Common law marriage is one of the most frequently misunderstood family law issues in Colorado. There are numerous myths regarding the creation of common law marriages. Many people believe they are common law married because they have lived together for a certain period of time, have kids together or pay bills together.

None of these alone create a common law marriage. The actual criteria to create a common law marriage may surprise you.

What Makes A Common Law Marriage?

First of all, common law marriage requires that both parties be legally able to marry. For example, neither party can be married to anyone else. Beyond that, the only other requirement is that the parties must mutually agree to be married.

Other factors may be considered evidence that a couple consented to marriage, but are not strictly required for the creation of a common law marriage. Cohabitation is one factor that may be considered evidence. However, there are no time requirements, despite misconceptions that a couple that lives together becomes common law married after a certain number of years. Furthermore, there could be instances where common law marriage exists even without cohabitation.

Other ways in which parties hold themselves out to be husband and wife that could be used as proof of a common law marriage include one party taking the other’s last name. The parties might also create joint bank accounts and checking accounts, or present themselves as husband and wife for economic benefit. They may claim to be married on insurance documents so that one party can be covered by the other’s health insurance policy. They may file taxes as married filing jointly. These last two examples are particularly compelling, as attempts to deny common law marriage could lead to allegations of tax fraud or insurance fraud.

Divorce And Common Law Marriage

According to the Attorney General, “a common law marriage in Colorado is valid for all purposes, the same as a ceremonial marriage. Only death or divorce can terminate it.”

At Scardina Family Law, our attorneys can work with you to prove or disprove a common law marriage. If you are common law married, we can guide you through the divorce process. If it is determined that you are not truly common law married, divorce will not be necessary. However, other legal steps may be required to untangle your lives. If you have children together, you will still need to address child custody and child support, for example. We can help you with any legal issues that may need to be resolved.