What is a Common Law Marriage?
Despite attempts to abolish the institution of a common law marriage, Colorado is one of a few states in the U.S. that still recognizes a marriage that was established without a marriage license or a formal ceremony.
How Was the Concept of a Common Law Marriage First Established?
Common law marriages were established in the late 1800's when couples living in remote environments did have access to a judge or the opportunity to legalize their relationship. The concept of a common law marriage created a way for couples to legitimize what otherwise could have been viewed as a socially unacceptable relationship. While our social norms have evolved and our culture now readily accepts a couple's choice to create the type of relationship that works best for them, it seems that we have evolved past the need for common law marriage. But the institution of common law marriage still exists.
Do All States Recognize Common Law Marriage?
As of 2019, the only states that still recognize common law marriage are Colorado, the District of Columbia, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.
But some states that banned common law marriage, still recognize unions that were formed prior to the respective state's ban.
The states that recognize preexisting common law marriages include:
· Florida (if the marriage was before January 1, 1968).
· Georgia (if the marriage was before January 1, 1997).
· Idaho (if the marriage was before January 1, 1996).
· Indiana (if the marriage was before January 1, 1958).
· Ohio (if the marriage was before October 10, 1991).
What are the Requirements of a Common Law Marriage?
The requirements for a Colorado common law marriage state that the couple must:
1. The couple must live together
2. The marriage is established by mutual consent
3. The couple must present themselves to the public as a married couple:
- Couple has the same last name.
- The couple refers to each other in public as "husband," "wife," or "spouse."
- The couple has joint bank accounts / credit cards, files joint tax returns.
4. Both parties must have the capacity to marry:
- Both parties must be 18 years old
- Both parties must be of sound mind
- Both parties must not be married to someone else.
Do I Need to File for a Common Law Divorce?
If a couple has established a common law marriage, and one spous wants to terminate the marriage, he or she must file for a legal divorce just like those who established their marriage using more traditional methods. Those who are common law married cannot simply walk away from their spouses and marry again without filing for divorce. If an individual who was common law married subsequently tried to remarry without formally dissolving their common law marriage, the act would be bigamy, and render the second marriage invalid.
If you have questions about your common law marriage, you should consult with an experienced Colorado family law attorney. Elissa Bercovitz is a highly experienced Colorado divorce lawyer and has had considerable experience with common law marriages. Call Elissa Bercovitz to schedule a free consultation now: 303 813 1678