If I was legally married to another American while on vacation in South Africa (by someone certified by their State Department), is that marriage binding in the US?

We never registered anything in the US upon returning, but filed taxes as a married couple last year. We are splitting up now but are unsure if we are legally married in the US and if we need to go through the whole procedure to finalize the divorce.

Asked on November 30, 2015 under Family Law, Texas


B.H.F., Member, Texas State Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

As long as you are married, then the State of Texas will require you to secure a divorce to end the marriage.  Texas doesn't have a requirement that a marriage occur in Texas for the divorce to proceed in Texas.  The only thing that matters is that it's a valid marriage.  Invalid marriages are ones that occurred within the waiting period of a former divorce action or while one party was still legally married to another person. 
If you are concerned that the marriage in South Africa was somehow not valid there, you would still be deemed an "informal" or common law marriage in Texas.  For a common law marriage to exist in Texas, three components must be met:  (1) cohabitation (2) agreement to be married and (3) a holding out.  Your filing of taxes jointly, would be considered a holding out and an agreement.  If you lived together, then that would satisfy the third compenent. 

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