Misconceptions of Common Law Marriage


Common law marriage is probably one of the most misunderstood concepts to non-lawyers in Colorado. Common law is derived from custom and judicial precedent rather than statutes. When applied to marriage it means a couple who intend and declare they are married without a formal license.

The biggest myth is that if you live with someone for a certain length of time that automatically makes you common law married. Not true, otherwise half the country would be married after sharing an apartment. In Colorado there is no length of time requirement.

The requirements are simple:

• To intend to hold yourself and your significant other out as a married couple.
• To file joint taxes as married.
• To own property together such as a house, cars, bank accounts, etc.

Most importantly, it is the “intent” to be seen as married which holds the most significance. Consistently introducing yourselves to all your friends, neighbors and co-workers as husband and wife. Calling each other husband or wife – joking aside. This combined with filing taxes as joint taxpayers or married but filing separate and/or holding significant property together can be interpreted as being common law married. It is the intent of both parties to be married to one another and to represent to everyone around them that they are married. One person considering himself/herself married to the other, when the other person does not is also not a common law marriage.

Simply having children together does not make you common law married. Even buying a house together does not necessarily make you common law married. If the intent of both parties is not the same then there is an argument that no common law marriage exists.

Written by June F. Bourrillion, Esq. for http://www.rkymtnlaw.com

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