Is Colorado A Common Law Marriage State?

November 19, 2021

 Common Law Marriage State

If you and a partner have lived together for a significant period of time, you may be wondering whether you qualify for common law marriage in Colorado. The experienced family law attorneys at Johnson Law Group can help you with this question and any other questions you may have about common-law marriage. Contact our office today at (720) 463-4333 for a free consultation.

Common Law Marriage in Colorado

The legal standard for common law marriage in Colorado was originally defined in a Colorado Supreme Court case from 1987, The People of the State of Colorado vs. Emilio J. Lucero. In this case, the court declared that a common law marriage is established by mutual consent to be husband and wife as well as a mutual assumption of marriage. The standards that were originally established from this case were recently revised in early 2021 as the court considered how these standards applied to same-sex couples and other non-traditional relationships in the state of Colorado. In Hogsett vs. Neal, the court established a new standard which is marked by mutual consent or agreement to enter into marriage followed by conduct that is congruent with this agreement.

Thus, Colorado is a common law marriage state, and currently one of only a handful of states that recognize the partnership. The state of Colorado recognizes common-law marriages the same way that it does ceremonial marriages. No requirement of a marriage license, ceremony, or documentation is needed to make the common law marriage legal. In addition, the parties in a common law marriage are then entitled to all rights and benefits (as well as responsibilities) of a legal marriage. A common law marriage can only be terminated by death or divorce. To be considered eligible for a common law marriage in Colorado you must qualify based on certain criteria. These criteria include:

  • Both individuals consent to be seen as spouses.
  • Both persons in the relationship must be eligible to contract a valid ceremonial marriage. (For example, neither person may be currently married to someone else, related, or under the age of 18.)

If you and a partner meet the above criteria, then you may qualify for common law marriage in Colorado. You may consider filing a State of Colorado Affidavit of Common Law Marriage for documentation purposes, although this is not required.

If You Have Moved To Or From Colorado

If you came to Colorado to live but were common law married in another state that recognizes common law marriages, then the marriage would be valid and recognized in Colorado. If the prior state you lived in did not allow for common-law marriages, then you would need to qualify and establish your common-law marriage in Colorado under the criteria above. Similarly, if you are common law married in the state of Colorado and then move to a state that does not recognize common law marriage then your marriage remains valid and recognized as it began in a state that recognizes such a union.

Behavior Consistent with Marriage Standard

To qualify for common law marriage you and your partner must demonstrate behavior consistent with marriage. You may still be wondering whether or not you and a partner qualify for a common-law marriage in Colorado based on the totality of your actions. Whether or not you are perceived as being married comes down to how you and your partner run your lives together. This is also especially important when one person claims that they are not common law married. In this case, a court may consider the actions of both parties to determine whether a common-law marriage exists. Below are a few questions to consider as you determine whether your actions are consistent with those who have agreed to be married:

  • Do you introduce each other as husband and wife, wife and wife, or husband and husband?
  • Do you file joint tax returns as a married couple?
  • Is either of you on the other’s insurance plan?
  • Do you share a joint bank account?
  • Do you have children and/or pets together?
  • Have you purchased property together?
  • Does one person utilize the other person’s surname?
  • Do you live together?
  • Do you give symbols of your marriage to one another (e.g., exchanging of rings, the celebration of anniversaries, cards, gifts, etc.?)

Whether or not you act as if others believe you are a spouse already depends largely on several factors.  The ultimate question is whether your daily actions support the intention of being a spouse – which includes caring for the health, security, and welfare of the other. If you are wondering whether you have a legal common-law marriage in Colorado and whether your actions are consistent with that of someone who is married our attorneys at Johnson Law Group can help determine what course of action is best for you.

Time Requirement For Common Law Marriage

Some states require you to live with someone or act as though you are a spouse for a certain period of time before a common law marriage is valid. However, there is no minimum time requirement for establishing a common-law marriage in Colorado. If you and a partner qualify under the above criteria your marriage could be valid after one day.

How To End A Common Law Marriage In Colorado

Once you and a partner agree that you are married, the marriage is valid and legal and must be dissolved through the means that a traditional marriage would: either through a divorce, annulment, or if one of you were to die. If you do decide to end a common-law marriage and file for divorce, a court may need to determine if you had a valid common-law marriage in the first place. Similar to any other legally recognized marriage, if you are part of a relationship that is recognized as a common law marriage, you cannot legally remarry until you dissolve your common law marriage.

Contact An Experienced Family Law Attorney Today

If you are wondering whether or not you are in a common-law marriage, are in the process of considering ending a common-law marriage in Colorado, or have other questions, our attorneys at Johnson Law Group can provide potential solutions for your unique situation. Contact our offices today at (720) 463-4333 for more information.

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Written by Family Law Attorney Myles S. Johnson
Divorce doesn’t have to be dramatic. For the litigants, losing your spouse is significant enough. But you can choose the way it affects your daily life. The only guarantee I can give is that the feeling that you have right now will not be the feeling you end with. This is a season in your life, and it must be approached that way.
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