What Is a Common Law Marriage in Colorado?

Posted in Family Law on June 10, 2019

Colorado is one of 12 states which recognize common law marriage as legal and binding. This is a form of marriage which does not require a license or a formal ceremony, but in which both parties mutually consent to be man and wife. This legal status grants both members of the couple certain rights and responsibilities.

What Does Common Law Marriage Mean?

A common law marriage is the same as any other legal marriage, but without obtaining a marriage license and having a formal ceremony. Common law marriage has the same status as any other form of marriage in Colorado, the main difference being that the couple may find it more difficult to prove their marriage.

Common law marriage is recognized in Colorado under C.R.S. 14-2-109.5, which sets out a limited number of requirements, namely, that each party is eighteen or older, and that the marriage is permissible under statute C.R.S. 14-2-110 – that is it is not subject to bigamy or incest.

Those who are between 16 and 18 years of age may obtain common law marriage with consent from a parent or guardian. However, a number of other requirements for common law marriage have been set by legal precedent in Colorado’s courts.

Pre-Requisites for Common Law Marriage in Colorado

Certain set requirements exist for a relationship to be a common law marriage in Colorado. Some people believe that simply living with someone for a certain period of time will suffice, but it is more complicated than that.

In addition to the two requirements set out under C.R.S. 14-2-109.5, the two parties must live together. No set minimum time exists for cohabitation. Importantly, there must also be a mutual agreement that the couple wishes to be married, with evidence of that agreement.

How Common Law Marriage Is Determined

In order to establish a common law marriage, you have a burden of proof to show that it exists. In other words, a common law marriage is not an assumption, but rather the parties must prove it is a marriage. This can be complicated to prove that a mutual agreement to marry exists, as this agreement is not generally in writing.

Legal precedent in Colorado also shows that certain factors may be thought of as evidence of a common law marriage:

  • The parties present themselves publicly as husband and wife.
  • The parties have joint bank accounts, credit cards or mutual financial support.
  • The parties file joint tax returns.
  • The parties own a property together.
  • The parties register on applications, leases, or contracts as husband and wife.
  • One party, and any children, use the other party’s surname.

Judges in Colorado typically look for convincing evidence before determining a common law marriage. In particular, they want to see that the couple consistently sees and promotes themselves as married. They may often ask for evidence, such as documents, as well as family and friends which can support your claims.

What Are My Rights Under Common Law Marriage?

In Colorado, both parties in the common law marriage have the same rights, privileges, and responsibilities of a legal marriage. Only legal divorce or the death of one of the parties can terminate a common law marriage.

Being married offers many benefits. These could be access to your spouse’s health insurance, provision of benefits through your spouse’s employer, and Social Security benefits. To obtain these benefits you will often need to produce evidence of your common law marriage.

Parties in a common law marriage may obtain documentation of their marriage by filing a signed, notarized affidavit attesting to the marriage with the county clerk and recorder in their county. In some cases, couples may need to pursue the matter in a court of law.