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Colorado Legal Group

Denver Common Law Marriage and Divorce

Because of difficulties in the distant past of locating a qualified marriage officiant, common law marriages occurred quite frequently.

Most people are familiar with old western movies where common law marriages were a feature.

Even today, some people in Denver prefer this form of marriage. The state of Colorado is one of nine remaining states that recognize it as a legally binding marriage.

This means that it is subject to the same laws that govern marriage and divorce in Denver.

Because of this, it is best to hire a lawyer who is experienced in these matters if you run into problems.

What is a common law marriage in Denver?

A traditional marriage has a ceremony, usually involving a religious figure like a pastor or priest, who “solemnizes” the marriage.

The officiant will file for a marriage license at the appropriate county office of the clerk and recorder.

In Colorado, a marriage may be solemnized by:

  • A judge of a court
  • A court magistrate
  • A retired judge of the court
  • A public official whose powers include solemnization of marriages
  • Indian tribe officials
  • A member of the clergy
  • A third party witness
  • The parties to the marriage

A common law marriage, unlike a traditional marriage, does not require any ceremony or solemnization. No matter if you enter into a common law marriage or a “traditional” marriage–you are legally married.

Common law marriage was effectively “exported” to the U.S. from the UK.  In 1877, the Supreme Court ruled that a non-ceremonial marriage was a valid and enforceable marriage under U.S. law unless it was forbidden by the laws of the individual state.

While some people may regard common law marriage as less legitimate than a traditional marriage, the law views it as exactly the same. Spouses enjoy the same rights and benefits, and their obligations are the same too.

From a social security and tax point of view, for instance, the rights of a common law couple are exactly the same as those who had a ceremonial marriage.

Note that if you have a common law marriage in Denver and subsequently relocate to another state where it is not recognized, your marriage will remain valid in the eyes of the law.

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Colorado Divorce Attorneys

What are the requirements for a common law marriage?

The requirements of a common law marriage in Denver are laid out by Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment.

It states that:

“Official verification of a common-law marriage isn't available. To record a marriage, the parties in a common-law marriage may complete and sign an affidavit of marriage in front of a notary. This form may be filed with a Colorado county clerk and recorder’s office. “

Note that this information from Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment states that a party may record a marriage or may sign an affidavit---it is not required.

In a common law marriage in Denver, the following is required:

(1) The marriage must be consensual and voluntary
(2) Both spouses must be at least 18 years old
(3) Both parties must be free to enter marriage (not married to someone else)
(4) They must hold themselves out as married

Note that changes to the law in 2014 permit common law marriage between same-sex couples.
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Need Help With a Common Law Marriage/Divorce?

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How to divorce from a common law marriage?

When a marriage breaks down, whether that marriage is common law or traditional, a Dissolution proceeding must be filed in the Court. A divorce agreement allows for the details of the separation to be decided.

This means that the following matters must be determined either through an agreement of the parties or order of the court:

  • Division of property/assets
  • Child custody and visitation rights (if applicable)
  • Child support (if applicable)
  • Spousal support (if applicable)

This is set out in Colorado’s Dissolution of Marriage Act

Because of the often-complex and emotional nature of marriage breakdowns, it is important to involve an experienced common law divorce attorney in Denver from the start.

Where a marriage has been lengthy, considerable assets may have been accumulated and the family may be large. 

In some cases of divorce in a common law marriage, one party claims that there was a marriage and the other party denies it.

If there was no marriage, there can be no divorce.

A 1987 Appellate Court decision stated that marriage exists if:

  • The parties agreed to be married
  • They cohabited as spouses
  • They held themselves out to the community as being married

This can become very confusing for the couple, as well as for friends and family who either wrongly assume a couple is married or have no knowledge of it.

A common law marriage lawyer becomes essential in such cases.

Your lawyer will help you either prove or disprove the existence of marriage by determining:

  • Who can vouch for your marriage?
  • Can your employer show that you were married?
  • Did you have joint bank accounts?
  • Did you live together?
  • Did you file tax returns together, as required by U.S. tax law if you are married?
  • Did the parties use the same last name or a combination of their last names?
  • Did you live in property together and have your name on any leases as husband and wife?
  • Were spousal beneficiaries named on insurance/retirement documents?
  • Were you registered as married with any clubs/associations, etc.?

None of these factors definitively proves or disproves the existence of marriage but each one is significant.

If there is no certified affidavit to confirm the existence of the marriage, proving it can be challenging. With no certificate of marriage, it can be largely undocumented. This is why it is vital to have an attorney help you.

How can our Denver Common Law Lawyers help?

Your Denver common law marriage lawyer will help you navigate the complexities of both marriage and divorce.

With the latter, when emotions are running high, your lawyer will remove much of the stress by working towards a settlement in your favor.

Your lawyer will also help you file your petition for dissolution of marriage and deal with the legal proceedings at court.

We will look out for your best interests when dividing assets and arranging custody and support.

Need help with a common law marriage or divorce in Denver??

Call Colorado Legal Group at 720.594.7360 or get started with a free case evaluation. Get Started 

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