We will continue our discussion of common-law marriage this week on our Boulder County divorce law blog. With an understanding of the background of common-law marriage and how it generally works, let's look at what happens when challenges arise in a common-law marriage.
Say one is living with a partner who is married to someone else and has not yet finalized a divorce from that person. In this scenario, no matter how long they live together or whether they meet any of the other conditions, common-law marriage will not apply. However, if the married partner does obtain a divorce, or if the spouse passes away, common-law marriage could then apply to the relationship -- even if one were not eligible for common-law marriage when they first moved in together.
What happens if one is in a common-law marriage and their partner passes away? This can be a difficult situation, because they will not be able to receive any inheritance or other benefits from the deceased partner unless they can prove to a court that they were in a legitimate common-law marriage. We discussed some of the validating criteria last week.
Finally, to re-emphasize the point from our original news story, a common-law marriage does not automatically end when a couple separates. Even without a formal marriage, a formal divorce is necessary, including property division and all of the other aspects of a divorce. A family law professional can act as an important resource for common-law married partners in situations requiring formal legal proceedings, such as a divorce or the death of one partner.
Source: Findlaw.com, "Common Law Marriage: The Basics," accessed on Nov. 17, 2017