Know Your Rights
Colorado is one of the few states in the U.S. that recognizes common-law marriages. Couples in these types of unions typically don’t get married through a formal ceremony. However, under Colorado law, a couple in a common law marriage hold the same rights and responsibilities as couples who get married in large wedding ceremonies with witnesses and a cake. In other words, in Colorado, a common law marriage is exactly the same as a ceremonial marriage and the only way to have it terminated is through a divorce.
Laws surrounding common-law marriage are often incredibly confusing for people who try to handle these complicated legal matters on their own. If you think you might be in a common-law marriage or you are considering filing to end your marriage, contact Halligan LLC to get the help you need. Our trusted family law attorneys have the skills and in-depth knowledge of Colorado marriage laws to tackle even the most complicated cases.
At Halligan LLC, we can help you understand your legal rights, help support you throughout your case, and give you the tools to make the best possible decisions for your family and your future. Give us a call today at (720) 608-2361 or fill out our quick online form to schedule your initial legal consultation and learn how we can help you.
What Counts as a Common-Law Marriage in Colorado?
Under Colorado law, a couple is common-law married if they mutually consider themselves as married, and they present themselves to the community as a married couple. In addition, neither person can already be legally married to someone else, they must both be at least 18 years of age, and they typically must live together at the same address.
How Do You Prove a Common-Law Marriage?
It can be challenging to prove that you are in a common-law marriage, since much of the proof is based on each person’s intent in the relationship. These couples typically don’t have a legal marriage certificate or a formal marriage ceremony to prove their union as in typical marriages.
Additionally, simply living together does not establish a common law marriage, and there isn’t a standard amount of time a couple must be together to qualify as a common-law married. Because of this, if the relationship falls apart, one person in the marriage might try to claim that they were never actually married.
Nonetheless, there are several pieces of evidence that a person can use to demonstrate that a common-law marriage exists, such as:
- Joint finances, such as joint credit cards, debts, or bank accounts
- Wearing rings
- Execution of an affidavit of common-law marriage
- Filing joint federal tax returns as “married”
- Joint ownership of property
- Using a shared last name, including for the couple’s children
- Listing each other as “spouse” on insurance, estate documents, pension plans, and other benefit forms
- Regularly referring to each other as “spouse,” “husband,” or “wife” in public
Do Couples in a Common-Law Marriage in Colorado Have the Same Legal Rights as People in Formal Marriages?
In Colorado, married couples have the same legal rights and responsibilities – whether they’re in a common-law marriage or they got married in a formal ceremony with an officiant. This means that parties to a common law marriage enjoy the same spousal rights, protections, and benefits under Colorado law, such as the right to survivor benefits and spousal hospital visitation.
They also have the same obligations as ceremonial married couples. For example, if one spouse had been receiving alimony payments from a previous marriage, then their former spouse’s obligation to make support payments typically ends when the common-law marriage begins.
Additionally, if a couple in a common-law marriage in Colorado moves to another state, they are still considered married because of provisions in federal law that require states to recognize each other’s laws.
How Do You End a Colorado Common-Law Marriage?
While Colorado law allows for common-law marriage, there is no provision for a “common-law” divorce. This is because a common law marriage is the same as a ceremonial marriage. This means that if one or both spouses can establish that they were in a common-law marriage, then it takes a formal legal action to dissolve the marriage.
You can’t just walk away from a common-law marriage and assume that it is over without undergoing a divorce. If you do, you might encounter legal issues in the future, such as if you try to marry someone else.
Dissolving a common-law marriage requires getting a formal divorce decree or decree of dissolution of marriage through the courts, which includes directives on spousal support, parental responsibilities, child support, debt allocation, property division, and other legal matters.
Beyond a divorce, the couple might have some other options to dissolve the marriage - the same as those available for ceremonial married couples. For one, they might be able to file for an annulment. This is when one or both partners claim the marriage was invalid under the law, and it is most often used in a marriage that lasted for a very brief amount of time.
Another option might be to pursue a legal separation. This is similar to a formal divorce in that the court will issue a legal order on the division of property between the spouses, parental rights, child support obligations, etc. However, with a legal separation, neither spouse is allowed to remarry, plus they may be able to preserve certain benefits, such as insurance coverage and pension benefits.
Talk to an Experienced Denver Family Law Attorney
Don’t wait to stand up for your legal rights surrounding common-law marriage. Contact Halligan LLC today to get the help you need. Our dedicated and compassionate Denver family lawyers will patiently answer your questions and fight to help you get the best possible terms for your case. To set up your initial consultation, contact us today at (720) 608-2361 or reach us online.