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Does Colorado recognize common law marriage?

It's becoming increasingly common for today's couples to live together for years before getting married. When a relationship ends several years in, it can be much like a divorce even if the parties were never legally married. Common law marriages have been around for over a hundred years, but whether or not they are recognized varies by state, and there are many misconceptions surrounding this practice.

The Supreme Court ruled back in 1877 that common law marriages were valid unless state law specifically prohibited it. While in recent decades, many states have done just that, common law marriages are still recognized as legally valid in the state of Colorado. Couples that are required to provide a proof of marriage for a common law marriage usually only need a signed affidavit.

Many people are under the assumption that a common law marriage means you must have been living with the other person for a certain number of years, but in Colorado, this isn't the case. Colorado's guidelines governing common law marriage only require that the couple must both be not already married and freely consenting to the marriage. However, there are several other points that are generally considered evidence of consent, including living together, calling each other husband and wife and presenting themselves to the community as a married couple.

Because Colorado legally recognizes these marriages, the divorce process is often much the same as with those traditionally married. Asset division and spousal support may still come into play, but to fully understand how the laws apply, it's best to talk to a family law attorney who can explain what to expect.

Source: Colorado Department of Law, "Common Legal Questions," accessed April. 06, 2015

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