Here at the Family Law Group, we field lots of questions about common law marriages. A surprising number of people don’t know if they have a common law marriage or not. For example, a couple identifying themselves as boyfriend/girlfriend and living together for a solid 20 years may think they have a common law marriage in Colorado–and they’d likely be mistaken. On the other hand, a couple who considers themselves married and intends to actually marry might very well have a common law marriage despite the shortness of the relationship.
While we can’t tell you every factor the courts consider when determining if you’re in a common law marriage, here are some common ones:
- Whether the couple refer to themselves as married to third parties,
- Filing joint federal or state tax returns,
- Listing the other party as a spouse on insurance forms or retirement plans,
- Joint finances, such as bank accounts, or owning property, and
- The woman taking the man’s surname.
Now, it’s vital to understand that no one single factor is paramount, but just claiming the other party as a “spouse” simply to gain a private economic advantage (health insurance, joint gym membership, etc) is not usually grounds to establish a common law marriage in Colorado, and in fact may be potentially fraudulent. Indeed, a Colorado common law marriage is not simply living together or a casual relationship – it means the couple tells everyone they are married. Filing joint tax returns is usually considered to be the most important of these factors, since it means the couple is representing themselves to the government, under penalty of perjury, as being married. If you actually are in a common law marriage, it’s good to know that spouses in a Colorado common law marriage enjoy all of the benefits of being married, in Colorado and in other states, and even in the eyes of the federal government (including the military). However, to prevent fraud, some institutions require proof of the common law marriage, which can be showing joint tax returns, or filling out an affidavit swearing that a couple is married. For reference, here is a sample Affidavit of Common Law Marriage. We can help you understand how your possible common law marriage could affect whether or not you need a divorce, estate documents and probate, and other issues where the legal status of your relationship affects what you are trying to do. * This is not considered legal advice, and the legal system constantly changes. If you want current and accurate legal advice, please contact our office and arrange to speak with an attorney. 719-687-2328