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

Answers:

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.


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