Understanding Colorado Common Law Marriage

Colorado is a common law state, meaning that couples do not need to go through the formal marriage process to establish a legal union. While this makes things easier for couples who commit to each other but don’t want the pomp and circumstance of a legal marriage and wedding, it can also make things murky when a breakup occurs. Many couples who are common law married and navigating a split, are caught off guard by the process when it comes to shared assets, pets, and children. In today’s post, I will highlight what common law marriage is and how it will affect your divorce.

What is Colorado Common Law Marriage

Common-law marriage is simply a union without the formal ceremony and legal marriage license. In Colorado, common law marriage is a fairly simple process and requires very little including living together and assuming a marital relationship.

  • The couple must be living together.
  • Both members of the couple must be legally allowed to be married, or have the “capacity to marry.” This means both parties must be 18 years old (or emancipated or have parental consent), of sound mind, and not be legally married to someone else.
  • The relationship must not be incestuous or violate any other laws of marriage.
  • Both parties must intend to get married.
  • Both parties must represent themselves to others as a married couple. Some signs of this are having the same last name, having joint bank accounts and/or loans, filing joint tax returns, and referring to each other as “husband,” “wife,” or “spouse.”

It is important to understand that in the eyes of Colorado, simply living together does not constitute a common-law marriage, nor does being together for a certain amount of time. To claim common law marriage, you must assume a marriage and all that goes along with it. Common-law unions apply to both opposite-sex and same-sex couples.

Common-Law and Divorce

Once a common-law marriage is established, it’s just as binding as a legal marriage. To end it, you must be granted a legal divorce (dissolution of marriage) and go through legal divorce proceedings just like any other married couple if you wish to separate. If children, pets, or assets were accrued during the relationship, they must be split as they would be in a legal marriage. The same applies to maintenance (alimony) and child support. For all intents and purposes, you’ll go through the entire divorce process.

At the Law Offices of Kelli J. Malcolm, I have over twenty-five years of experience helping the Colorado Front Range couples navigate the complexities of marriage, family law, and divorce with compassion and support. I work toward resolutions that help protect the integrity of family and do what’s best for each member. If you need help with your common law marriage and pending divorce, connect with me today.