Many couples mutually decide, for their own reasons, never to marry. If you are one of those couples, you may be wondering whether you have any financial rights despite being unmarried.
Admittedly, no one enters into a relationship thinking it will fail; however, an understanding of Texas cohabitation laws may save some financial and emotional turmoil if you and your partner end your relationship.
Read on to learn how to protect your rights under Texas cohabitation law despite being unmarried.
The Rights of Unmarried Couples
Unmarried couples do not enjoy the same rights as married couples.
Texas laws consider property acquired during a marriage to be owned equally by both parties, no matter whose name is on the property. But this does not apply to those who are not considered married.
Many may be surprised to find that after a long-term relationship, their rights to certain property may be at risk. Maybe you have been making mortgage payments on a house in your significant other’s name. If you aren’t married, your ability to claim a share of equity in the home will be severely limited.
Additionally, no obligation for ongoing financial support exists after a long-term relationship ends. If your spouse provided financial support during your marriage while you raised children, a court might order your spouse to pay you spousal support after a divorce. By contrast, someone in the same circumstance who was not married would not have a right to claim any maintenance payments.
To establish rights similar to those enjoyed by married couples, unmarried parties may enter into a cohabitation agreement.
Aren’t I Protected by Common Law Marriage Laws?
Many people believe that if they live together for a certain period of time, their relationship will be treated as a common law marriage.
Although Texas remains one of the few states that recognizes common law marriage, there is no specific length of cohabitation that establishes such an informal marriage. Instead, certain elements must exist for cohabitation in Texas to receive common law marriage recognition. These include:
- The parties agree to be married;
- The parties agree to live together as husband and wife; and
- The parties represent themselves as married to others.
Texas cohabitation laws consider common law marriages equally valid as formal marriages. However, it can sometimes be difficult to prove that you had a common law marriage. Therefore, for couples living together for an extended period, it may be wise to consider entering into a cohabitation agreement.
What Is a Cohabitation Agreement in Texas?
Cohabitation laws in Texas recognize cohabitation agreements between couples. A cohabitation agreement is an agreement existing between two parties involved in an intimate and long-term relationship with each other who also live together.
Similar to a prenuptial agreement, cohabitation agreements typically provide detailed information on how assets, property, income, and debt will be divided between the parties if the relationship ends. Additionally, cohabitation agreements in Texas may include provisions for spousal support, including which party will receive support and the duration of support.
Cohabitation agreements can do more than just contemplate separation. They can also protect a couple’s rights to act for one another. The lack of a formal marriage may deprive a partner of the authority to make decisions on behalf of their significant other when necessary.
Texas cohabitation laws permit cohabitation agreements to contain provisions appointing critical roles. For example, cohabitation agreements may address whether one party may act as conservator of the other if they become incapacitated or make health care decisions for the other in case of an emergency.
Parties that choose cohabitation in Texas instead of entering into a formal marriage can take steps to protect their rights. Creating a solid cohabitation agreement protects each party from emotional and financial turmoil in the event the relationship ends.
The Larson Law Office understands the uniqueness of each client’s situation. Our clients always speak directly to either Diana Larson or Erik Larson. To discuss the terms and facts surrounding cohabitation agreements and how they can protect your rights, contact our office for a free telephone consultation.