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Marriage in Texas

Explained by Our Houston Family Law Attorneys

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In Texas, marriage is a voluntary (consensual) civil contract between a woman and a man in which each party owes a fiduciary duty to the other. Texas favors marriage over co-habitation of unmarried couples and recognizes both ceremonial and common law marriages. An attorney at Cynthia Tracy, Attorney at Law, P.C. is available to answer your questions regarding the legal requirements for marriage in Texas. Please contact our family law attorneys in Houston today to schedule a consultation.

Ceremonial Marriage

In Texas, a ceremonial marriage requires a marriage license. (See Texas Family Code § 2.001.)

A marriage license may be obtained by appearing before the county clerk in any county in Texas and:

  • Presenting proof of identity
  • Presenting proof of age
  • Properly completing the marriage license application, including providing all information requested in the application and marking all appropriate boxes
  • Taking an oath
  • Signing the application in front of the county clerk (See Texas Family Code § 2.002)

Every individual applying for a marriage license is encouraged—but not required—to attend a premarital education course lasting at least four hours during the year prior to the date of the application. (See Texas Family Code § 2.013.)

Legal Age to Marry

To obtain a marriage license in Texas, an individual must be over 18 years old. (See Texas Family Code § 2.101.) If an applicant is at least 16 years old, the consent of a person entitled to provide such consent (parental consent) or a court order is required before a marriage license will be issued. (See Texas Family Code §§ 2.102, 2.103.)

Consent to allow an underage applicant to marry may be provided by the applicant’s parent, judicially designated managing conservator, or guardian. The consent declaration needs to be in writing on paperwork that was provided by the county clerk, give consent for the applicant to be married, and have a statement swearing that he or she is the applicant’s guardian, judicially designated managing conservator, or parent. These types of declarations need to be executed at the time the application is filed, or no more than 30 days before then. All declarations have to be acknowledged, usually before a county clerk.

The exceptions to this include the following:

  • If the parent does not reside in Texas, the written consent may be acknowledged by a person who is authorized to issue licenses in the state in which the parent resides.
  • If illness or incapacity has rendered a parent unable to acknowledge the consent declaration before a county clerk in Texas or a person who is authorized to issue licenses in the state in which the parent resides, the declaration may be acknowledged before any officer who is authorized to take acknowledgements, and presented to the court along with a physician’s affidavit regarding the parent’s illness or incapacity.

A minor who wishes to obtain a marriage license may petition the court in his or her own name for an order granting permission to marry.

Here is more information regarding that:

  • If the minor’s parent resides in Texas and is authorized to provide consent, the petition should be filed in the county in which the parent resides.
  • If the minor’s judicially designated managing conservator or guardian resides in Texas and is authorized to provide consent, the petition should be filed in the county in which the conservator or guardian resides.
  • If there is no parent, conservator, guardian, or other person who resides in Texas and is authorized to provide consent, the petition should be filed in the county in which the minor resides.

In general, fraud, mistake, or illegality that occurred in obtaining the marriage license or the fact that the person who conducted the marriage ceremony lacked the authority to do so does not render a ceremonial marriage invalid. (See Texas Family Code §§ 2.301, 2.302.)

Common Law Marriage

Common law marriage, also called marriage without formalities or informal marriage, is not recognized everywhere, but it is recognized in Texas. (See Texas Family Code § 2.401.) When proven, a common law marriage is treated the same as a valid ceremonial marriage.

A common law marriage may be proven in an administrative, judicial, or other proceeding by evidence that:

  • A declaration of their marriage has been signed; or
  • The parties consented to be married, lived together as wife and husband in Texas, and represented to other people that they were married.

A Houston family law attorney at Cynthia Tracy, Attorney at Law, P.C. is available to answer your questions regarding the requirements for ceremonial or informal marriage in Texas. Please contact Cynthia Tracy, Attorney at Law, P.C. today to schedule a consultation.

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    Cynthia B. Tracy graduated from Cornell University in 1983 and received her law degree from the Syracuse University School of Law in 1987. She was admitted to the State Bar of New York in 1988 and admitted to practice before the United States Southern District of New York federal court in 1990. Cynthia was admitted to the State Bar of Ohio in 1992. In 1995, she was admitted to the State Bar of Texas, and in 2005, she was admitted to practice before the United States Southern District of Texas ...
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