Collaborative Law Without a Wedding

collaborative lawAs anyone who has ever been through a break-up can attest, just because you never got that marriage certificate does not mean the separation will be simple or easy. What happens to the couch you bought together? How about that painting you brought back from vacation in Hawaii? And what in the world do you do with your beloved dog, Snuggles?

The situation only gets more complicated if the couple lived together for an extended period of time.

Let’s say that a couple had never taken the step to go to the courthouse or have a minister or rabbi officiate a marriage. However, they referred to each other as Husband and Wife, lived together, and had “Mr. and Mrs.” on their mailbox.  Tax returns were filed jointly, and the man had an insurance policy listing the woman as wife and beneficiary. They had everything a marriage has, including a child, before they decided to part ways. Is this a divorce, and can a collaborative attorney help?

Let’s tackle those questions one at a time.

The situation I described fits the three criteria for common law marriage as defined in Texas: the couple agreed to be married, lived together as husband and wife, and represented to others that they were married. Once those criteria are established, that couple is married in the eyes of the law and will need to get a divorce, even though they never had a marriage ceremony.

This is particularly true if property or debt division and co-parenting issues must be resolved as part of the split. And yes, a collaborative attorney can help.

Collaborative Law Without a Wedding: What You Need to Know

The process is very similar to what would happen if the couple had gone through an official marriage ceremony. Each spouse works with a collaboratively trained attorney who represents his or her interests. They are supported by a team of neutral professionals, typically a neutral financial planner and a communications coach. Together, the team addresses the tough questions of dividing property, setting up a structure for co-parenting children, and covering children’s expenses.

If you are separating from your partner with whom you were not “officially” married and aren’t sure about your rights or what to do next, reach out to the Brazos Valley Collaborative Divorce Alliance. Our attorneys have supported many clients in the same situation, and have the expertise that will guide you around potential pitfalls.

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