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Posted By Eric M.Willie, P.C. Austin Divorce Lawyer on 11/20/2023

Exploring the Various Partnership Types in Texas

Exploring the Various Partnership Types in Texas

In the diverse landscape of relationships and marriages globally, Texas is no exception, with a wide array of relationship types of models. From open relationships fostering transparency and exploration to traditional marriages rooted in commitment, and even a domestic partnership Texas, offering legal recognition and benefits, the Lone Star State encompasses a multitude of relationship types. 

Despite this expansive spectrum, there remains a veil of mystery surrounding these varied relationship structures. Recognizing this gap, we've gathered information to empower Texans, enabling them to gain a deeper understanding and make informed choices about the diverse relationship options available to them.

Domestic Partnerships In Texas

A domestic partnership in Texas is a legally recognized union between two individuals who choose not to marry but seek acknowledgment and certain benefits for their committed long term relationship. It provides a pathway for couples—such as same-sex pairs, older individuals preferring not to marry, or those restricted from marriage by legal limitations—to gain recognition and rights similar to traditional marriages. 

Unlike marriages that provide spouses with specific legal entitlements, such as Social Security or spousal privilege, domestic partnerships in Texas do not inherently grant these same rights or duties. Within a marriage, there are distinct privileges that are absent from domestic partnerships in Texas, like: 

  • Community property rights 

  • Mutual support obligations

  • Federal spousal benefits

While domestic partnerships in Texas do not grant all the rights and duties of marriage, they offer essential benefits. Registered partners enjoy comparable rights to married couples concerning crucial areas like: 

  • Healthcare decision-making

  • Hospital visitation

  • End-of-life choices

  • Access to select governmental benefits 

Additionally, these partnerships extend legal acknowledgment and responsibilities concerning: 

  • Debt management

  • Insurance coverage

  • Property ownership

  • Joint financial accounts 

However, it's important to note that certain rights, especially those related to property acquired during the partnership, may not align with the protections afforded in a marriage.

How To Declare Domestic Partnership In Texas

To qualify for a domestic partnership in Texas, both partners must be: 

  • At least 18 years old

  • Unrelated by blood or marriage

  • Not married to anyone else

  • Able to consent to the partnership 

  • Uninvolved in another domestic partnership in Texas

To establish a domestic partnership in Texas, both prospective partners must appear in person at the County Clerk's office. They need to bring:

  • Valid, government-issued photo IDs

  • Proof of age

  • Social security cards

  • Any other necessary documentation 

After submitting the required forms, the couple will take an oath and sign an affidavit at the County Clerk's office. Subsequently, they will receive a certificate of registration, while the Clerk's office retains a copy for records. It's crucial to check with the local County Clerk's office for any additional documentation or fees necessary during this process.

How To End A Domestic Partnership In Texas

Ending a domestic partnership in Texas involves a formal process where both partners need to sign and complete a notice of termination, which is then submitted to the court for approval. If there are shared children or assets, settling matters regarding asset distribution and custody becomes an integral part of the termination proceedings.

If there are children involved in the partnership, filing a notice of termination with the court remains necessary, and the standard dissolution procedures for a domestic partnership apply. Custody arrangements are determined as part of these proceedings. Should both partners reach a custody agreement, whether independently or with the aid of a mediator, they can present this agreement to the court for approval. The court will sanction the agreement if it aligns with the best interests of the child. In cases of disagreement, a judge intervenes to decide custody through a hearing by basing the decision on the best interests of the child.

Upon filing the notice of termination to dissolve the domestic partnership, a judge reviews the case, addressing all necessary issues for the partnership's termination. This encompasses the equitable distribution of shared assets, formulating a comprehensive parenting plan for any children, and potentially awarding financial support akin to spousal support in certain situations. Once the termination order is granted, both partners are legally free to move forward separately.

Common Law Marriages In Texas

In Texas, both common-law marriages and domestic partnerships offer distinct yet overlapping features in defining relationships outside formal marriages. While many individuals believe that common law marriage and domestic partnerships in Texas are the same type of relationship, they are in fact very different from each other. 

Common-law marriages, contrary to popular belief, do not hinge on a specific duration of cohabitation but rather require: 

  • Mutual agreement

  • Cohabitation as spouses

  • Presenting themselves as married to others

Additionally, both individuals must possess the capacity to marry, meeting age and marital status criteria. Courts scrutinize each case independently to ascertain the existence of a common-law marriage based on these conditions. This arrangement allows couples to live together in a marital-like union without the formalities of a legal marriage, affording them certain rights and benefits.

While both types of relationships offer rights and benefits, a common-law marriage is established through actions and acknowledgment, whereas a domestic partnership involves a formalized registration process and a different dissolution procedure. Both arrangements offer alternatives to traditional marriage, each with its unique characteristics and legal implications.

How To Declare Common Law Marriage In Texas

While it's not mandatory, couples have the option to formalize their common law marriage in Texas by submitting a declaration to their local county clerk's office. This declaration serves as an official acknowledgment of the common law union. However, for couples who opt not to register their common law marriage, various documents might be requested as evidence to substantiate the existence of the marriage.

  • Lease agreements

  • Tax returns

  • Insurance policies

  • Shared financial statements

  • Anything that can prove the couple is living together as if they were married

If there hasn't been a formal declaration filed, and a dispute arises concerning the existence of a common law marriage, resorting to the courts might become necessary. Texas law imposes a two-year statute of limitations on such proceedings, within which the claim needs to be filed. These legal processes can be intricate and multifaceted, often requiring legal expertise. Consulting with a family law attorney or seeking guidance from a divorced lawyer specialized in family law can provide more comprehensive information about the available options and the complexities surrounding these types of court proceedings.


How To Dissolve A Common Law Marriage In Texas

In Texas, dissolving a common law marriage follows the same procedure as ending a formal, ceremonial marriage. Individuals can initiate the process by filing a petition for divorce with the court and ensuring that their spouse is served with the necessary documents. This action kickstarts the legal proceedings. 

Throughout this process, the judge oversees decisions regarding property division, custody arrangements for any children, and potential spousal support. Once the judge approves and signs the divorce decree, the dissolution of the marriage becomes official. Engaging a divorce attorney can streamline the entire procedure, ensuring that your rights are safeguarded at every stage of the process and providing guidance and representation as needed.

Ceremonial Marriage In Texas 

Marriage, less commonly referred to as ceremonial marriage, stands as the most prevalent form of partnership in Texas, entwining individuals in a legally recognized union that offers a plethora of benefits. It provides spouses with a comprehensive array of legal rights, such as: 

  • Access to each other's Social Security, pension, and health benefits. 

  • Inheritance rights 

  • Legal decision-making in critical situations

  • State and federal tax benefits

  • Joint property ownership

  • Robust legal framework governing divorce and asset distribution in case of separation.

However, this formal union also comes with its set of drawbacks. One significant disadvantage is the legal intricacies and financial implications associated with divorce proceedings. The dissolution of a marriage often involves complex legal procedures and potentially contentious negotiations over property division and alimony. 

Moreover, the commitment and legal obligations in a marriage might limit personal freedom and flexibility compared to other relationship structures. The societal expectations and traditional norms linked with marriage can sometimes create pressure and constraints on individual autonomy within the relationship.

Do I Need A Lawyer To End My Domestic Partnership Or Marriage?

In Texas, there's no legal requirement to hire a lawyer when terminating a domestic partnership, common law marriage, or ceremonial marriage. Yet, for partners and spouses entangled in complex situations involving shared children or significant assets like properties or financial holdings, considering legal representation is important. 

The ending of a marriage or domestic partnership in Texas can be intricate, especially when the law does not consider property to be shared in certain circumstances. A Texas divorce attorney can provide: 

  1. Legal Expertise and Guidance - A Texas divorce lawyer offers invaluable legal expertise, guiding individuals through the complexities of ending a domestic partnership or marriage. They understand the intricacies of state laws and court procedures, ensuring that all necessary legal steps are followed accurately. Their knowledge helps navigate the paperwork, deadlines, and legal jargon, ensuring your rights are protected throughout the process.

  2. Negotiation and Mediation - A skilled divorce attorney serves as a strong advocate during negotiations, especially in cases involving shared assets, properties, or children. They facilitate discussions, mediate disputes, and work towards fair and equitable agreements. Their objective viewpoint and legal insight can help reach settlements that prioritize your interests while minimizing conflict.

  3. Emotional Support and Advocacy - Ending a partnership or marriage can be emotionally taxing. A Texas divorce lawyer not only provides legal guidance but also serves as a support system during this challenging time. They offer reassurance, perspective, and a compassionate approach while advocating for your best interests. Having someone experienced by your side can alleviate stress and uncertainty, ensuring your concerns are heard and addressed in court.

These professionals are more than just legal advisors; they're supportive partners who work towards achieving the best possible outcome while safeguarding your rights and well-being during a difficult transition. Their involvement expedites the process, ensuring a smoother and more efficient dissolution of the partnership or ending of a marriage, alleviating the emotional strain often associated with such proceedings. Legal counsel not only streamlines the process but also safeguards your rights and interests, offering support during what can be a stressful and emotionally challenging time.

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