You can have only one spouse

By Richard Alderman
June 2, 2012 at 1:02 a.m.

I had a common law marriage, but have not lived with my husband for more than a year. I recently had a church wedding and married a different person. I have now been told that I need to divorce my common law spouse for my marriage to be legal. Is this true?

Under Texas law, you cannot marry someone else while you are married. You can have only one spouse. For legal purposes, a marriage is a marriage, whether it is common law or a church ceremony. If a person who is married marries a second time, the second marriage is void. Your friend is correct by suggesting that you need to get a divorce to validate your second marriage.

I would like to know if the property manager of an apartment project can refuse to give the tenant the owner's name if the tenant requests it.

According to the Texas Property Code, the landlord or property manager must disclose the name and address of the holder of record title after you request it. If the information is not disclosed, you could be entitled to $500 in damages as well as attorney's fees and court costs. I suggest you send your request by certified mail.

I have to move out of my apartment before my lease is up. I have told the landlord that he can either re-rent the apartment or that I have a friend who will sublease it. The landlord told me that I did not have the right to sublease my apartment. Is this true?

Under the law, a tenant may not sublease an apartment unless the lease agreement expressly gives him or her this right. I suggest you read your lease carefully, and then discuss the matter with your landlord. I should point out that although you may not be able to sublease, under the law, a landlord has a duty to "mitigate" his damages and rent the apartment to someone else after you move out. If you offer an acceptable tenant and the landlord refuses to rent to him or her, the landlord may not be able to recover damages from you.

Can I recover child support from my child's father even if we were never married?

The obligation to pay child support is based on parentage, not marital status. If you can establish that someone is the father of a child then he has an obligation to help support the child. Your marital status is not relevant.

I was divorced two years ago. My ex-husband kept the house and agreed to pay the note. What do I do to get my name off the loan? I am having trouble buying a new house.

This is a common question, and, unfortunately, most people do not like the answer. Signing a house note is a serious obligation, and getting released from the note is not easy. The divorce was between you and your ex-husband, and does not affect your relationship with your creditors. The only way to get your name removed from the loan is to sell the property, have the lender agree to release you, or have your ex re-finance in his name. If you borrowed the money a while ago, interest rates may be lower and it may be a good deal for him to refinance in his own name.

Someone is walking their dog on my yard and not cleaning up. Is it legal for me to set up a video camera to take a video and catch the person?

As far as the law is concerned, you generally have the right to photograph or video anything done in public. Basically, if you can see it from the front of your house, you can video it. If you visit YouTube, you will see you are not alone when it comes to catching negligent dog walkers.

Do you want to know more about your legal rights? Visit my website,

Richard Alderman, a consumer advocate popularly known as "the People's Lawyer," is a professor at the University of Houston Law School in Houston. His column appears weekly in the Victoria Advocate. Write to him at UH Law Center, Houston, Texas 77204-6391. He also maintains a Web page at



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