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In a common-law state (such as Texas) all you have to do to be married is to tell someone that you are ... and poof! Common law marriage. Federally, legally recognized.

That's a slight oversimplification, but your point is well-taken. There are several things a couple can do to have their union recognized by the state as a "common-law" marriage. One of which is to "present themselves" as married. That doesn't mean you walk down the street shouting, "We're married! We're married!"

It means that in an application for credit, to rent an apartment, to buy a car or some other sort of "legal" transaction, you enter the contract as a bound couple, whether you are "married" or not. The funny thing is, you aren't really considered "common law" married until one or the other tries to "enforce" the marriage, which normally only occurs when one of the partners wants to leave and the other feels hey need to go through a legal and formal "divorce" process to separate their jointly-acquired assets or, more importantly, decide on the children and child support arrangements.

Also, having a child together is not one of the things that binds them into common-law marriage. This is because it could create a sort of double-jeopardy when a married man produces a child out of an illicit affair. He's already on the hook for child-support because he's the father, but if automatic "common-law" status were also conferred, he also be guilty of polygamy. Most of our state legislature would be in jail if that occurred.
{;~ )

Thus, you can see that the apparently-liberal approach to providing for a "common law" marriage is intended to protect someone (usually the woman) from being duped into believing their partner is in for the long-term, making major financial and life commitments, only to have them attempt to walk away scot-free only because they weren't "formally" married.

Don't ask me why I know all this. I'm not a lawyer, but I have several lawyer friends. I also looked into some of this because my first child was born before my wife and I were married; my second child, after. I told you I had a sordid past, and that only by the grace of God, I am saved.

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