What can I do if the county I was married in says they can’t issue me a certified copy of my license because the original cannot be found?

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What can I do if the county I was married in says they can’t issue me a certified copy of my license because the original cannot be found?

My husband and I married a few years ago, and for professional reasons, I put off changing my name. Now that I’m no longer in that career, I wanted to change my name. I sent away or a certified copy as our license was lost in a move. I was told they had no record of it. I want to know what other recourse I might have? I don’t want to spend more money on a court name

change. Is there anything I can do? I do live in a common law state but I don’t know if that helps at all.

Asked on May 28, 2016 under Family Law, Texas

Answers:

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

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

There are a couple of things that you can do.
If the county that issue the license has lost your marriage certificate, contact the Texas Bureau of Vital Statistics, (sometimes known as Texas Department of State Heath Services) and ask them for a copy.  Clerks are required to forward information to them regarding marriages and divorces.
If they tell you that they don't have it because the clerk never recorded the license, then you will still be considered married if you live in Texas because Texas does recognize common law or informal marriages.  However, you need some proof of that marriage... which can be 'declared' by filling out a form with the county clerk's office. Older clerks and attorneys will refer to this type of marriage as a 'common law' marriage... but the code was changed a few years ago to call it an 'informal marriage.' So, don't get confused on the terminology, they really mean the same thing.  This form is very inexpensive... some clerks might charge a $10.00-15 filing fee.
Third option, is to 'renew' your vows and a quick but fun ceremy with a local j.p. and do it over, such that you are formally married, not just informally married.... again... a marriage license is cheaper than a name change petition.  This won't change the fact that you were married several years ago... is just converts what the law may consider an informal marriage to a formal marriage.
Bottom line, is you need some document to prove the marriage so that DPS can legally change your name on their system. 
Name changes are a little tougher to get than they used to be, but they are not necessarily more expensive... if you want to go that route.  It's a simple petition, a simple order, and a simple hearing.  You just need someone to help you with the paperwork.  So, if the options above don't feel right to you, consider hiring an attorney for the limited purpose of drafting the petition and order... then you can file it yourself and walk it through to the judge for a short hearing.  If you are indigent, you can also make an application to the clerk and court to waive the filing fee.... which could make this a much more lucrative option.


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