Common Law Marriage in Colorado

Colorado statutory marriage demands that the parties seeking marriage be above 18 years of age, or between 16 and 18 with the permission of the parents, and possess a marriage license that is given upon a signed application. In 30 days of receiving the license, the marriage has to be solemnized by an authorized person, as a judge, or the parties themselves can self-solemnize their marriage. A certificate of marriage is then delivered to the Clerk and recorder to be registered.

Colorado Common Law Marriage

Colorado common law marriage does not have the above conventions and is not recognized by any statute. Nevertheless, case law has recognized that parties can become married merely by their actions, even if they never apply for a marriage license.

Also called a de facto marriage, these relationships are recognized as marriages even though no formal ceremony was performed and no marriage license was obtained. At one point in our nation’s history, they were quite common amongst pioneers in recently settled areas where there was not necessarily the ability to enter into a traditional, ceremonial marriage. However, because there is no national law governing these marriages, their legality varies from state to state, and though such a relationship may be legally binding in some jurisdictions, they may not be in others.

Common Law Marriage Criteria

For a relationship to be considered a common law marriage in Colorado, several criteria must be met:

1. Both parties in the relationship must consider themselves married. If only one party believes that the relationship constitutes a marriage, there is no meeting of the minds and a a common law marriage does not exist.

2. Both parties must be of legal age to be married legally.

3. Both parties must be qualified to be married in other regards as well, namely being unmarried and of sound mind.

4. The parties must hold themselves as married. That means that they must refer to each other as husband and wife, have the reputation in the community as being married and cohabitate with one another. There is no time requirement.

These actions by the parties demonstrate their mutual agreement to be married to one another. Now usually, the issue of a common law marriage does not come up until one of the parties wants a “divorce,” and the other party disagrees that they were ever married. So evidence of an agreement to be married is necessary to establish the existence of a common law marriage. In Colorado, there must be conduct showing a mutual public acknowledgment of the marital relationship to establish a common law marriage. The reason for the public performance requirement is to guard against dishonest claims of the common law marriage.

The public recognition of the marital relationship can be revealed in part by cohabitation, though more is needed; especially in this day and age where cohabitation is not taboo like it was in earlier times. There must be a general opinion or reputation among persons in the community in which the couple lives that the parties hold themselves out as wife and husband. Specific action that may be examined includes the joint bank or joint credit card accounts; acquisition and shared ownership of any assets; the application of the husband’s surname by the wife and vice versa, the use of the husband’s surname by the children who are born to the parties; and filing of joint tax returns.

Common law marriage is not automatically assumed just because you and your significant other have a child together. The only way it becomes a valid marriage is when you reside together and hold yourself out to the community as a married couple.

There is no specific form that this evidence must take, but rather any proof to show that the individuals openly manifested their passion to be wife and husband will suffice. This also means you could be held liable for support and the division of assets. Don’t declare yourself as married unless you want the legal responsibilities that go along with it.

Our family lawyers, at Pollart Miller LLC, can answer any questions you may have about common law marriage in Colorado, and help you take the necessary steps to protect your rights in this type of union. Contact us at 877-259-5693.