Common Law Marriage

Cohabitation: The risks of inadvertently becoming married in Colorado

Colorado is one of only nine states that recognizes common law marriage. In other words, just because you may not have a wedding ceremony where you said the words “I do,” you may still be considered married in the eyes of the law based on how you and your partner live. If there is a dispute about this, a judge will look to whether there was conduct that manifested a mutual agreement to live as spouses. “Appearing” married could have costly legal ramifications.

Often people assume that because a relationship has ended that there is no way they could still be considered common law married. This is false, just like a traditional marriage, a dissolution of marriage proceeding may actually be necessary if there is a dispute.

The Colorado Supreme Court in 2021 decided in In re Estate of Yudkin that whether a common law marriage exists depends on the totality of the circumstance and not on a single factor such as sharing a last name or finances. Nuances in people’s relationship will be taken into account for the analysis. In re Marriage of Hogsett & Neale refined the test for common law marriage with the following factors used to determine if the parties are indeed common law married: shared financial responsibility, leases in both parties names, joint bills, joint estate planning, powers of attorney, using each other as beneficiary and emergency contacts, symbols of commitment such as anniversaries or ceremonies, how a couple refers to one another as well as the parties sincerely held beliefs regarding marriage. These factors will be used when deciding if the parties are married or not.

These are some things to keep in mind if you do not actually want to be married in the state of Colorado.