By Heather Broxterman, Shareholder at Broxterman Alicks McFarlane PC
One of the more interesting questions we get here at BAM is “am I married?” To be clear, Colorado is one of only nine states in the U.S. that does allow common law marriage. However, there are a lot of myths out there as to how a common law marriage is established, both in Colorado and in other states.
One of the most common myths is that if you cohabitate with someone for a certain length of time (one year, five years, ten years),that you become common-law married to them. Common law marriage by virtue of simple cohabitation is not the law in Colorado.
In Colorado, a common law marriage is established by the “mutual consent or agreement of the parties to be husband and wife, followed by a mutual and open assumption of the marital relationship.” The most important question is whether the parties held themselves out to the public as married partners.
This standard is not so clear-cut or easily established as you might think. There are sometimes situations in which one partner believes there is a marriage while the other does not. In those situations, there often exists some evidence that supports a finding of common law marriage and other evidence that supports a finding of no common law marriage. When those situations are not easily resolved, Colorado courts are called upon to make a final and binding determination as to the parties’ marital status.
The consequences of failing to get a divorce when there is a marriage can be huge and far-reaching, including imperiling future relationships, marriages, children, property, and almost every aspect of life. Further, believing one is marriage when you are not may mean that you don’t have the protections in place that you thought you had (Social Security benefits, tax benefits, entitlement to maintenance/alimony, etc.) If you find yourself in a situation in which there is any doubt as to your marital status, we recommend that you see a lawyer as soon as possible.
The information in this post is not legal advice—it is only legal information. To obtain legal advice by hiring the attorneys of Broxterman Alicks McFarlane PC as your counsel, please contact the firm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-331-6432.