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Common law marriage is the same as a church wedding

Richard M.  Alderman Interim Dean of the Law Center

Richard M. Alderman
Interim Dean of the Law Center

Q. What are my rights if I have a common law marriage? If we get divorced, will I have the right to any property?
A. As I have said many times before, a common law marriage is no different than any other marriage. You are married. Whether you are married by a justice of the peace, a rabbi or priest, or have a common law marriage, the legal ramifications are the same.
To have a common law marriage you must agree to be married, hold yourself out as married, and live together as married. Once you establish a common law marriage, your right to share property obtained while married is the same as any other spouse. If you get divorce, you will share all “community property,” which basically is anything either of you obtain while you were married.
Q. I co-signed for my sister so she could buy a car. She stopped making payments and the car was repossessed. They sold the car and now say I owe almost $4,000. How do I get my name off of this agreement?
A. You don’t! If you co-sign you have basically the same liability as the person for whom you co-signed. If she doesn’t pay, you are responsible. Once you co-sign you cannot be released from your obligation unless the creditor agrees. In other words, you now have the same liability as your sister.
The reason you owe almost $4,000 is because when a car is repossessed, the repossession does not automatically extinguish the debt. The car will be sold, and the amount obtained at the sale will be applied to the debt. In your sister’s case, after applying the sale amount to the debt there was a deficiency of almost $4,000.
In most cases, a creditor does not ask for a co-signer unless the creditor has a reason to believe the person who signed won’t pay, or won’t have the assets to pay if sued. If you are asked to co-sign, there is always a chance you will be called upon to pay. Of course, if you do pay, you have the right to collect against your sister, and can even take her to justice court if she does not reimburse you.
Q. I applied for a job. The company said I have to work a six months before I would be entitled to any paid vacation. Is this legal?
A. There is no requirement in the law that employers give their employees any paid vacation time. It is entirely a matter to be negotiated between you and your employer. If this is not acceptable to you, you can simply refuse the position or tell them you will accept the position, but only if you receive the vacation time you believe is fair and reasonable. And speaking of paid leave, take a look at the next question.
Q. Am I entitled to a paid leave when I have a child? My employer has told me any maternity leave will be without pay.
A. Although some countries require you receive paid maternity leave that is not the case in the United States. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, you may be entitled to up to 12 weeks leave, depending on the size the company and how long you have worked there. The law, however, does not require the leave be with pay. All you may be legally entitled to is an unpaid leave. According to the Department of Labor, only about 12 percent of U.S. private sector workers have access to paid
family leave through their employer
Q. To whom do I complain if I think my lawyer has been unethical and is cheating me?
A. I recommend you start with the State Bar of Texas. Its phone number is (800)-932-1900. As a first step, you might want to ask for a copy of the free publication entitled “Attorney Complaint Information.” You can also visit the Bar online at, https://www.texasbar.com/.


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