Couples in Denver who have been effectively married but have never gone through the legal process for statutory marriage often wonder what, if any, legal process they must complete in order to end their relationship. While the details of common law marriage requirements can be ambiguous, divorce laws remain clear. Whatever the circumstances of your relationship, hiring a qualified family law attorney is the simplest way to discover what your next steps should be.
Recent Changes to Common Law Marriage in Colorado
Traditionally, Colorado courts required three requisites to codify and recognize a union as marriage through common law marriage definitions:
- Mutual desire and assertion of marriage
- Evidence of both
In 2021, the Colorado Supreme Court heard several cases that led them to update the framework of common law marriage to better reflect cultural changes from the last few decades. In short, there is no longer any one particular consideration for determining common law marriages in the state. Instead, Denver couples have a wide range of options for demonstrating their intent to be married. These include, but are not limited to:
- Presenting themselves to their community as married
- Holding joint bank accounts
- Filing joint tax returns
- Sharing financial responsibility, such as for a house or car payment
- Mutually expressing their beliefs on the institution of marriage
- And any other behavior that can otherwise be interpreted as holding out to the public an intent to be a married couple
With the legal emphasis on intent in common law marriages, Colorado courts have worked to eliminate any circumstance in which a couple finds themselves “accidentally” married. Instead, only couples that desire to position themselves as married will be legally bound together.
Is a Common Law Marriage Different in Any Way?
Once a couple has been legally deemed or recognized as married, that couple is married. There are no different types of marriage, only different means through which to become married. As a result, a common law marriage enjoys all of the same rights and benefits as a statutory marriage and becomes a permanent relationship severed only through divorce or death.
How Do I End a Common Law Marriage Relationship?
If a couple is legally married but wishes to end their relationship, there are two options available: legal separation and divorce. In nearly all manners, filing for legal separation proceeds in the same way as a divorce, requiring the same amount of effort, money, and time as filing for divorce. However, only a divorce legally ends the union. As such, where a divorce is a permanent legal decision, a legal separation can be reversed. Depending on your situation, there are benefits and considerations to both options.
- Legal separation
Filing for a legal separation provides a somewhat different legal outcome for a couple. While all assets and personal property will be divided upon legal separation, the couple will remain legally married, continuing to entitle them to healthcare and retirement benefits, tax breaks, and other legal privileges given to married couples.Legal separation is often used as a transition toward divorce, but it offers other couples an opportunity to decide what they really want or to otherwise continue enjoying the legal benefits of marriage.
Aside from death, divorce is the only means to completely dissolve a marriage. Assets and property will be divided among the couple during the proceedings. Once the divorce is finalized, the couple will no longer be able to claim marriage benefits.This process is necessary, even for common law marriages, before an individual can remarry or enter into a new common law marriage.
Do I Need a Denver Family Law Attorney?
Divorce proceedings can often be complicated matters. Couples who were common law married can experience further complications when filing for legal separation or divorce. Though a lawyer is not legally required, it is strongly recommended to seek help from a qualified and experienced Denver family law attorney, such as those at Woody Law Firm, LLC.
Your attorney can offer you invaluable education, experience, and support throughout the marriage dissolution process. A skilled attorney will be able to properly ensure all documents are completed correctly and in a timely manner and can walk you through any questions or considerations you may have. For comprehensive support in filing for separation or divorce, reach out to your Denver family law attorney.
Q: Do I Need to Divorce From a Common Law Marriage in Colorado?
A: In order to dissolve or end a common law marriage in Colorado, you must file for divorce. Although the requirements for a common law marriage are different than for a statutory marriage, Colorado courts recognize and treat the two exactly the same. This means that once a common law marriage is recognized, it falls under the same requirements for divorce as a marriage entered into by traditional means.
Q: What Are the Requirements for Common Law Marriage in Colorado?
A: Traditionally, there were three requirements necessary for Colorado courts to recognize a common law marriage – cohabitation, a mutual agreement to be married, and evidence that demonstrates both points. However, recent court cases have changed the common law marriage framework. Presently, a court will recognize a common law marriage provided sufficient evidence of an intent to be married can be presented. Traditional considerations, such as cohabitation and holding out as married to friends and family, can work to demonstrate intent.
Q: How Long Do You Have to Live Together to Be Common Law Married in Colorado?
A: Colorado law has no time requirements for common law marriage. In fact, a couple could cohabitate for years without being married or could live together for one day and be recognized as legally married. The relevant considerations revolve around an intent to be married. Cohabitation is one of those considerations but does not alone demonstrate sufficient evidence of marriage. Instead, a couple must present themselves as married to their community, employers, and government documents, such as taxes.
Q: Is Legal Separation Required Before Divorce in Colorado?
A: Legal separation is not a requirement for filing for divorce in Colorado. It is possible for a couple to begin the filing process while continuing to cohabitate. However, while it may not be a legal requirement, separation is recommended in many cases, especially if tensions are rising in the home. It is advised that couples do all they can to reduce stressful situations and minimize conflict during a divorce, whether that is done through separation or not.
If you and your spouse or significant other are considering a divorce, reach out to our office today. The team at Woody Law Firm, LLC can make sure each of your questions regarding your marriage are answered and resolved, even if your relationship was established through common law marriage. Contact us today.