Common Law Marriage
In most instances, when a man and woman agree to marry, they obtain a license in the county and state where they intend on marrying and have a ceremony before friends and family in which they exchange wedding vows. However, there are other kinds of relationships where the parties have not participated in a religious or civil ceremony, nor have they obtained a marriage license, but for all intents and purposes, consider themselves “married.” These relationships are recognized in Colorado as common law marriages. The Colorado Supreme Court stated that, ” . . . a common law marriage, is established by mutual consent or agreement of the parties to be husband and wife, followed by a mutual and open assumption of a marital relationship.” The court further defined common law marriage, where the parties enter into an agreement to be married, and cohabitate as husband and wife. This long standing recognition of a common law marriage in Colorado, dates back to 1907. A common law marriage could be established if some, if not all of the following facts are present:
- The parties have told others that they are living together as husband and wife;
- The parties have children together and have made joint decisions for the benefit of the children;
- The parties have lived together or have cohabitated together;
- The parties have filed joint federal and state tax returns;
- The parties have opened one or more bank accounts, credit cards, etc.;
- The parties have funded IRAs or other retirement accounts together;
- The parties have shared in paying joint “marital expenses;”
- The parties have purchased property (house, land, etc.) together and titled the property in both of their names;
It is important for parties who have been in a common law marriage to understand, that it is their deeds and conduct in holding themselves out to the public, friends and relatives, which will most likely determine if a common law marriage is recognized by a court. When a common law marriage has been recognized by a court, all of the same rights and benefits that those who have had the government sanction their relationship in a marriage license, are also available to those in a common law marriage.
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