There are many misunderstandings about what constitutes a common law marriage in Colorado. Often we get calls from people who have lived with their significant other and have questions regarding what rights they have.
Colorado is one of the few states (there are fewer than 10) that still recognizes common law marriage. Under Colorado case law, whether a marriage exists may be a question that needs to be determined by a judge.
In order to meet the criteria in Colorado, parties need to meet the following conditions:
- Both parties must be over the age of 18
- The parties must mutually agree to be married
- The parties must live together after agreeing to be married
- The parties must hold themselves out in the public as married
The Colorado case which lays out this standard in the Colorado Supreme Court case People v. Lucero 747 P2.2d 660 (Colo. 1987). The case itself did not deal with divorce or custody, but it is referred to in family law cases to determine whether a marriage existed between the parties. A determination of common law marriage is necessary when one party says they are married, and the other party disagrees.
The courts must determine whether there was a mutual, present intent of the parties to be married. The two factors above that clearly show an intention to be married are cohabitation and reputation in the community. The harder one to prove is the reputation in the community.
The courts look at a number of behaviors to show reputation. Factors the court may consider in making a determination may include:
- Maintaining joint bank or credit card accounts
- Purchasing property together that is jointly titled (like cars and houses)
- The use of man’s last name by the woman
- The use of the man’s last name by any children born to the parties
- The filing of joint tax returns.
However, there is no single item that tells the court two people are married under the common law. According to the holding in Lucero, the court can look at any form of evidence showing the intention of the parties regarding their relationship as husband and wife.
If the Court finds that a marriage exists under common law, each party has rights and remedies under the Colorado Divorce Statutes (Uniform Dissolution of Marriage Act, C.R.S. 14-10-101 et.Seq.) Because there are so many factors the Courts can consider in determining whether there is a common law marriage, figuring out what rights you have can be very confusing. Contact Jorgensen, Brownell & Pepin, P.C. today for a free initial consultation with one of our experienced Longmont family law attorneys to go over your rights and remedies.