Preparing for your marriage can be exciting but also a little daunting when it comes to taking care of legal paperwork. Texas favors marriage over cohabitation for unwed couples and has specific requirements to recognize your marriage as valid. Making sure that you file all appropriate forms and have the mandatory authorizations is important. Understanding the differences between ceremonial marriage and common law marriage can also help you determine which type of union you and your future spouse desire.
Although the state does not require you to work with a lawyer when planning your marriage, consulting an experienced family law attorney can give you peace of mind. Hiring a lawyer is especially important if you and your future spouse are considering a prenuptial agreement to protect your rights and your assets should you ever file for divorce.
How Old Do You Need to Be to Get Married in Texas?
You need to be at least 18 years old to apply for a marriage license in Texas. If you are at least 16 years old, you need the consent of someone who has the authority to do so, such as a parent, conservator, or guardian. The person giving consent for your marriage must provide a written statement and issue a statement that you have the authority to make this decision before a county clerk.
A minor may also petition a court in their own name for an order authorizing them to get married. The minor can file their request in either the county where their parent, conservator, or guardian resides in Texas. If they have no parent, conservator, or guardian, they may file with the court of their county of residence.
How Do You Get a Marriage License for a Ceremonial Marriage?
If you opt for a ceremonial marriage in Texas, you need to obtain a marriage license from a county clerk.
When applying for a marriage license, you must:
- Present proof of identity and age
- Fill out the application form accurately
- Take an oath
- Sign the application in front of the county clerk
Texas encourages every marriage license applicant to attend a premarital education course, which usually takes at least four hours, in the year leading up to their application. However, this is not a legal requirement.
What Is Common Law Marriage?
Texas is one of the few states that recognize common law marriage, also referred to as informal marriage. If you and your spouse can prove that you are in a common law marriage, then the state treats your union as it would a valid ceremonial marriage.
To prove the validity of your common law marriage you must:
- Provide a signed declaration of your marriage
- Prove you and your spouse consented to the marriage
- Demonstrate that you live together as spouses in Texas
- Present yourselves as a married couple to others
A common law marriage grants many similar benefits to those of a ceremonial marriage. Same-sex partners can also opt for a common law marriage.
To enter a common law marriage, both parties must be:
- A least 18 years old
- Mentally fit
- Not related by blood or adoption to each other
If you and your spouse move to a state that does not authorize its residents to enter a common law marriage, your marriage should nevertheless remain valid. Most states recognize a marriage that is considered valid in the state where it happened.
When Is the Best Time to Sign a Prenuptial Agreement?
Although a prenuptial agreement is technically valid as long as it meets specific requirements, including both parties signing it before the date of the wedding, you should avoid doing so too close to your big day.
Many lawyers recommend that you finalize and sign your prenuptial agreement at least 60 days before your wedding. This gives you and your future spouse plenty of time to go over the details and each have your lawyer review the marital contract.
Talking to an attorney who has significant experience with prenuptial agreements can ensure that you meet all legal requirements so a judge may enforce your marital contract if you and your spouse ever get a divorce. Your lawyer can also make recommendations about how to structure the agreement, so its language is clear.
If you need legal advice regarding your upcoming marriage in Houston or its surrounding areas, contact Cynthia Tracy, Attorney at Law, P.C., today at (281) 612-5443 to schedule a consultation!