You may be a party to a common law marriage.
A dispute over the existence of a common law marriage usually only arises at the end of a relationship. At that time, it is going to be up to the court to determine whether such a marriage existed. No Colorado law enumerates the requirements of a common law marriage, C.R.S. 14-2-104(3), enumerates the requirements for a Colorado marriage and states: “Nothing in this section shall be deemed to repeal or render invalid any otherwise valid common law marriage between one man and one woman.”
Thus, the courts will look to case law to determine the requirements for a common law marriage. Case law states that “A common law marriage is established by the mutual consent or agreement of the parties to be husband and wife, followed by a mutual and open assumption of a marital relationship.” People v. Lucero, 747 P.2d 660 (Colo. 1987). This means the couple must:
- Mutually agree to be married, and
- Openly hold themselves out to the public as married.
Each of these criteria can be demonstrated a number of different ways. A couple does not need to live together for a particular period of time, but the duration of the common law marriage can only be as long as the duration of the parties’ cohabitation. A couple does not need to put their agreement to be married in writing. Further, openly holding each other out as married can vary from telling family friends you are spouses to filing joint taxes. As you can see, this means that all aspects of a common law marriage can be grounds for extensive litigation.
The diverse forms of evidence for these criteria and the many ways that people can attempt to prove an agreement and holding themselves out as married, often require extensive hearings if the parties do not agree on the existence or duration of a common law marriage. At such a hearing judges often require rather extensive evidence and uniformity of that evidence. Thus, if you believe you are part of a contested common law marriage, Smith, Shellenberger, and Salazar, LLC can be your advocate in navigating the difficult evidentiary and proof issues involved in a contested common law marriage.