Common Law Marriage in Colorado Springs Divorce and Family Law
There are both formal and informal marriages in Colorado. Formal marriages are documented with the state, and informal marriages are not. However, there are criteria to establish an informal marriage and co-habitation alone is not a sufficient basis to establish such a marriage. Whether a common law marriages exists is relevant for a number of reasons: inheritance rights, testimony privileges and benefits eligibility, among others.
Common law marriages have been recognized in Colorado since the 1800s. Not all states recognize common law marriage, though Colorado does. In the states that do recognize common law marriage, the criteria to establish the marriage differs. In some states, marriage is determined only by cohabitation for a particular length of time.
In Colorado marriage is a civil contract requiring the consent of the parties as well as cohabitation as husband and wife. For practical purposes, a couple has to hold themselves out to others as being married in order for a common law marriage to exist.
Courts consider a totality of the circumstances in cases where Parties disagree about whether they are in a common law marriage. Some aspects that a Court may examine if there is a disagreement are:
- agreement to be married
- communications to third parties regarding a marriage
- leases in both partners’ names
- joint bills
- joint estate planning
- ceremonies, anniversaries, cards or gifts
- joint property ownership
- joint income tax filing
Marriage ends in divorce or death. A spouse has a statutory right to a share of an inheritance. For example, if the other spouse dies without a living child or parent, the surviving spouse receives the entire estate if there is no will. If the decedent had a will, the surviving spouse can assert a right to an “elective share”. The surviving spouse’s elective share increases with the marriage length.Spousal Court Privileges
Spouses have certain evidentiary privileges in court that protect their rights with respect to testifying about or against each other in court. Married couples have:
- a marital communications privilege that prevents the requirement to testify during or after the marriage about confidential marital communications without the consent of the other spouse; and
- a testimonial privilege, in effect during the marriage that prevents testimony about a spouse without the consent of the other spouse.
There may be protections for insurance coverage, benefits entitlement, and various other issues. For example, a person claiming Social Security or widows’ benefits must prove that they are common law married if not in a formal marriage.Turning Change Into Opportunity in Colorado Springs
How can an attorney help with common law marriage? A Colorado Springs divorce and family law attorney can guide you through Colorado Springs common law marriage issues and help you assess whether your relationship meets the criteria for common law marriage. This allows you to focus on moving forward to a better future rather than on spending your time trying to figure out the overly complex court system. Contact us at 719-344-5523 or complete our online form to set up a free thirty-minute informational consultation.