Work with a CO Attorney Who Understands Common Law Marriage

Common law marriage is a unique legal concept that recognizes marriage between two individuals who have not obtained a marriage license or participated in a formal ceremony but have cohabited and held themselves out as spouses. Our state is one of the few that recognize common law marriage, and it is vital to understand what that means and how it might impact you and your partner.

At The Law Office of Andrew Bryant, our experienced legal professionals know all the ins and outs of common law marriage in Colorado. This includes what you must do to have your common law marriage recognized by the State and how formalizing your partnership in this way can have legal and financial benefits and potential repercussions if the two of you ever part ways.

Want to Have Your Common Law Marriage Recognized in Colorado? We Can Help

As mentioned above, Colorado is one of just a few states that have formally recognized common law marriage under specific legal requirements established by statute and case law. However, this is not something that happens.

Establishing a common law marriage in Colorado involves meeting specific legal requirements and demonstrating mutual consent, cohabitation, and holding out as spouses. Understanding these requirements and how to meet them is important, as they are the key to having your common law marriage recognized by the State.

Here is a guide to what the Courts will look at to see if you have a common law marriage that can be recognized in our state:

Mutual Consent. Both parties must have mutual intent and agreement to enter a marital relationship. This intent to be married must be present and demonstrated by both parties. Both individuals must understand and acknowledge that they are entering a marriage-like relationship.

Cohabitation. The parties must cohabit or live together as spouses. Cohabitation refers to sharing a residence and living together as a married couple. It’s crucial for both parties to establish a shared residence where they reside together regularly.

Holding Out. The parties must hold themselves out to the community as married. This involves presenting themselves to others as spouses, such as using the same last name, referring to each other as husband or wife, listing the other person as a spouse on documents such as health insurance forms, and filing joint tax returns. Holding out also includes other actions demonstrating to the community that the parties consider themselves married.

Consistency. Both parties should consistently present themselves as married in various aspects of their lives, including social, financial, and legal matters. Consistent behavior helps establish the credibility of common law marriage and is considered crucial in obtaining recognition.

Intent. The desire to establish a common law marriage can be demonstrated through various means, including verbal agreements, written statements, joint financial arrangements, and other actions indicating a commitment to a marital relationship.

Time. While there is no specific time requirement for how long the parties must cohabit to establish a common law marriage, the longer the relationship duration, the more substantial the evidence of a common law marriage. However, parties may establish a common law marriage in a relatively short period if they meet all other legal requirements.  Finally, there is no length of time that if the parties cohabitate, they will be deemed common law married.  Parties can live together for decades, and if they are very clear that they are not in a matrimonial relationship, they will not be deemed to be common law married.

Declaration of Common Law Marriage. While not legally required, some couples choose to formalize their common law marriage by signing a declaration of common law marriage. This document declares the parties’ intent to be married and may be used as evidence of the existence of a common law marriage.

Documentation and Evidence. Parties seeking to establish a common law marriage should gather documentation and evidence supporting their marital relationship. This may include joint bank accounts, shared bills, property titles, leases or rental agreements, insurance policies listing the other party as a spouse, and testimony from witnesses who can attest to the parties’ relationship. The same can be said for people attempting to disprove a common law marriage by showing that everything the court looks for in a common law marriage does not exist.

While all of these things are valuable, Andrew Bryant is aware that each case is unique, and the evidence required to establish a common law marriage may vary depending on the circumstances. In some situations, there may be the potential for doubt about the existence of common law marriage. This can result in you having to spend undue time and effort attempting to navigate the process.

If you decide to work with The Law Office of Andrew Bryant, we will work hard to ensure that establishing your common law marriage goes smoothly.

Make Sure You Know the Legal Implications of Entering into a Common Law Marriage

In Colorado Springs, couples who have entered a valid common law marriage are afforded the same rights and obligations as couples who have obtained a marriage license and participated in a formal ceremony.

These rights and implications include:

Property Rights. In a common law marriage, spouses have rights to marital property acquired during the marriage, including assets and debts. In the event of divorce or separation, marital property is subject to equitable division by the court.

Spousal Maintenance. Common law spouses may be entitled to spousal maintenance following divorce or separation. The court may award spousal support based on factors such as the duration of the marriage, the parties’ financial needs, and their respective earning capacities.

Parental Rights and Responsibilities. Common law spouses are considered the legal parents of any children born during the marriage. This includes rights and responsibilities related to custody, visitation, and child support.

Inheritance Rights. Common law spouses are entitled to inherit from each other’s estates in the absence of a valid will. Intestacy laws govern inheritance rights, which dictate how property is distributed when there is no will.

Tax Benefits. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the State of Colorado recognize common law marriages as legally recognized marriages, and therefore, common law spouses are entitled to the same tax benefits and obligations as formally married couples.

Some of the tax benefits and obligations that common law married couples in Colorado may receive or be subject to include:

  • Filing StatusCommon law spouses can typically file their federal and state income tax returns jointly as married filing jointly or separately as married filing separately. Filing jointly often offers certain tax benefits, such as potentially lower tax rates and eligibility for various tax credits and deductions.
  • Spousal Exemptions and DeductionsCommon law spouses may claim exemptions and deductions available to married couples, such as the spousal exemption and deductions for mortgage interest, property taxes, and medical expenses.
  • Estate and Gift Tax Exemptions Common law spouses are entitled to the same estate and gift tax exemptions as formally married couples. This includes the ability to transfer assets to each other during life or at death without incurring gift or estate taxes up to certain limits.
  • Health Insurance BenefitsMany employers offer health insurance coverage to employees’ spouses, including common law spouses. Common law married couples may be eligible to enroll in each other’s employer-sponsored health insurance plans.
  • Social Security Benefits Common law spouses may be entitled to certain Social Security benefits based on their spouse’s earnings record, including spousal benefits, survivor benefits, and benefits for dependent children.

Let Us Assist You in Avoiding Challenges to Your Common Law Marriage in Colorado Springs

Common issues and challenges related to common law marriage in Colorado include providing evidence that you are, in effect, married to your partner and questions over whether both of you mutually agree to enter a marital relationship.

Additionally, suppose you are ever to separate from each other. In that case, the same disputes in traditional divorces tend to arise: division of property, child custody and visitation, spousal maintenance, and child support.

The bottom line is that you must work with someone who understands your legal requirements and rights under common law marriage and can protect you.

Colorado Springs family attorney Andrew Bryant has successfully handled many cases involving common law marriage. If you work with him, he will strive to ensure everything goes smoothly and that your rights are always at the forefront. Contact us now to discover more about how we can help.