are a resounding yes- then yes you are married.


Informal Marriage and Divorce

And, if you think you might be informally married you need to ask yourself a few different questions- 1) did you two ever call each other husband and wife to friends, in official documents or file taxes that way? If so, the legal term we as lawyers would use and consider is that you may have held each other out as husband and wife. The second question is did you talk about or agree to be married?  If you talked about being married and agreed on it, did you live together with that understanding about the agreement to be married? Or did you maybe live together with the agreement that you wouldn’t be married?

The family law attorney or divorce attorney that you meet with will likely ask you those questions and want to drill down on those types of questions to be able to advise you about whether or not you may be in a common law marriage.

Marriage and Divorce Questions

These are the questions that are discussed in a straightforward conversation about formal and informal (common law marriage).  However, there are other issues about whether or not you have a valid marriage that this may not have answered for you.  For example, if you believe you were misled into the marriage or another reason that leads you to believe that your marriage may be invalid then your divorce attorney may ask you more questions that may lead to the option of annulment.

These types of questions are ones that a good divorce attorney and family lawyer can help you answer to get to the bottom line about what your next steps could be and options available to you.

Jill O’Connell


For answers to your family law and divorce questions contact an experienced Lewisville family lawyer, Jill O’Connell, 940-497-5454.