Do I have any property rights under common law marriage?

I have been involved with a woman for over 15 years. We have lived together for the large majority of that time (including now). I am aware that TX is a common law state, and when it seemed convenient we have presented ourselves as married (that is, she would refer to me as “my husband” and vice-versa), though we have not officially married. Recently, I encountered financial difficulties (maybe 8 months ago), and then became unemployed. I have not for much of that time been able contribute to the bills or rent (at least not to the degree I always had). I did however pay all the rent and the majority of the bills in the house where we have lived for the last 5 of 6 years. The house is in her name alone, as when we had it built her credit was by far superior to my own. We knew my name being on the loan would hinder or make getting the loan impossible. The problem now is that she has had a change of heart about the relationship and says she wants me to leave “her” house. What I’d like to know is if I have no rights in the matter; specifically to the house, in spite of having paid for it for so long.

Asked on March 8, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Texas


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for your situation.  Generally speaking, if a marriage is established - by license or otherwise - how assets of the marriage are held does not matter.  In other words, if a husband and wife purchase a house during the marriage with what is considered marital assets (income during marriage is a marital asset) then the house is subject to distribution as an asset of the marriage should they get divorced even if it is held in only one of the parties name.  Often couples choose not to place the name of their spouse with bad credit on a loan.  It drives up the interest rate.  Your issue here will be establishing a marriage.  And I would advise you to seek legal help with that.  Did you file taxes jointly?  Are your bank accounts joint?  These things will matter.  And I cam across an interesting law in Texas Family Code:

"A new provision was added to the Family Code; either partner in a common-law marriage has two years after separation to file an action in order to prove that the common-law marriage existed. To use the provision, the separation must have occurred after September 1, 1989."

Good luck.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.