Common Law Marriage

In a common law marriage, a couple is considered legally married despite not having a marriage license, a ceremony, or a marriage certificate. There are many misconceptions about common law marriages. Here are some of the fundamentals.

It’s important to note that Colorado is one of only nine states that still recognize common law marriage. A common misconception is that the couple needs to cohabitate for some number of years to be common law married. That’s not the case. A couple can be together for 50 years and still not be common law married.

Here are the four requirements for common law marriage in Colorado:

  • There must be no legal prohibition against being married

Neither party can be legally married to someone else, nor can they be a parent, sibling, aunt, uncle, etc. to each other. As a general rule, if they can be legally married by a court, they can be common law married.

  • Both parties must have present intent to be married

This might seem like an obvious one, but both parties need to agree that they want to be married now. You are not common law married if you have an intent to get married in the future.

  • Both parties must hold themselves to the public as being married

Basically, they need to act like a married couple. Is the couple filing joint tax returns, representing themselves as husband and wife, etc.? Have they signed an affidavit of common law marriage to get his or her companion on health insurance? Do they own property together? Are they introducing each other as husband and wife? Do they wear wedding rings? There needs to be some sort of public showing of being married.

  • The marriage must be consummated

This concept can be blurry and is a little outdated. Common law marriage assumes that a couple shares an intimate relationship with each other. Whether or not that relationship must be sexual is up for debate. In the case of someone being physically unable to have sexual relations, this rule gets even fuzzier. But for the sake of simplicity, the law assumes the relationship has been consummated.

Once you’re common law married, you’re married. You share the same rights and privileges of any other married couple. You also need to be aware that there is no common law divorce. There’s only actual divorce. You still need to dissolve the marriage like any other married couple if the relationship goes south. In Colorado, that takes a minimum of 90 days.

Do you have questions about common law marriage? Please call our office at (720) 999-9506. We’re happy to set up a free consultation and answer any questions you might have.

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