- Requirements for a Common Law Marriage in Colorado
- Common Law Divorce in Colorado - Burnham Law
- Common Law Marriage in Colorado
- Contempt of Court in a Colorado Family Law Case
Lucero , P. A common law marriage in Colorado is another way of entering into a marriage - an alternative to a ceremonial marriage by which a couple will obtain a marriage license and then go through a ceremony. Per C. While cohabitation is a required element of common law marriage, no specific duration is required. And cohabitation, without more, is not sufficient to create a marriage.
But if that same couple lived together for just a few months, agreed to be married and held themselves out as married, they would have a common law marriage. The Colorado Supreme Court analyzed more than years of cases to come up with a list of what is required to prove a common law marriage exists:. People v.
Requirements for a Common Law Marriage in Colorado
Beyond that, there is no one court case which conclusively sets forth the factors. First, note from the question that a person claiming the existence of a common law marriage has the burden of proof to show that there is one. Valencia v. Northland Insurance Co. The court will need to conduct a hearing to determine the issue, at which the trial court will determine the facts based upon the credibility of the evidence. In re: Interest of Nugent , P.
Common Law Divorce in Colorado - Burnham Law
Note that judges scrutinize self-serving common law marriage claims carefully - they require pretty compelling evidence to find that a relationship is actually a common law marriage. Peery , P. A party asserting a common law marriage claim likely needs something close to unanimity of evidence, and have not claimed to the contrary, to have a decent chance of success. In short, a common law marriage is not simply counting pieces of evidence for and against marriage. If there are three pertinent documents, two where a couple claims to be married and one where they claim to be single, there is no assurance a court would find a common law marriage exists.
The reason for this requirement is to guard against fraudulent claims of common law marriage. In addition to cohabitation and the couple holding themselves out as married, the Lucero court set out a variety of factors courts should consider when determining whether a common law marriage exists, including:. The trial court found no common law marriage, and the Court of Appeals confirmed, citing such factors as:.
But as discussed below, joint taxes are not the only factor, just an important one. To reduce fraud, some private or educational institutions require proof of the common law marriage, either by showing joint tax returns, or filling out an affidavit swearing that a couple is married. Again, note that the courts have no such requirement. An affidavit of common law marriage is just another piece of evidence for courts to consider when determining whether a couple is married.
To put it bluntly, a couple may have ulterior motives for signing an affidavit of common law marriage, such as to obtain medical care. And while they may sign an affidavit to defraud an insurer, it takes more than that to prove a marriage exists. In Whitenhill v.
Kaiser Permanente , P. While the trial court found a marriage existed based solely upon the affidavit of common law marriage, the court of appeals found that was insufficient, and reversed, directing the trial court to consider all of the evidence for and against marriage.
Would getting married in a ceremony negate a claim that the parties had a common law marriage prior to that ceremony? Probably not, even though the question obviously arises why they would need to get married again if they were already married. Radovich , P. Witness say that a couple held themselves out as married, but when filling out official documents, the couple refers to themselves as single.
Probably the documents. In a decision, the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld a trial court determination that there was no common law marriage. In Little , the couple who were previously married then divorced lived together in separate bedrooms , ran a business together, and referred to each other as husband and wife to friends and co-workers. Both parties filed individual tax returns, and claimed to be single for purposes of insurance and Medicaid.
These documents trumped the witnesses, and the court found no common law marriage. Although the requirements for a common law marriage and a statutory marriage are different, the result is the same. A common law marriage is treated by courts in exactly the same fashion as a statutory marriage.
That means ending a common law marriage follows the exact same process as any other divorce. Lucero , P. The mutual consent and agreement of the parties does not have to be expressly made either orally or in writing. See Smith v. People, P. The Colorado Supreme Court has specifically stated that there is no single element or formula that results in a common law marriage.
For example, the court in People v.
Common Law Marriage in Colorado
Because the courts are extremely broad in terms of what can demonstrate a common law marriage, the precise evidence that shows, or does not show, a common law marriage is left to the imagination of the attorneys. However, over time, several things have consistently been shown to be persuasive evidence of a common law marriage.
While there are many factors that can tend to show a common law marriage, there are some things that can show no common law marriage exists. In re Custody of Nugent , P. What this means for you is that whether you believe there is a common law marriage or not, there is probably going to be a hearing on the matter, and each spouse will likely testify before the court.
Stated another way, no matter how much you think a claim for common law marriage is complete nonsense, you are probably still going to have to go to court and testify before a judge regardless. Most of the cases concerning common law marriage relate to three major areas of the law. The first is obviously divorce. To obtain a divorce, the parties need to be presently married.
A typical scenario is that one spouse will file for divorce and, at the same time, argue that a common law marriage exists. If no common law marriage exists, no divorce can be granted. In contrast, if a common law marriage exists, the court would then treat the marriage in the same manner as a statutory marriage.
The second way that a common law marriage can come into play is in criminal law. Third, common law marriage can come into play in estate litigation. In an unusual case, you could even find yourself committing bigamy! As explained above, a common law marriage is often asserted for the very first time during a divorce proceeding. The party asserting that a common law marriage exists will file for divorce and simultaneously assert that a common law marriage exists and that a divorce is necessary.
In these types of cases, the court will first determine whether a common law marriage exists. If a marriage does indeed exist, the court will move on to divorcing the parties. If that happens, the court assigned to review the matter will look at different kinds of evidence, including:. However, neither of those two facts is enough to establish a common law marriage.
To have a valid marriage, you to prove all of the elements described above.
In fact, one of the myths that people sometimes believe about common law marriage is that it happens automatically after some set time period, like five or 10 years of cohabitation. But that's not the case.
Contempt of Court in a Colorado Family Law Case
If you've lived together for a long time, courts will certainly look at that evidence, but you'll need to combine it with other facts that show you both intended to marry each other and that you presented yourselves as spouses to your family, friends, and the community. To enter into a common law marriage, you and your partner both have to be available to marry, meaning that you can't be separated but still married to someone else.
If either of you is in the process of divorcing someone else or if you're only planning to divorce, you can't enter into a new common law marriage with your current partner. If you're still married, it doesn't matter if you view your prior marriage as a technicality or a mistake. Common law marriages are lawful, and you can't be married to two people at one time or you'll run afoul of Colorado's bigamy laws. If you and your partner are hopeful that you'll marry one day, or if only one of you wants to get married, then regardless of what else you might do like introducing yourself and your partner as a spouse you aren't in a common law marriage.
Common law marriage requires both partners to explicitly intend to marry each other, not merely to wish that you'll marry someday. If you're just in a serious relationship and not a common law marriage, you still have very important rights available to you, especially if you have children. You can still go to court and ask a judge to adjudicate paternity legally identify the father , set up child support payments, establish custody, and make a visitation schedule.
The advantage of marriage, however, is that any children you have while you're married are "deemed" assumed to be yours without requiring a court ruling.