Common Law Marriage

The Basics

A common-law marriage is established in Colorado when two parties consent to live as husband and wife.  Both parties maintain an open assumption of a marital relationship, which means that both parties present themselves to the public as part of a married couple.

 

Additionally, couples must also meet several criteria outlined in several Colorado statutes.  For example, a common-law marriage agreement made after September 1, 2006, is considered valid if both parties were 18 years old, or older, at the time of the marriage.  If the marriage agreement is not prohibited, the common-law marriage is valid.

 

Colorado prohibits the following types of marriages:

  • Bigamous Marriage – One party was already married at the time of the marriage
  • Incestuous Marriage – Marriage between relatives
    • Ancestor/Descendent, Sister/Brother, Aunt/Nephew, Uncle/Niece

 

Top 10 Questions

  1. Will being in a common-law marriage affect my legal rights after a break-up?

Potentially.  You could encounter the same claims for property division and alimony that you would in a traditional divorce.

 

  1. Can I be common-law married if we haven’t cohabitated for 10 years?

Yes, you can.  There is no minimum period to be considered common-law married under Colorado law.

 

  1. Does it matter if my family and friends think that I am married?

In the context of a legal dispute, especially one with money involved, count on your “ex” to claim otherwise and get all their friends and family to support their claim.  You will be proving, one way or the other, whether you “hold yourself out” as married.  This can get very complicated and very expensive rather quickly in court.

 

  1. If we have children, are we automatically common-law married?

Not necessarily.  Remember, the essential element of common-law marriage is whether you hold yourself out to be “husband” and “wife.”

 

  1. What if I told my insurance provider that I am married so that my partner could receive benefits? Will this single incident come back and hurt me?

It could.  Keep in mind that any public declarations regarding your marital status can come back and hurt you in the future.

 

  1. If we are considered common-law married, can we just “annul” our marriage?

Unfortunately, no.  If you are common-law married, you must go through a formal “dissolution of marriage” proceeding.  These are commonly referred to as divorce proceedings.

 

  1. What if we have no plans for a wedding ceremony? Can I still be considered common-law married?

Yes.  You may be common-law married regardless of your plans for a formal wedding or other future celebration.

 

  1. I filed a joint tax return. Since this is a federal issue, will this be used against me in a state court?

Most likely, yes.  It absolutely can, and it almost certainly will, be used against you in court by your ex’s legal team.

 

  1. I am in a strong, committed relationship. If this doesn’t change, common-law marriage doesn’t really matter to me, right?

Wrong.  Should you die unexpectedly, your partner may be legally entitled to inherit your assets.  This could potentially keep your money and belongings away from your biological heirs.

 

  1. I might be in a common-law marriage. I have nothing to worry about unless the relationship is coming to an end, right?

Wrong.  It is important for you to know all your rights.  Additionally, you should be aware of the steps that you can take to protect yourself.

 

Should I Hire an Attorney?

If you have legal questions about your relationship, or if you need guidance dealing with your rights and responsibilities at any point in your relationship, you should connect with an expert family law attorney.  Contact Liberty Law Center today to discuss your unique situation.