Colorado is one of the few states in the nation that recognizes common law marriage. That means that no official documentation is needed to determine that a marriage exists between two people. Rather, a set of particular circumstances deems a marriage to exist.
While you may think that a marriage that begins with no ceremony or documentation can end in a similar fashion, that is not the case. Common law marriage in Colorado requires a common law divorce in Colorado. It may even require the help of a common law divorce attorney.
So what determines a common law marriage that requires a divorce?
Common Law Marriage in Colorado
Whether a common law marriage in Colorado exists is established by several factors:
- If the couple is free to marry (meaning they are not otherwise married)
- If the couple tells people and acts as though they are married
- If both parties consent to the marriage and are of legal age
- If the couple lives together
- If the couple is known throughout the community as being married
- Other factors that indicate marriage, such as joint bank accounts or filing taxes as married
There is no length of time that establishes a common law marriage in Colorado. It is simply established once those elements are satisfied. If you work with a common law divorce attorney, she will review all factors to determine if a common law marriage does actually exists.
No official verification of common law marriage is required in the state. If needed for insurance or other purposes, a notarized affidavit of marriage can be filed with the state.
Once established, a common law marriage can end only by death or divorce.
Getting a Divorce in Colorado
Getting a divorce in Colorado is the same whether you are married by common law or by statutory law. To file for common law divorce in Colorado, you or your spouse must live in the state for at least 91 days. If you have children, they must live in the state at least six months before you file for divorce, or since birth if they are younger than six months old.
To start the process of common law divorce, you must fill out and submit the required divorce paperwork. This can include a petition, summons, sworn financial statement, parenting plan, separation agreement, support order and notice to set hearing. The forms you submit differ depending on whether you have children. Along with the forms, you must also submit any required court fees.
Once the divorce petition is filed in Colorado and served on the other party, a judge issues an automatic temporary injunction. This prevents your spouse from certain activities, such as disposing of property or ending insurance coverage, without your consent.
The state has a mandatory 91-day waiting period before the court finalizes a divorce. The 91 days begin either when the papers are filed with the court or when the petition is served on the other spouse. That doesn’t mean you will have a final judgment in 91 days. It may take longer if you have a more complicated case or the court is busy.
If you change your mind about ending your common law marriage in Colorado during the waiting period, you must tell the court and submit the appropriate paperwork. Otherwise, the divorce may still proceed.
You can do the divorce paperwork yourself, or work with a common law divorce attorney. If you are unsure of whether you have a common law marriage in the first place, you may want to at least consult with an attorney. Otherwise, the state offers plenty of self-help resources to walk you through the needed paperwork and filing process.
Is Colorado a Community Property State?
Since marriage can be established by common law, Colorado is not a community property state. That means that anything acquired during marriage is not automatically divided upon divorce.
Instead, property is divided equitably. The distribution of property is based on such factors as the value of the property, the contribution of each spouse to the property, the economic circumstance of each spouse during the divorce and changes in the value of any separate property.