First and foremost, marriage is a contract similar in many respects to any other contract. Two parties must consent to be agreed, and the court must recognize it. So let’s get into it. As always, please let us know if you spot any errors or have questions about Texas marriage that we failed to answer.
Getting A Common Law Marriage In Texas
Given its increasing popularity, let’s begin with the process for getting a Common Law Marriage in the Lonestar state. Common law marriage, also known as “Informal Marriage” according to Texas state law (specifically sections 2.401 and 2.402), allows couples to be considered married without having to go through the formalities typically associated with traditional marriages, such as a wedding ceremony and reception. Contrary to popular belief, the duration of time you have lived with your partner or how long they have lived with you is irrelevant when determining whether you can have a common-law marriage.
The procedure is fairly straightforward, you’ll need to obtain a Declaration of Informal Marriage, which is available on the state’s website. You will both need to fill out the form (there are sections for both applicants). For more, read our page, which details how to get a common-law marriage in Texas.
Same-Sex Marriage Laws
After the Oberfell v. Hodges decision in 2015, same-sex marriage is legal in Texas. Remember that American citizens always have the civil rights that take precedence. Whether state or federal laws, whichever jurisdiction gives you the most civil liberties is the law. Despite the proliferation of counties in Texas that refused to award licenses for same-sex marriages (and there still being existing counties where it’s unclear whether or not they are granting rights), gay marriage is legal in the State of Texas.
Please read our full write-up about Gay Marriage laws in Texas for more about this.
Texas Age Requirements For Marriage
Texas is towards the center when it comes to age requirements for marriage. Though they’ve changed quite a bit over the years, the law is relatively straightforward.
Age of consent to marry
The age of consent to marry is, like other states, 18 years old in general. However, if you are both over the age of 17 (18 or above), you do not need the consent of your parents to be married. Additionally, the State does allow for marriage if you or your spouse are under the age of 18, and we’ll walk through what you need to get that done below.
Age to Marry Under The Age of 18
In Texas, someone under the age of 18 can be legally married, but they’ll need a court to grant them what is called the “removal of the disabilities of minority.” Essentially, underage people are prevented from complete freedom as an adult in the State. Texas calls these the “disabilities of minority.” Now to have these removed, one can petition the court to have these limitations removed. However, the petitioner must be 17 or 16 and living self-sufficiently, apart from the minor’s guardians.
After this motion is granted, the minor can apply for and be granted a marriage license. Note: if you are a minor seeking to be married in Texas and are not a legal resident of the State of Texas, then you need to have the removal of the disabilities of minority granted by the State that you do reside in. Texas will recognize that motion granted by other states.
Applying For A Marriage License
Applying for a marriage license in Texas is simple. This is regulated through the county that you live in, but you and your spouse will visit the county clerk and file for (and pay) for the marriage license. The official Texas site on marriage licenses has links to where to apply.
Under Section 2.006, you can still get a marriage license if you or your spouse cannot appear at the county clerk’s office to apply for the marriage license. However, you will have to provide a notarized affidavit from the prospective applicant saying that it’s ok. Also, make sure the person you’ve given the right to apply on your behalf brings their government-issued I.D.
For reasons you can probably imagine, if the applicant is under 18 (see above), they must appear along with their parent or guardian. No absentee ballot will be granted to anyone in the State of Texas for a marriage where one party is under 18.
Cost of a Marriage License
In Texas, a marriage license costs $71.00 with an additional $10 fee bringing the total to $81.00. Interestingly, though it requires more steps, the cost for obtaining a common law marriage license in the State of Texas is $36.
If you’re looking to get married on a whim and are rushing to the courthouse to get married today, we’ve got bad news for you. The State requires a 72 hour waiting period following receiving your license and being allowed to officially be married.
Medical Exam Requirements
Unlike states such as Illinois and Idaho, the State of Texas does not require a medical exam (and subsequent medical exam waiting period) before granting a marriage license. If you’ve been told there is, the person who told you is probably from a state that does require a medical exam and is confusing state law and federal law (believing that federal law covers the process of marriage, it doesn’t).
Is a Ceremony Required?
Though for a valid “ceremonial marriage” to be recognized by the State, there must be a ceremony, this does not mean that you or your spouse or your spouse’s family have to shell out thousands of dollars for a dress, flowers, and reception. Instead, you can have the ceremony done at the courthouse by a judge who will simply ask you each to agree to the contractual requirements of the marriage license.
Marrying A Non U.S. Citizen In Texas
Due to people asking about this, we’ll note it, if you (or your spouse) is a non-U.S. citizen and you want to get married in the State of Texas, the laws are the same as that of the federal government. For a terrific breakdown of the process for marrying someone who is not a U.S. citizen, see this article by Boundless.com.
Common Law Marriages
A common law marriage is unique in how the State grants the marriage license. The Texas law concerning Common Law Marriage is simple, requiring only three criteria to be met. Those three criteria are that both parties agree to be married, they’ve lived together in the State as husband and wife, and others can attest that the couple was married. For more about this and about how to obtain such a license, view our up-to-date page on common law marriages in Texas.
A common-law marriage license cost is cheaper (about half the cost) than a standard marriage license. The cost for the common law marriage license is $36 (compared to the $81, see above, cost of the standard marriage license).
Not to ruin the moment, but let’s say you want to get your marriage annulled. Unlike divorce, an annulment is a way to make it so it is like your marriage never happened. Texas law is explicit here but you’ll need to prove that either your spouse was already married to someone else, your spouse was not of age, or one of the parties was under the influence of alcohol or other substances at the time of the marriage. Keep in mind, this can be hard to prove given the 72-hour wait limit (this is why it’s there), from receiving the marriage license to being able to get married.
Finally, you can get your marriage annulled if you can prove that your spouse is impotent and, at the time of the marriage, you had no idea this was the case. For more information about annulment in Texas read our full piece on the subject.
Should it come to it, Texas divorce law is composed of three types of divorces: Agreed divorce, default divorce, and uncontested divorce. We go over the full details of Texas Divorce Laws here, but a couple of things to note. It’s much better to have an agreed divorce vs a contested divorce. If you can’t agree about the divorce and need to go to trial, you must do mandatory mediation.
Finally, Texas requires that 60 days have passed from the official filing of the marriage documents before a divorce can be granted.
Recent Law Changes
One of the few recent bills in the recent session before the special session of 2021, the bill HB 3626 sought to change how “the licensing of marriage and family therapists, marriage and family therapist associates” would be named and licensed in the State. For more on this bill (which failed to make it out of the Senate after being passed by the House), we recommend the HRO’s full bill analysis available online for free.
The short of it, and why we bring it up here, is that there is believed to be a shortage of people to work in nursing homes for the elderly as the age pyramid of the country is heavily concentrated toward the aging population. As the (RIP) president’s commission on bioethics pointed out, there are more elderly than ever needing care and too few caregivers willing to do the labor.
Within the history of marriage in the United States, Texas plays a prominent role if only for the famous Lawrence v. Texas decision of 2003. Also, a major event in the history of same-sex marriage in the United States before 2003, and this may be shocking for non-Texas residents to believe sodomy was illegal in the State of Texas.
The Supreme Court’s decision in the case would overturn such rulings for good as the ruling held by Justice Kennedy “The petitioners [Lawrence and Garner] are entitled to respect for their private lives. The State cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime.”