common law marriage in colorado

Common Law Marriage in Colorado: Know Your Rights and Responsibilities

Colorado is one of the few states that recognizes the validity of common law marriages. A common law marriage constitutes the marriage of two consenting adults who co-habit together, agree to be married, and present themselves as married to the public without ever hosting an official wedding or applying for a certificate of marriage.

Although common law marriages can be like legally binding marriages, there are some differences that can affect your life, including tax filing, insurance, and divorce. It is important to know and understand your rights and responsibilities in common marriage under Colorado laws. Whether you are in a common law marriage, seeking to terminate a common law marriage, or looking to enter a common law marriage, we can provide expert guidance to make sure you and your rights are protected. Contact us today for a legal consultation.

Conditions for Common Law Marriage

As with any legal matter, there are certain conditions that must be met before two consenting individuals can be in a legally recognized common law marriage in Colorado:

  1. Both individuals must be free to marry (i.e. neither is married to someone else),
  2. Both adults must knowingly and intentionally consent to the marriage,
  3. The couple must present themselves to each other and to the public as married,
  4. The couple must live together for a duration of time.

These conditions must be met for a relationship to qualify as a common law marriage. Couples who co-habit together for a long duration of time but never present themselves as married nor intend to enter a marriage are not recognized as married under common law. As with officiated and licensed marriages, the only way to terminate a common law marriage is through death or divorce.

Proof of Common Law Marriage

There are certain situations in which one will need to provide proof of a common law marriage, such as in instances where one spouse seeks to provide insurance coverage for the other spouse. When documentation or proof of common law marriage is required, a signed affidavit that has been signed by both parties and notarized may be presented.

Determining Common Law Marriage in Colorado

If the couple disagrees as to whether they are in a common law marriage, a Colorado family law court will conduct a hearing to determine whether they have obtained common law status. Establishing the validity of a common law marriage might be necessary if one of the parties attempts to misrepresent their participation in the common law marriage to avoid the divorce process and duties. Since a license or certificate is not applicable to common law marriages, other factors that the Colorado courts can review include

  • The couple’s reputation of being married in the view of third parties,
  • Whether the parties involved went through an informal marriage ceremony,
  • The wearing of wedding/ marriage rings,
  • Federal and state tax returns that have been filed jointly,
  • Joint finances such as bank accounts,
  • Joint property ownership,
  • Identification of the other party as a “spouse” on insurance forms,
  • One party taking on the surname of the other,
  • And other external factors such as greeting cards referring to their married status.

Courts look at a wide range of factors to determine the validity of a claim to common law marriage to prevent any self-serving parties from benefiting from the claims of common law marriage. Jointly-filed taxes are one of the most important and objective factors because the joint status entails that both parties have represented themselves as married to the government under penalty of perjury.

Filing for Divorce from a Common Law Marriage in Colorado

Since common law marriages are recognized with the same legal effect as licensed marriages, common law couples seeking divorce must go through the same channels for divorce as traditionally married couples. To terminate a common law marriage, one or both parties must file for divorce with the local Colorado district court. Failing to file for divorce from a common law marriage entails that the common law marriage is still valid and in effect, at which point neither party is free to remarry.

Consultations for Common Law Marriages in Colorado

To ensure you are fully compliant with Colorado laws concerning common law marriage, to protect your own rights as a spouse in a common law marriage, or to find out about divorce procedures for common law marriages, contact us today for a legal consultation.

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 info@bamfamlaw.com or 303-331-6432.

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