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Understanding common-law marriage in Colorado (Part 1)

Last month, on our Boulder County divorce law blog, we spent some time on a story about unexpected complications following a common-law marriage. One former partner did not anticipate having to deal with property division issues because she and her former live-in boyfriend were never formally married. The story may have raised some more general questions for our readers about common-law marriage. Likely, the two most common questions were, "What exactly is common-law marriage, and how does it work?"

Common-law marriage dates back to 1877, and Colorado is one of 9 states that still recognize common-law marriage. Common-law marriage is a legally recognized marriage between a couple that has not obtained a marriage license or undergone a wedding ceremony.

The requirements for a common-law marriage include, first and foremost, living together. The couple must also be of legal marrying age, not married to anyone else and of sound mind.

In addition, there are some slightly nebulous factors, like both partners must intend to be married. They must also present themselves to their family and friends as a married couple. This can be achieved by sharing the same last name, joining finances or even just openly calling each other wife and husband.

One important restriction to note in Colorado is that it only applies to opposite-sex couples. Same-sex couples cannot enter into a common-law marriage in this state, even if they meet all of the same conditions as an opposite-sex couple.

We will continue our common-law marriage Q&A in a follow up post with some important points about what happens if a common-law marriage ends. Nonetheless, these posts are intended as general information only, not as specific legal advice.

Source: FindLaw.com, "Common Law Marriage: The Basics," accessed on Nov. 17, 2017

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