Nearly every week, we get a call from a someone who is in desperate need of legal help and has no clue where to turn. Usually, a woman who was in a long-term relationship with a man and who lived with him as (what they considered) husband and wife. They had kids, they lived in a home, and they had all the trappings of family life that everyone else on the block had….except, they were never formally married. Their relationship was common-law. 

In the most fundamental terms, common law (or informal) marriage is a situation where a couple is considered as married, despite having never formalized their relationship with a marriage ceremony, wedding license, etc. Some people erroneously believe that if you live with another person for a certain period, you’re magically common-law married. In fact, this is not true. To be considered as having an informal marriage in Texas, the parties must (i) have an agreement to presently be married (that means now); (ii) live together in conjugal cohabitation (meaning: live in an intimate relationship as spouses would typically live); and, (iii) hold one another out as each other’s spouses. So, by way of example, you agree to be someone’s spouse, you live with them in a manner befitting married people (being intimate, treating one another as married people do, having mundane married life together, etc.) and, importantly, you present the other person as your spouse (not your “old lady,”better half,” etc., but “husband” or “wife.”). If you satisfy all of these terms, you may be considered to be “common law married” by the State of Texas. But wait, if it’s that easy, why the dramatic title?

If you are not formally married and are relying upon the common law to consider you as husband and wife, strap in for a long ride. You’ll need to present tons of evidence to the court to substantiate your claim as someone else’s spouse. If your spouse dies and you try to claim assets in the administration of their estate, you could face severe roadblocks and, even despite massive evidence, a court could still determine that you were not the legal spouse of the deceased person. The bottom line: if you have a common law marriage, you should take steps to ensure the law will recognize you as such. 

Fortunately, there are a few simple methods of resolving the problem that our firm can assist you with handling. They are as follows:

  • First, there are simple legal forms that we can prepare and file with the county where you live that, if prepared and filed correctly, will conclusively establish your relationship with your spouse.
  • Second, even if you don’t wish to enter a legal pleading on file with the county, we can quickly prepare an iron-clad estate plan between you and your spouse that will ensure you’re protected if your spouse dies.
  • Third, importantly, if you were married by common law and your spouse died, we can help you protect your rights. Our firm has routinely supported spouses in your situation stand up for themselves, protect their legal rights and get what’s theirs. Don’t be bullied by someone else but stand up for yourself. Call our firm today and we can assist you. 

ATTORNEY CHRIS PARVIN is Board Certified in Estate Planning & Probate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Mr. Parvin is the Managing Partner of the Dallas, Texas law firm of Parvin Law Group, P.C. and serves as an Adjunct Professor of Law at Texas A&M University School of Law. Mr. Parvin can be reached by email at

Parvin Law Group, P.C. is a Concierge Law Firm in Dallas, Texas with attorneys practicing law in the fields of Estate Planning, Probate, Business Law and Family Law.