Colorado Common-Law Marriage

If you’re splitting up, it's crucial to understand the unique laws and regulations governing marriage in your state. In Colorado, one such concept is that of common-law marriage. 

What is common law marriage?

Common-law marriage is a type of marital relationship recognized by some, but not all, states. Unlike traditional marriage, it doesn't involve a formal ceremony or require formal documentation, like a marriage license. Instead, a marriage is established based on a couple's actions and intentions. 

Key elements of common-law marriage include living together, agreeing to be married, and presenting yourselves as a married couple to others. It's important to note that the period of time spent in cohabitation isn't necessarily a determining factor for common-law marriage.

Does Colorado recognize common-law marriage?

Yes, Colorado is among the 12 states that recognize common-law marriage as a legal marriage.

Actions in Colorado that can lead to the establishment of a couple’s common-law marriage include the following:

  • Living together
  • Presenting as a married couple
  • Filing joint tax returns
  • Obtaining benefits for each other as a married couple
  • Obtaining public benefits as a married couple
  • Using the same last name
  • Purchasing property together as a married couple

There's no minimum time requirement for cohabitation, meaning a common-law marriage could potentially exist after just a moment. It's noteworthy that Colorado treats common-law marriages as valid for all purposes, just like ceremonial marriages.

Want to know more about your legal rights as a spouse in a common-law marriage? Read our article,  The Truth about Common-Law Marriages.

How do Colorado courts handle common-law divorce?

Terminating a common-law marriage in Colorado follows the same legal procedure as a traditional divorce. This means that a common law marriage can only be ended by death or divorce. A remarriage without a formal divorce would be considered bigamy since Colorado law recognizes common law marriages as lawful.

During the divorce process, issues like finances, property division, spousal support, and child custody are addressed, similar to a traditional marriage dissolution. The court considers various factors, including each party's financial situation, the duration of the marriage, and the needs of any children involved when making these decisions.

What should you do with your house now that you’re splitting up? Read about home equity loans and divorce settlements here.

John and Sarah

Let's look at a complex scenario involving a fictional Colorado couple. Consider John and Sarah. They have been living together in Colorado for eight years as common-law spouses. They started a tech company together, which is now worth millions. They never had a formal wedding ceremony but have always presented themselves as a married couple to friends, family, and business associates. 

Now, they have agreed to end their relationship and want to divide their business and personal assets.

John and Sarah would first need to prove their common-law marriage in court. Although they don’t have a marriage certificate, this won’t be difficult given their public representation as a married couple. The court may request some documentation of their community property, tax returns showing they've filed jointly, and possibly testimony or sworn statements from friends attesting to the fact that they have presented themselves as spouses. Once the court recognizes their common-law marriage, they would proceed with the regular divorce process, including property division.

In Colorado, courts divide marital property using an equitable distribution approach. This means that assets and debts acquired during the marriage are divided fairly but not necessarily equally. Factors like each party's economic circumstances and contributions to the acquisition of the marital property are taken into account. If John and Sarah can't agree on splitting their business, the court may order its sale and distribute the proceeds equitably.

Are you considering a common-law marriage or divorce in Colorado? Let us make the process easier for you. At Hello Divorce, we’ve helped many Coloradoans end their relationships with as little stress and cost as possible.

To learn about the solutions we offer, we suggest booking a free 15-minute phone call with one of our account coordinators.

Divorce Content Specialist & Lawyer
Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Legal Insights

Bryan is a non-practicing lawyer, HR consultant, and legal content writer. With nearly 20 years of experience in the legal field, he has a deep understanding of family and employment laws. His goal is to provide readers with clear and accessible information about the law, and to help people succeed by providing them with the knowledge and tools they need to navigate the legal landscape. Bryan lives in Orlando, Florida.