Common Law Marriage and Divorce in Colorado


Two kinds of marriage exist: statutory and common law. Only a few states recognize common law marriages and Colorado is one of them. The underpinning of a common law marriage is the shared agreement or accord of two individuals to be husband and wife, and an open and mutual assumption of a marital relationship.

For two people to be recognized as common law married in Colorado, the following circumstances must be met:

  • Both parties must be over 18
  • Both parties must agree without reservation that they are husband and wife
  • Both parties must present themselves legally and socially as married
  • Both parties must live together as husband and wife after agreeing that they are married to the satisfaction of each other, even though no license exists

The most significant part under a common law marriage is the mutual consent that two particular individuals are husband and wife. All other elements are usually taken to mean this consent.

Many people incorrectly believe that a couple can be regarded as married in common law if they live together for a long enough period of time. While co-habitation for a lengthy period may help a couple show their willingness to enter into a common law marriage, there is no set time period to establish a common law marriage in Colorado.

Although there is no set guideline for the court to go by, the courts will consider a number of different things when deciding about the actuality of a common law marriage. In the end, however, a Colorado family law judge is the final decision maker when it comes to determining whether a common law marriage exists.

In the matter of ending a common law marriage in Colorado, divorce and death are the only choices. There is no such thing as a common law dissolution, which means that the two individuals must follow the same laws and procedures as a legal divorce in their state.

If a spouse files for a divorce, one of the things the court hearing the divorce must first determine is if a common law marriage actually existed. The marriage can be proven by tax returns, insurance paperwork, and other legal documents showing that a hyphenated or common last name was used. Family and friends may also be asked to testify as to a couple’s behavoir as husband and wife. Such evidence of common law marriage is vital because one individual may assert to have never been married at all.

Since the state recognizes common law marriage as a valid and legal marriage, the divorce must then address the same issues involved in any dissolution or divorce. Once it is established that a common law marriage actually did exist, the court will then decide on issues regarding parental responsibility of the children, child support, alimony, property distribution, debts, and all other issues brought about by a divorce. If either spouse wishes to get married in the future, that marriage will be deemed invalid if the common law marriage is not dissolved.