WHAT IS A COLORADO COMMON LAW MARRIAGE?
A common law marriage in Colorado is a specific arrangement the law recognizes and sanctions, but does not officially recognize (such as by the issuance of a marriage certificate). A legal common law marriage confers all the advantages and responsibilities of a formal marriage.
For more than 100 years, Colorado has accepted common law marriages. In fact, Colorado is is one of very few states that permit it’s residents to form this type of union. If two people reside together as a married couple and hold themselves out to the public as married, a Colorado common law marriage can be created in the eyes of the state.
WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS FOR A COLORADO COMMON LAW MARRIAGE?
Many people wrongly believe that just living together for a certain duration of time can constitutes a common law marriage. This assumption is incorrect, there is no time factor that dictates the validity of a Colorado common law marriage.
Simply put, for an unimpeachable common law marriage to be legal in Colorado, the spouses must present themselves to the public just like a traditionally married couple, and the simple requirements below are met:
- Both partners must be at least 18 years of age.
- The marriage must not be banned under any other state statute such as Incest or Bigamy.
- The other exception is if one partner is still legally married to another person. But in Colorado, even though one partner is still technically married to another person, the common law partner in a divorce would be viewed by the court as “putative spouse.” This protects common law partners who formed a union with a partner that withheld that information from them. In this scenario, putative partners have the same privileges as the legal spouses, including alimony, liquid assets, and land.
CAN A COLORADO COMMON LAW MARRIAGE BE CERTIFIED?
No, for that you would have to get married using the conventional practice. But many common law marriage couples choose to submit an affidavit to the state detailing your marriage status as a way of documenting the event. The affidavit form specifies your genders, the absence of any impediments to your marriage, and the fact that you are in fact married.
These unions are recognized as being legal and binding under the laws of Colorado, but don’t have the same legal recognition in other states that do not recognize common law marriages.
WHAT HAPPENS IF A COMMON LAW MARRIAGE IS CHALLENGED?
If for any reason the validity of a common law marriage is challenged in Colorado, the couple can prove a common law marriage in a variety of ways, including:
- Filing joint state and federal tax returns.
- Opening a joint checking or savings account.
- Both partners are listed on a mortgage.
- Both partners are listed on a lease.
- One partner takes the surname of the other.
- In public conversations, the couple openly refers to their union as a marriage.
WHAT IF COMMON LAW SPOUSES MOVE TO ANOTHER STATE?
If you and your common law spouse move from Colorado to a state that does not recognize common law marriages, your valid common law marriage is still valid under the U.S. Constitution’s “Full Faith and Credit” clause that requires states to recognize legal marriages in other states.
Our office fields many questions about common law marriages in Colorado each month. If you have a questions like “how much does a divorce lawyer cost” or about issues pertaining to Colorado common law marriages, feel free to contact our office for a complementary consultation from our leading Colorado Springs family lawyer Michael T. Allen.