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Texas Family Law and the Changing American Family

Posted on in Family Law

Texas family law attorney, Texas complex litigation lawyer, Texas high asset divorce attorney, Could informal marriage be the next big transition in family law? Such relationships are already becoming the norm in many parts of Latin America, and the cultural shift could well follow these immigrants to the Lone Star State. For example, in Columbia, 84 percent of babies are born to unmarried mothers. There are similar statistics in a number of other countries, including Mexico.

The trend could most likely affect Texas because it is one of only a handful of states that recognizes informal marriage for all purposes. While it is relatively easy to enter into a common-law marriage, such a relationship can be difficult to dissolve, even in a high-asset divorce.

Formation

An informal marriage must be established by a preponderance of the evidence. To meet this burden, a party can either introduce a signed declaration of informal marriage or, more commonly, establish the three elements required by the Family Code:

  • Cohabitation: Technically, the cohabitation period can be as little as one or two nights. However, cohabitation must occur in the state and must be at the same time as the other elements.
  • Holding Out: Introducing one another as husband and wife, filing a tax return as a married couple, and exchanging rings all meet this element. A joint checking account or having a child together are normally insufficient.
  • Agreement: This element may be established by direct evidence, such as a written agreement, or by circumstantial evidence of cohabitation and holding out.

Either avenue only creates a presumption of an informal marriage; the other party may still contest the marriage in a complex divorce.

Impact

As a rule of thumb, the longer an informal marriage lasts, the more property becomes commingled. So, such relationships often give rise to complex property litigation in divorce regarding things like home improvements, non-economic contributions to the marriage, and the division of nonresidential real property.

There may also be complex child custody issues to decide. For example, the United States Supreme Court may soon consider a multi-layer case that involves a lesbian couple who lived together in Alabama, briefly moved to Georgia so the non-biological partner could adopt the other partner's biological children, and then relocated back to Alabama.

For prompt assistance with a family law matter in Central Texas, contact an aggressive Leander complex divorce attorney. Call the Law Offices of William D. Power at 512.610.6199 today.

Sources:

http://tpr.org/post/all-across-latin-america-unwed-mothers-are-now-norm#stream/0

http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/FA/htm/FA.2.htm#2.401

The Law Offices of William D. Powers

8911 N. Capital of Texas Highway, Building 2, Suite 2105, Austin, TX 78759