Colorado is one of few number of states that recognize common law marriages. Unlike marriages where two parties go through a ceremony and sign a marriage certificate, a common law marriage exists in Colorado when two parties have the intent to be married and hold themselves out to the public as a married couple. A formal ceremony and/or marriage certificate is not required.
There is often confusion and misunderstanding about how a common law marriage is created. For example, simply living with your significant other does not, alone, create a common law marriage. There are many factors that must be considered to determine if a common law marriage has been created, such as cohabitation, whether the parties held themselves out to the public as married, whether the parties filed joint tax returns, whether the parties share insurance policies, etc. However, ultimately, these factors come down to whether two parties intended to be married.
In order to end a common law marriage, parties must go the divorce/dissolution of marriage process, just as they would have if they would have gone through a formal marriage ceremony. Dissolution of a common law marriage is simple when both parties agree that they had the intent to be married and can agree on the date of the common law marriage.
However, more often, parties dispute whether a common law marriage exists and/or the date of the marriage. When a common law marriage is created, the court must equitably divide marital property and debts upon dissolution of the marriage. Likewise, the court must also consider whether an award of spousal maintenance (alimony) is warranted. Because division of property and spousal maintenance do not come into play when two parties are simply in a relationship and not in a marriage, it is common for one party to allege that a common law marriage exists and the other party to allege that it does not.
In the event of a dispute regarding whether a common law marriage exists, the court will need to hold an evidentiary hearing to determine the status of the marriage. If, after the hearing, the court finds that common law marriage does exist, then the case will move on to the dissolution of marriage stage.
Whether you are seeking to establish that a common law marriage exists or defending a claim against a common law marriage, Laura Monty Law, LLC is able to assist you in understanding whether the facts of your case lend themselves to a finding of common law marriage.
If a common law marriage does exist, Laura Monty Law, LLC is also able to assist you throughout the divorce process. Assuming the court has proper jurisdiction over both parties to a common law marriage, in addition to dissolving the marriage, the court may also enter orders regarding parenting time and decision-making for children (custody orders), child support, the division of assets and debts, maintenance (alimony), the allocation of fees and costs associated with the dissolution of marriage, and restoring a party’s previous name, if requested.
If you unsure whether you have entered into a common law marriage, it is best to consult with a Colorado divorce attorney. Laura Monty Law, LLC, is happy to schedule a consultation to answer your common law marriage questions. To set up an initial consultation with Ms. Monty, please contact us at 970-797-3407 or through our online Contact Us form.