Married or Not?

Filed Under (Divorce and Legal Separation) on 01-24-2012

common law marriage, common law divorce, what is common law, cohabited When Cohabitation Becomes Common Law Marriage in Colorado

By M. Arden Hauer, MA, JD

Many couples wonder about the difference between simply living together and entering into a common law or “common-law” marriage. Common law marriage takes place when you don’t get a license or go through a recognized ceremony, but live together as if married. You are also public that your relationship is that of husband and wife.

Sounds complicated? Here’s some clarification.

In Colorado, you are common law married if:

1.    You live together (“cohabit”) in Colorado or in another state that recognizes common law marriage while “holding yourselves out” as married. (It doesn’t matter for how long. You act as though you are married, with the intention of being (not getting) married. For instance, you introduce each other as wife and husband, use the same last name, hold joint bank or mortgage accounts or file married/joint income tax returns; and

2.    Neither of you is married to someone else during this time, either by a marriage license and a ceremony (called a statutory marriage) or by common law; and

3.    Both of you are at least 18 years old.  A common law marriage entered into before September 1, 2006, has no age requirement.

Engaged and living together?
If you introduce each other as fiancées, partners, or some other term other than “husband”, “wife”, or “spouse”, and talk about getting married some day, or never talk about it, then you are not common law married no matter how long you live together.

Common law divorce?
Although the state of Colorado recognizes common law marriage, the state does not provide for common law divorce. If you are common law married and you want a divorce or legal separation, you can only obtain it from the court.

For more information about dissolving a common law marriage, check out the “Friendly Divorce Guidebook for Colorado” by M. Arden Hauer, MA, JD