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Not all married couples tie the knot in some elaborate or small wedding or even before a judicial officer at the local courthouse. Some couples live together just as a formally married couple, but they have never been officially married as such. It is this type of cohabiting that often leads to what is known as common law marriage. Discuss any questions you have with an Aurora common law marriage lawyer today.

When Are You in a Common Law Marriage?

Common law marriage in Colorado is not always clear or straightforward. For example, there is a commonly held belief that merely living together for two or more years constitutes common law marriage. This is not true. Living together for two years or more alone does not constitute common law marriage.

Rather, what constitutes common law marriage is the satisfaction of an array of factors that courts in Colorado use to determine whether there is common law marriage or not. Below is additional information presented as answers to questions frequently asked, which may be the same questions you have:

What is Common Law Marriage?

Colorado courts have held that for common law marriage to be established, two basic requirements must be met, and these are (1) mutual consent or agreement of the parties and (2) mutual and open assumption of a marital relationship. Both are legal parameters that a Colorado family and divorce lawyer can help you understand how they apply in your individual case. Courts, not statutes, determine whether common law exists.

How Do You Prove that Common Law Marriage Exists?

You prove common law marriage exists by presenting evidence at a hearing and the best evidence is witness testimony and documents that back up what you say.

Evidence That No Common Law Marriage Exists

To be in a common-law marriage, a couple typically must satisfy these requirements: be qualified to be married and live in one area that recognizes common-law marriage, plan to be married, and establish themselves in public as a married couple. A common law marriage does not exist if these requirements are not met.

Persuasive Evidence of a Common Law Marriage

The primary requirement for a Colorado common law marriage is that both partners agree to the marriage. The most persuasive evidence of a common-law marriage is a written agreement signed by both parties that details their intent and specifies the date that the marriage started. A written agreement is even more persuasive if witnessed by a third party other than the couple. If you have questions about persuasive evidence of a common-law marriage, contact an experienced family law attorney today.

Suppose a written agreement wasn’t signed during the relationship. In that case, another persuasive form of evidence is an affidavit declaring an intent to be married signed by the individual trying to deny the marriage. This kind of affidavit might exist if an individual has claimed a common-law spouse for an earlier legal reason, such as insurance benefits. These affidavits are typically notarized and state when the marriage began. They are also usually witnessed by third parties.

Even if an agreement or signed affidavit exists, some courts will still demand the party claiming the marriage to offer further evidence. This prerequisite may be met by an existing affidavit alleging when the couple agreed to be married, the state they resided in at the time, their address, the existence and dates of any earlier marriages, and a description of how any previous marriages ended.

What Qualifies Common Law Marriage in Colorado?

Colorado has acknowledged common law marriage as lawful and binding. In Colorado, a common-law marriage is established when the couple mutually agrees to be married.

In Colorado, a common law marriage does not need any license, wedding party, or documentation to be lawful. Couples to a common law marriage are entitled to all privileges, rights, and obligations of a lawful and binding marriage.

Suppose the parties need documentation of a marriage. In that case, it is suggested that they file a signed, notarized affidavit authenticating the marriage with the County Clerk and Recorder in the county where they live in Colorado. This will be filed as a document, not a marriage record. Only a lawful divorce or the death of 1 of the parties to the marriage can end a common-law marriage.

The following are the two requirements for common law marriage in Colorado:

  • The parties are unrestricted to enter into a marriage: Neither is married to another individual.
  • Both parties are of legal age (18): If either party is between the ages of 16 and 18, they must get the necessary parental or guardian approval.

The only time requirement needed in Colorado is enough time to establish the conditions above reasonably. Periods of living together without the above prerequisites do not create a common-law marriage in Colorado.

Is Common Law Marriage Recognized in Colorado?

Yes, Colorado is one of the few states that recognize common-law marriages.

Is Common Law Marriage Recognized For Same-sex Marriages?

Yes. Once same-sex marriage became legal in Colorado, the same applied to common law marriages. This was codified in law by the Colorado Supreme Court earlier in 2021.

Is There a Length of Cohabitation Required to Establish Common Law Marriage?

No. A common law marriage could exist after a couple living together for only one month but may not be established for a couple that has lived together for decades. What matters are the specific facts and circumstances – not how long a couple has lived together.

How Do You Terminate a Common Law Marriage?

A common law marriage is terminated like any ordinary marriage—with a divorce. However, when seeking divorce where you were not formally married as required under the statute, you will first need to establish that you are, in fact, in a common-law marriage.

My ex and I treated each other as if we were married, but then our relationship ended. Are we common law married?

Probably. A common law marriage can begin based on the conduct of the parties but cannot end based on the conduct of the parties. To end a common law marriage, you need to get a legal divorce through a court.

Can You Get Divorced if You Are in A Common Law Marriage (Common-law divorce)?

Common-law marriages are subject to identical legal duties and rights as marriages with licenses. Once a common-law marriage is set, each spouse should always use a divorce lawyer to obtain a court-ordered divorce in order to end the marriage.

If A Court Determines That I Am Not in a Common Law Marriage, Do I Have Any Rights?

A court may determine that a couple is not in a common-law marriage for several reasons, including hesitating to make a public commitment or never making the marriage official. Common-law marriage is a legal marriage. Suppose you are not in a common-law marriage. In that case, you miss out on the economic and legal benefits given to couples with marriage licenses, such as tax incentives and inheritance rights.

Is a Common Law Wife Entitled to Anything?

Your legal rights as a common-law wife hinge on whether you are married or living together. Living together with another person is often informally called cohabitation.

When a couple has been living together under the same roof for several years and maybe have kids together, there is often confusion that the couple is entitled to the same legal rights as a married couple.

In these cases, the couple would not need to officially “break up” as a married couple would through a divorce. They would not need to split up their assets and finances as a married couple unless assets are owned together in their joint names.

However, some of the rights that a common-law wife may have during the separation include:

  1. Claiming a share of the family home: This house must be held in one of the occupants’ names. This right does not automatically apply to unmarried couples. As a starting point, the couple must be legally married, and the house must be solely owned by the person whose name is on the deed. As a common-law wife, you might be able to establish your right to the home if you can prove that you have a “beneficial interest.” This usually means you’ve monetarily contributed to the house by paying a mortgage or downpayment.
  2. Duty to provide for each other financially: Common law wives may have a duty to be provided for financially into the future, unlike unmarried couples.
  3. Parental Rights for the child: Unmarried fathers do not automatically have parental rights to their children. Only an individual who holds parental responsibility can lawfully have an input in any important decisions about a kid’s upbringing. As a common-law wife, you may have the right to what name your child shall be known by, where they are educated, and travel and health issues. Those without parental rights do not get these privileges. Whether a father has parental responsibility for the child hinges on the kid’s age and whether the father is named on the birth certificate.
  4. Access to joint bank accounts: If you and your partner are living together and have separate bank accounts, neither of you have the privilege to access money held in the other person’s account upon divorce. However, if you had a joint bank that you used and put money in and took money out of, you might have a claim to the right to it.
  5. Inheritance: If your partner dies without leaving a will, a common-law spouse will inherit the property if it was owned jointly.
Speak with an Aurora Colorado Common Law Attorney

If you believe you are in a common law marriage and you might want a divorce, or if you are not sure but want to confirm, then contact an Aurora common law attorney from CNL Law Firm, PLLC. We can provide you with the information you need about your marital status and the procedures for a possible divorce.

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