Providing Sound Dissolutions For Common Law Marriage

At The Drexler Law Group, LLC, we have extensive experience in handling dissolutions of common law marriages in Colorado Springs and the nearby areas. We start by identifying whether a relationship should be considered a common law marriage and conclude with the division of marital asset, property and debt, as well as custody or parenting orders for any child born or adopted of the common law relationship. We also have experience in handling cases involving same-sex marriages, civil unions, and same-sex parenting or custody matters.

No matter what your marriage entails, we can guide you toward a dissolution that is fair and in your best interests.

What Is A Common Law Marriage?

Colorado recognizes common law marriages. Common law marriages are marriages created without a formal wedding ceremony but where a couple holds themselves out as being married. Technically speaking, the Supreme Court of Colorado has held 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."

In essence this means that a couple must

  1. cohabitate and
  2. conduct a marriage-like relationship.

Although common law marriage requires cohabitation (living together), Colorado does not specify a particular period of time that a couple must cohabitate. A common misconception is that Colorado requires a five- or seven-year period of cohabitation; that is simply not true.

Showing Evidence Of Marriage

In Colorado, both parties must hold themselves out as being married; so it is not enough if just one of the parties tells others that the couple is married. The marriage-like relationship involves more than just dating, having sexual relations, sleeping over at another's residence, cohabiting, having children together, financially supporting the other, or third parties simply assuming that a marriage between the couple exists.

In common law marriages, it is important to examine the general and uniform understanding among the neighbors, family members, and acquaintances with whom the parties associate in their daily lives that the parties actively and purposely hold themselves out as husband and wife with the mutual present intent that they are, in fact, husband and wife.

In one Colorado case, the court received evidence that the husband had obtained a ski pass through the wife's employer as a spousal benefit package. However, the court ruled that the ski pass, even together with the wife being covered under the husband's employer-provided health insurance plan, was not conclusive proof of a common law marriage.

Extensive case law in Colorado deals with how a couple may hold themselves out as being married. One case involved a couple signing as husband and wife on an affidavit for medical care or treatment. Other cases involved the couple filing joint taxes, where they claim marital deductions. In some cases, the parties have incurred joint debt when purchasing a vehicle and jointly applying for the loan.

Same-Sex Couples

Currently, Colorado law does not recognize a common law marriage between same-sex couples. Still, important matters of property division between a couple can be addressed in the context of civil legal proceedings such as a partition action in which the parties seek intervention by the court to divide a jointly titled asset.

For example, a same-sex couple may purchase a home together. A partition action may be filed to determine the relative legal interest each party has in the property. A court can also force the sale of the joint asset so as to remove one or both parties. However, a court cannot order a third-party creditor (i.e. the mortgage holder or loan servicer) to relieve a party from the contractual obligations of the mortgage or similar home loan and title documentation. Consult an experienced family law attorney or real estate attorney to determine the best course of action in dividing property between an unmarried same-sex couple.

Common Law Divorce?

Just because you may be common law married doesn't mean you can common law divorce!

The importance of a common law marriage is that the marriage can be created but it cannot be dissolved even if both parties agree to simply separate.

There is no such thing as a common law divorce. Imagine a scenario where you find yourself in a common law marriage, and then wish to separate for the same reasons any other married couple would separate. The catch is that you still need to follow the formal procedures for a dissolution of marriage or legal separation.

It's an odd concept to be sure: you need to formally dissolve an informal marriage. This fact has perplexed many litigants especially those who remarry. Potentially, and legally, the existence of a common law marriage that is not formally dissolved would render a subsequent marriage (formal or informal) void. This fact may have serious ramifications not only in a family law context but will also affect probate and estate matters. For instance, if your subsequent marriage is void, your second spouse may not be entitled to the inheritance of survivor benefits available to surviving spouses.

Learn More In A Free Consultation. Contact Us Today.

Contact The Drexler Law Group, LLC, to discuss whether your case involves a common law marriage, or whether we need to vigorously defend against the existence of a common law marriage allegation. Serious obligations can arise out of a common law marriage including the division of property, assets and debts, and a potential award of spousal maintenance or alimony.

Call 719-359-4623 or complete a contact form to schedule your consultation.