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Marriage date matters in same-sex divorce

Same-sex couples across Texas and the U.S. rejoiced in 2015 when the Supreme Court ruled the ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional. While the ruling made matrimony easier, it complicated divorce proceedings.

When an opposite-sex couple divorces, judges take into account their marriage date to determine how assets should be split and whether an individual should receive alimony. However, many same-sex couples had been cohabitating years before they were legally allowed to be married. The question becomes, should a judge consider how long a same-sex couple had been together before getting married? The situation may be different if a couple had started dating after the 2015 landmark decision.

Some courts will agree to consider relationship length before marriage in certain situations. One way this could work is through a claim of common law marriage, which is simply when a couple agrees to marry without formalities. According to FindLaw, common law marriage is recognized in Texas as a valid and legal way for couples to marry. There are three necessary parts of a common law marriage in order for a judge to declare it valid:

  1. A couple must have "agreed to be married"
  2. The two must have "lived together in Texas"
  3. The couple must have "represented to others" that they were married

By knowing how long a couple has been together before filing for divorce, a judge can make a more informed decision as to how to split assets and designate child custody. The more information available, the simpler court proceedings can be.

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