Colorado is one of the few states that recognize common-law marriage. And while other states will recognize a common-law marriage from Colorado, less than ten states still allow this type of union to take place.
By the end of this article, you’ll know:
- What a common law marriage is
- Why you might want to claim common law marriage
- How to prove there is a common-law marriage
- How to protect yourself from being married by common law
- And how to dissolve a common-law marriage
What is Common-Law Marriage in Colorado?
A common law marriage, from a legal perspective, is as legally binding as a traditional marriage.
The couple has all the same privileges and obligations as a traditional marriage.
Back in 1877, rural areas of Colorado might rarely have a preacher come through town to perform a ceremony and sign the marriage license. So, Colorado started recognizing common law marriage, allowing couples to live together and have children without scandal.
There are many guidelines for what constitutes a common law marriage, but some indications of common law marriage are:
- You have agreed to be married by common law
- You live together
- You have consummated the union;
- And publicly refer to yourselves as married
So, if you think you may be common law married, if you break up, you may need a divorce.
To clarify, if a common-law marriage is proven, it is no different from traditional marriage.
Why Would You Want to Claim a Common-law Marriage?
- If you consider yourself married, you might as get the tax breaks that come with marriage.
- If your relationship has come to an end and your partner was the sole breadwinner or earned more income than you, you may be entitled to support payments;
- You have accumulated assets some of which you don’t hold jointly;
- Maybe your soon to be ex is refusing to give you items that you feel belong to you, such as furnishings, clothing, or a pet.
- How about if your significant other dies? Do you feel that you’re entitled to their estate?
- Maybe you have children and must address custody or parenting time issues.
- You’re paying maintenance to your ex-spouse and believe the ex to be married to someone else by common law.
- So your significant other can add you to their medical insurance. The rule of thumb here is don’t commit fraud. Only do this if you truly consider yourself to be married.
How to Prove Common-Law Marriage
When determining if there is a marriage, there are two requirements and many guidelines the Court will consider:
Both parties must be eighteen or older, and neither can already be married because bigamy is illegal in the United States.
Guideline checklist for a common-law marriage:
- Did you agree to be married?
- Do you live together?
- Do you share bank accounts or credit cards?
- Do you own a house, vehicles, or other property together?
- Do you use the same last name verbally or on documentation?
- Do you file joint tax returns?
- Do you check married or single on documentation such as health or car insurance?
- Did you exchange rings? We have had a judge say that adults don’t give “promise” rings.
- What is your intention? Do you openly behave and hold yourselves out as married?
- Would your friends and family say you’re married?
If you check some or all the boxes above, it doesn’t mean you’re married.
It can be a little more complicated than that, which is why it’s essential to schedule a consultation with an attorney to get their professional opinion on whether you are married.
At the end of the day, you need to be honest both to the Court and your partner. Failure to disclose a “material fact,” like you’re unable to have children, can void any agreement to be married.
How do you protect yourself from a common-law situation?
It is perfectly fine to live together, but it is vital to be mindful of certain things to make sure you’re protected from a claim of common law marriage if you do not intend to be married.
- Don’t list yourself as married on social media!
There are over a billion people on Facebook alone. You can’t get more of a public declaration of marriage than that.
- Don’t refer to each other has husband, hubby, wife, wifey, spouse, or anything of the like, not even as a joke.
- Keep all of your finances completely separate. That means no joint bank accounts, credit cards, and it’s probably a good idea to keep them off your Costco account as well.
DON’T file joint-tax returns.
Avoid anything that could resemble a wedding ceremony like the coronavirus.
- Don’t perform any ceremonial expression of love or commitment, such as exchanging promise rings.
- Don’t co-own big purchases like a house or boat.
- Don’t let your child or yourself use your partner’s last name.
There are many other pitfalls to avoid that a lawyer can advise you of, so you should speak to a lawyer.
How to dissolve a common-law marriage
So, you think or have been found by the Court to be common-law married.
But the relationship is over.
So, now what?
You’ll need to file for a divorce.
There is no such thing as a common-law divorce.
If you’re married, whether traditionally or by common law, you’ll need a divorce in order to dissolve the relationship.
If you have any questions about common law marriage or need help filing for a divorce, fill out our contact form, and one of our paralegals will contact you.
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