Colorado Common Law Marriage Attorney
There are many misconceptions surrounding common-law marriages in Colorado. Many people even assume that common-law marriages no longer exist or are invalid. However, it does still exist, and when a significant other dies, it can be a very complex and expensive matter to prove the marriage did, or did not, exist.
Colorado common-law marriages can be nuanced and difficult to prove. If you’re facing a common law marriage issue after the death of a loved one, you need an experienced attorney to advocate for your rights.
Contact a dedicated Colorado common-law marriage lawyer at J R Phillips & Associates for the legal support you need, when you need it most. Schedule your free consultation when you call us at (303) 741-2400.
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What Is a Common Law Marriage in Colorado?
There are many misconceptions about Colorado common law marriages. For example, when you see people who have been in a relationship for a considerable amount of time and live together, one partner may refer to the other as their common-law spouse.
But living together for a year or more does not mean that you are in a common law marriage. Although your cohabitation situation may be relevant when determining whether your common law marriage exists in Colorado, it is not necessarily a requirement for there to be a common law marriage in place.
Many people are turning to common law marriages as an alternative way to celebrate marriage without the traditional ceremonial, or legal, process. But the primary difference between common law marriages and traditional marriages are the legal factors.
It is not uncommon for people who are involved in common law marriages to encounter issues surrounding whether their marriage is considered valid under the law. For this reason, it is important that you understand what the requirements are for common law marriages in Colorado and whether entering into a common law marriage is in you and your partner‘s best interests.
Requirements for Colorado Common Law Marriages
One of the key requirements for common law marriages in Colorado is a mutual agreement between both partners that they are entering into an assumed marital relationship. There are three primary elements that will need to be satisfied in order for a common law marriage to be recognized in Colorado. These include:
- Mutually agreeing to live and act as a married couple
- Having evidence of this mutual agreement
There are some other factors that could be used to help support your claim that a common law marriage exists. Some of these factors could include:
- Sharing finances, including credit cards and bank accounts
- Sharing ownership of assets and property
- Filing joint tax returns
- One spouse, and your shared children, taking on the other spouse’s last name
Factors That Determine Common Law Marriages in Colorado (UPDATED for 2021)
Societal norms have changed over the years. So much so that the Colorado courts found it necessary to revisit the standard, more traditional requirements of common law marriages in Colorado.
One of the most important is the requirement that a couple will need to be cohabitating in order to be considered common-law married. Although cohabitation used to be a requirement, many couples have chosen to live separately while still agreeing to live their lives as a married couple. For this reason, the courts no longer require this for your common law marriage to be recognized.
With that being said, cohabitation can certainly be used as evidence of your common law marriage. Some other factors, in addition to the ones described above, that will be taken into consideration when determining whether a couple was intending to enter into a common law marriage in Colorado include:
- Joint estate planning
- Being named as your partner’s emergency contact or beneficiaries
- Being recognized in your community as a married couple
- Referring to each other as your spouse
- Other symbols of your committed relationship, such as gifts, anniversaries, or other ceremonies
If you have concerns that your Colorado common law marriage is not being recognized, and you are unsure of where to turn for help, reach out to an experienced Colorado probate attorney at Colorado Estate Matters, Ltd. to get the answers and legal advice you are looking for.
Proving Colorado Common Law Marriages Exist
Generally speaking, spouses may find it difficult to prove that a common law marriage exists. This is, in part, because of the fact that there is no legal requirement that the agreement to be married needs to be in writing. In fact, most couples who agree to enter into common law marriages do not have their common law marriage agreement in writing. Although doing so could certainly save you time, energy, and money down the line if your common law marriage comes to an end.
For this reason, when you need to prove that your common law marriage exists, you can expect the judge in your case to carefully scrutinize the details of the claims you have made. You will need to be prepared to provide compelling evidence to show that your relationship is not merely a relationship but instead a common law marriage under Colorado law.
You might think that the evidence is obvious, but under the law, it also needs to be clear. With that being said, some evidence that you might be able to present that could convince the court that your common law marriage exists and should be recognized include:
- You have joint bank accounts and/or assets.
- You have signed some type of legal document recognizing your partner as your spouse in order to obtain certain benefits, whether that be health insurance through your employer or something minor such as a free ticket to a show.
- You celebrate a specific moment as your wedding anniversary.
- Cards or notes that refer to each other as spouses.
However, if your partner’s family makes claims that they never intended to be common law married to you, that you never portrayed yourselves as being married to your friends, family, or to each other other, if you filed separate tax returns or filed estate plans that did not explicitly refer to your partner as your spouse, these claims could be called into question.
If you suspect that your partner’s family is going to attempt to refute the fact that a common law marriage exists, it is important that you get an experienced legal advocate on your side. Doing may be one of the only ways that you can protect yourself and your future.
How to Avoid a Common Law Marriage Claim in Colorado
There are many different reasons why you might have a common law marriage claim brought against you in Colorado. If you want to take steps to avoid having such a claim brought against you, it is critical that you do not represent yourself as being married to your partner.
If you never intend to be married to your partner and hope to avoid the hassles that come with common law marriage contests in Colorado, make sure to avoid the following:
- Never file a joint tax return
- Never refer to your partner as your spouse, husband, wife, or other lingo that might otherwise insinuate that you are married
- Do not take on a shared family name
- Never sign an affidavit of common law marriage
- Do not change your relationship status on Facebook or other social media platforms to “married”
- Never use joint bank accounts
- Never have any type of ceremony or celebration that resembles a wedding
Your very best effort to avoid a common law marriage would be to execute a cohabitation agreement which explicitly states that you do NOT intend to be married under the common law.
Common Law Marriage for Same Sex Couples in Colorado
In the past, the state of Colorado prohibited any type of same-sex marriage. This included same-sex common law marriages. However, since the U.S. Supreme Court determined that same-sex couples are entitled to the same rights and protections as heterosexual couples, same-sex couples do have the right to enter into traditional marriages and common law marriages in the state of Colorado.
For couples who were acting and living as a married couple in a common law marriage prior to the U.S. Supreme Court decision back in 2015, your relationship will be recognized as a common law marriage under Colorado law. For this reason, it is important that you and your partner discuss in detail what the status of your relationship is, whether you are in a dating relationship or a marital one, and work on anticipating the potential legal consequences of entering into a common law marriage in Colorado.
If your same-sex relationship is one that is marital in nature, then you can reasonably expect that your relationship would be recognized as a common law marriage under Colorado law. But if one or both partners does not agree to live as a married couple, then a common law marriage does not exist. This could have a considerable impact on whether you are able to secure the property and assets that are rightfully yours when your partner dies, and whether you’re entitled to inherit from them.
The Legal Impact of Colorado Common Law Marriages
There are many people who think that common law marriages are much different than traditional marriages. But this is not the case. Since the state of Colorado recognizes common law marriages, a common law husband or wife is no different than a traditional husband or wife. Spouses of any type, no matter how the marriage came to be, are entitled to the same types of responsibilities and privileges that come with marriage.
Get Help From a Colorado Common-Law Marriage Attorney
Whether you are the surviving spouse fighting your partner’s family, or the partner’s family facing off against an alleged spouse, the experienced Colorado probate lawyers at J R Phillips & Associates, PC are here to advocate for your rights.
When you are ready to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation, give our office a call at (303) 741-2400 or fill out our online contact form.
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Discuss your legal needs with an experienced and compassionate lawyer. Your initial estate planning consultation is free, and you are under no obligation to hire us after your consultation.
Call us at (303) 741-2400
7700 E. Arapahoe Road
Centennial, CO 80112