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Could common law marriage affect spousal support?

One of the most divisive issues that divorcing couples face is whether and how alimony payments will be structured. No matter what side of the issue a Texas spouse is on, there are often deeply held beliefs concerning whether spousal support is fair. When continuing financial support is part of the divorce agreement, it is important to recognize the situations that could trigger an end to those payments.

Most agreements state that alimony will cease if and when the receiving party remarries. In Texas, common law marriage in still recognized. This can lead to a legal "grey area" for spouses, regardless of whether they are paying or receiving spousal support. Cases have come before the court in which a paying party has asked that support be terminated, based on the claim that the recipient is living within a common law marriage.

In order to prove that a common law marriage is in effect, it is necessary to prove that a couple is living together as husband and wife. There is also a requirement that the parties have represented themselves as a married couple to others. Simple cohabitation is not enough to prove that a couple is in a common law marriage, especially if the cohabitating parties are willing to testify that they have no intention of presenting their relationship as that of a married couple.

For those in Texas who have concerns over the issue of spousal support and common law marriage, it may be wise to sit down with a family law attorney to discuss the matter. Some cases are more cut-and-dried than others, and there are certainly instances in which a party has a good chance of terminating spousal support based on cohabitation. For others, reaching the level of proof required to successfully argue such a case might be a challenge.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Does Alimony 'Until Remarriage' Address Nonmarital Cohabitation?", Brad Reid, May 17, 2016

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