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Old 07-12-2018, 02:32 AM
sincereCat sincereCat is offline
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Default Common-law marriage in the U.S. (specifically Texas)

This is a question about laws (and yes, I am trying to find free legal advice online as well), but I figured since it's relevant to the poly community it couldn't hurt to check if anyone here already knows a bit about it. So here goes...

In some states, you can become "common-law married" by presenting yourself to others as husband and wife. Or at least that's what I keep hearing. But it's also illegal to be married to more than one person at a time in the U.S. So the question is simply, is it possible to refer to two women as your wives but avoid becoming "common-law married" to one or both of them (to avoid breaking the law)?

Sorry if this is a stupid question, or if the standard answer is just "You should call one of them your girlfriend, problem solved". I was just hoping to get some advice from those who've surely thought about this long before I showed up. Thanks in advance!
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Old 07-12-2018, 12:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sincereCat View Post
This is a question about laws (and yes, I am trying to find free legal advice online as well), but I figured since it's relevant to the poly community it couldn't hurt to check if anyone here already knows a bit about it. So here goes...

In some states, you can become "common-law married" by presenting yourself to others as husband and wife. Or at least that's what I keep hearing. But it's also illegal to be married to more than one person at a time in the U.S. So the question is simply, is it possible to refer to two women as your wives but avoid becoming "common-law married" to one or both of them (to avoid breaking the law)?

Sorry if this is a stupid question, or if the standard answer is just "You should call one of them your girlfriend, problem solved". I was just hoping to get some advice from those who've surely thought about this long before I showed up. Thanks in advance!
"Common law" statutes vary wildly across states; my state (NH) really only uses common law marriage as a means of determining inheritance after death. Others apply different meaning to the term.

From this page re. Texas law (http://www.unmarried.org/legal-infor...es-by-state/):

Quote:
Common Law Marriage: Yes. Requirements: (1) A man and woman who want to establish a common-law marriage must sign a form provided by the county clerk. In addition, they must (2) agree to be married, (3) cohabit, and (4) represent to others that they are married.
It looks like, according to bullet 1, if you never fill out the form, you won't be considered common-law married, period. Hopefully that helps!
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Old 07-12-2018, 01:12 PM
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Bigamy is the term for what you're asking about.
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Old 07-12-2018, 02:40 PM
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I'm no legal expert. My state ( Florida) does not recognize common law marriage. My understanding is the states that do only recognize it if you ask them to. In other words, they are not tracking it so they won't notice if you refer to more than one person as your spouse. The only time it may come into play is if you happen to be testifying in court and it somehow comes up. Watch what you say there or in any other government venue.
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Old 07-12-2018, 08:36 PM
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Hi sincereCat,

According to Wikipedia, Texas has two ways that a common-law marriage can be established. Filing a "Declaration of Informal Marriage" is one of the two ways, but even if you don't file it, a common-law marriage can still be established if three conditions are met:
  • You both agree to be married.
  • You cohabit in Texas (for at least a day).
  • You represent to others that the two of you are married.
If the above is correct, and if I understand it correctly, then you do need to be careful, especially if you and two women are all three cohabiting with each other. If you then also consider yourselves (all three) to be married, and you tell others that you're all three married, then common-law marriage could be argued for the three of you, and if that happens, then you are married polygamously and are breaking the law.

On the other hand, I figure that you are safe *as long as the government doesn't hear about it.* So if you want to tell your friends and family that you are married, you can do that as long as no one ever reports that to the government. Furthermore, I don't know whether the government would bother recording your marriage unless its agents had some specific motivation for doing so. For example, if some kind of court case arose in which your marriage would affect the outcome, and in that case, one of the lawyers might go out of their way to establish a common-law marriage for you.

The way Wikipedia puts it, the law seems to be designed primarily to help people get married who for some reason can't or don't want to have a formal ceremony. So in general, my advice is, keep your informal marriage low-key, and only tell people you trust to do the same. You should be safe. But IANAL, so please use your own best judgment. If you want to get a consultation with a lawyer, I think you can get a good one for a few hundred bucks.

Regards,
Kevin T.
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Old 07-19-2018, 02:43 AM
playfulgirl playfulgirl is offline
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In Texas. You can be common law fairly easily and it can be considered binding, but it's generally not looked at if you aren't doing things like claiming each other on taxes or insurance.
We just present ourselves as life partners, whereas real and lady present as husband and wife. For us, this conveys the seriousness of long term commitment and the entwined nature of our lives socially without messing with the legal issues.

Yes this sometimes leads to confusion, but other than the occasion raised eyebrow at Real's work events, we've had no problems. Granted real and I have no big money/real estate/insurance entanglement.
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