We get inquiries from time to time from potential clients who think they have, or may have, a common law marriage.  They often want to know whether an attorney thinks they have entered into such a marriage.  

          In the United States, there are nine states where common law marriage is recognized in some form, and Colorado is one of those states.  In Colorado, a common law marriage may exist if the couple hold themselves out as married (as husband and wife), provided both of them have consented to the marriage.  There also generally has to be cohabitation (living together), and holding themselves out in their community as married.  Some attorneys believe Colorado is the most "liberal" of the nine states in terms of recognizing common law marriages.

          Some of the indicia of a common law marriage may be taking the same last name as the spouse, filing joint income tax returns as husband and wife, and being covered on the health insurance of their partner/spouse.  If a court is asked to make a determination, the judge may consider testimony that the husband and wife introduced themselves as married, and identified their partner as "my wife" or "my husband."  Each case will be decided based upon the evidence in that particular case. 

          If a common law marriage is entered into in Colorado, and the couple moves to another state, generally the common law marriage will be recognized as valid in the new state, even if that state does not recognize common law marriage.  The rule is that if a marriage is valid in the state where it is entered into, then it is valid in other states.  Some courts have held that all marriages entered into in the United "States must be valid in all states, under the Full faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution (providing for all states to recognize the valid laws of the other states). 

          Even though there is common law marriage, there is no such thing as "common law divorce" in Colorado.  A couple who has entered into a common law marriage must file a dissolution of marriage (divorce) action if they decide to end their marriage, and dissolve the relationship in the same way as a couple who had a ceremonial marriage.


                                                                                                                                    By Doris Truhlar
 


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