Many couples throughout Texas decide to forego marriage, opting to merely live together instead. A couple may choose not to marry due to experiences in prior failed marriage or simply because they do not want to enter into a legally binding relationship. Regardless of a couple’s reason for electing to cohabitate rather than wed, it is important for them to understand how residing with someone romantically may impact their rights and duties. If you live with someone or are contemplating beginning or ending a cohabitation relationship, the seasoned Dallas family law attorneys of McClure Law Group can inform you as to how cohabitating may affect your finances and discuss your options for protecting your interests.Cohabitation and Maintenance
In some divorce cases, the court will ultimately issue an order dictating that one party must pay maintenance, which is the term Texas uses for alimony, to the other party after the marriage ends. It is not uncommon for people receiving maintenance to decline to re-marry in an effort to avoid affecting their right to financial support. Under Texas law, however, a maintenance obligation can be terminated if the court finds that the recipient is cohabitating with another person. The law dictates that the person must be an individual that the recipient is romantically involved with, and they must live together in a permanent place of abode on an ongoing basis. It does not define how long the parties must cohabitate before a court will consider ending a maintenance obligation, however, and determinations are made on a case by case basis. Additionally, a court may not be able to end a maintenance obligation if it was imposed via a marital settlement agreement entered into the parties rather than a court order. While courts may be able to terminate a maintenance obligation based on cohabitation, Texas law does not allow for a court to impose a support or maintenance obligation on unmarried parties, regardless of whether they lived together.The Rights of Parties in a Relationship Who Cohabitate
While married couples can clearly determine when their marital relationship began and therefore, when their legal rights as a married person accrued, couples who cohabitate may face greater challenges if they seek to define or limit the rights or obligations arising out of their relationship. First, it must be determined whether a couple merely lives together or are considered to be in a common law or informal marriage under Texas law. An informal marriage exists when a couple jointly decides to be married, represents to other people that they are married, and live together as husband and wife. Additionally, they must have the capacity to enter into a marriage, which means they must be of legal age, cannot be related to one another, and cannot be married to anyone else.
People who are part of an informal marriage have the same rights with regard to property division as a legally wed couple. Proving an informal marriage often requires circumstantial evidence, and parties who are ending their relationship may dispute whether a marital bond existed. As such, even if a person denies the existence of an informal marriage, a court may disagree and rule in a manner that greatly impacts the person’s finances. It is prudent, therefore, for people who cohabitate but have no intention of entering into an informal or formal marriage to draft a cohabitation agreement. Such an agreement can define the terms of the relationship, including who has the right to any jointly or separately owned property, and avoid the consequences an informally married couple may face if the relationship ends.Meet with a Trusted Family Law Attorney in Dallas
While many people decline to get married in hopes of avoiding becoming lawfully involved with their significant others, people who live together often cannot avoid legal disputes if their relationship ends. If you live with your romantic partner, it is prudent to speak with a lawyer regarding your rights and what measures you can take to safeguard your financial health and legal rights. The trusted attorneys of McClure Law Group are adept at helping people navigate through a variety of issues that arise during domestic relationships, and we will work tirelessly to assist you in seeking your preferred outcome. Our main office is located in Dallas, and we are available to meet for consultations at our Collin County office in Plano. We regularly assist people with family law issues in Dallas, Worth, Rockwall, Garland, Richardson, Fort McKinney, Frisco, and Irving. We also regularly represent people in family law matters in cities throughout Dallas, Denton, Grayson, Collin, Rockwall, and Tarrant Counties. You can contact us to set up a conference via our form online or by calling 214.692.8200.