How to Invalidate a Common Law Marriage in Texas

Many couples choose to live together before tying the knot. Perhaps you and your partner want to take your relationship to the next level, but you’re not quite ready for marriage. However, you’ve heard about common law marriage and want to make sure that you don’t accidentally become legally married. So, how can you invalidate a common law marriage in Texas?

Understanding Common Law Marriage

Before we delve into how to invalidate a common law marriage, it’s important to grasp the concept itself. In Texas, there are two types of marriages recognized: formal marriages and marriages without formalities. Formal marriages involve obtaining a marriage license, having a ceremony conducted by an authorized individual, and recording the marriage with the state. On the other hand, a marriage without formalities is a common law marriage.

Declaring an Informal Marriage

The first way to establish a common law marriage in Texas is by filing a Declaration of Informal Marriage with the county clerk’s office. This involves the clerk administering an oath and officially registering the marriage.

Common Law Marriage with No Formalities

The second way to establish a common law marriage does not require any state filings. You can establish an informal marriage when the couple:

  • Agrees that they are married
  • Presents themselves as married to others
  • Lives together in Texas

All three factors must be met for the establishment of an informal legal marriage in Texas.

You may be wondering, “How many years is a common law marriage?” In Texas, there is no specific duration required for a common law marriage. A couple can establish a common law marriage as soon as they move in together, agree that they are married, and hold themselves out to the world as a married couple.

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How to Invalidate a Common Law Marriage

Now that we understand how common law marriages are established, let’s discuss how to invalidate one. It’s relatively simple to invalidate a common law marriage in Texas. First and foremost, do not sign a Declaration of Informal Marriage. By avoiding the signing of this declaration, you can prevent the establishment of an informal marriage that would require a divorce to dissolve.

If you never filed the declaration but still find yourself in a common law marriage situation, you can disprove the existence of a common law marriage by demonstrating that your relationship does not meet all three factors mentioned earlier. For instance, if you and your partner do not live together, even if you refer to each other as spouses, there is no informal marriage. Similarly, if you cohabitate but never present yourselves as married to others, there is no informal marriage.

Rights and Responsibilities in a Common Law Marriage

It’s important to note that a common law marriage in Texas carries the same rights and obligations as a formal legal marriage. Any property acquired during the common law marriage is considered community property. Additionally, any children born during the common law marriage are presumed to be the children of the common law husband.

How to Terminate a Common Law Marriage

If you find yourself wanting to end an informal marriage established through a filed Declaration of Informal Marriage, you must file for a divorce. However, if you never filed a Declaration, you may be able to separate without the need for a legal divorce. If neither party brings a case to prove the marriage within two years, the marriage is considered null and void.

However, it’s important to remember that it’s not always this straightforward. If one of the parties initiates a divorce case within two years, the court will examine the facts of the relationship to determine if a common law marriage existed. If the court establishes the existence of a common law marriage, the court will divide marital property according to Texas’ community property principles.

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Seek Legal Advice from Garrity Traina

Understanding the rules surrounding common law marriage in Texas can be confusing, especially if you’re concerned about the well-being of your family after you pass away. Garrity Traina is here to help. Our team of experienced attorneys comprehends the importance of securing your family’s future and preventing unforeseen challenges to your estate plan. Contact us today for any inquiries regarding common law marriage in estate planning.

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When an individual who established a trust passes away, the terms, distribution, and management of the trust can sometimes lead to conflicts among the involved parties. In such cases, litigation may become necessary to interpret the trust, modify its terms, or address management issues. But what does the process of trust litigation in Texas entail?

Understanding Texas Trusts

To grasp the process of trust litigation in Texas, it is essential to first familiarize yourself with some fundamental trust terms. A trust is a legal arrangement where an intermediary, known as a trustee, holds property on behalf of a beneficiary. The person who establishes the trust is called the settlor. The trustee manages and distributes the trust property according to the settlor’s instructions.

What is Trust Litigation?

In simple terms, trust litigation refers to the filing of a lawsuit to resolve disputes related to a trust that require judicial intervention. For example, a beneficiary may initiate a lawsuit if there is a disagreement regarding the trust’s management or the settlor’s intentions. Likewise, a trustee can file a lawsuit if a beneficiary borrowed funds from the trust or failed to return trust-owned property.

Reasons for Trust Litigation

Trust litigation can arise for various reasons. One common scenario involves a beneficiary challenging the settlor’s intent. Reasons for contesting a trust’s validity may include:

  • Lack of mental capacity on the part of the settlor
  • Excessive pressure exerted on the settlor (undue influence)
  • Duress or coercion of the settlor
  • Fraudulent misrepresentation made to the settlor during the trust’s creation

If a beneficiary believes that the trust does not accurately reflect the settlor’s true intentions, they can bring the matter to court for resolution.

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Another reason for trust litigation is when beneficiaries suspect that the trustee has acted improperly. Trustees have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries. Breaching this duty can occur in several ways, such as making improper distributions, commingling trust funds with personal funds, using the trust for personal gain, or failing to provide an accurate account of the trust’s finances. Beneficiaries can initiate trust litigation if they feel that the trustee has acted contrary to the settlor’s instructions or in their own self-interest.

The Process of Trust Litigation

The timeline of trust litigation in Texas can vary depending on the complexity of the case. Generally, trust and estate litigation can involve several stages.

Initially, the party challenging the trust must file a petition outlining their complaints regarding the trust in a Texas district court. They must then serve this petition to all relevant parties, including the trustee and beneficiaries. The parties, particularly the trustee, have 20 days to file a response.

A first appearance date is set by the court, where the parties establish deadlines for various steps of the case. Following this, the discovery period begins, during which all parties exchange relevant documents. Beneficiaries’ lawyers often request detailed financial information related to the trust, and depositions may also be taken, wherein the trustee must answer questions under oath.

Mediation is frequently recommended by the court to facilitate settlement discussions. If the parties fail to reach a resolution, the case proceeds to trial. During the trial, evidence and witness testimonies are presented, after which the judge or jury makes a final decision regarding the dispute.

The Costs of Trust Litigation

The expenses associated with trust litigation depend on the specific circumstances of each case. Some common costs of trust litigation include court filing fees, deposition expenses, fees for expert witnesses, and attorney fees. Resolving the case through a settlement before trial typically results in significantly lower costs compared to a full trial.

Consult with Garrity Traina Attorneys for Trust Litigation Queries

If you have questions about the process of trust litigation in Texas, do not hesitate to seek advice from Garrity Traina. Our team of experienced trust and estate attorneys can guide you in determining the viability of trust litigation. Rest assured, our attorneys come from top-notch educational backgrounds and are dedicated to providing excellent legal services. Connect with us today.

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