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Common-Law Marriage

When a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship becomes more serious, it can sometimes feel like a marriage. People begin referring to each other as husband and wife even  though they never have a formal wedding ceremony or even obtain a marriage license.

 It is very dangerous to loosely refer to your girlfriend as your "wife” or allow her to loosely refer to you as her "husband”.  The terms “husband” and “wife” are more than just words. They carry very real legal consequences.

When the relationship ends, it's more than just a breakup. You could find yourself being deprived of your property and being forced to pay maintenance (also known as alimony) despite never having a formal marriage.

Colorado is one of only 13 states (including the District of Columbia) which recognize common law marriages.

Denver Common-Law Marriage Divorce Lawyer

If you are in a common-law marriage or believe you might be in a common-law marriage that is headed for break-up, you should be prepared for the aftermath and well-represented by a skilled Colorado divorce lawyer.  Sharon Liko represents men who are ending common-law marriages and helps them end it by keeping as much of their property and income as possible.

If your marriage is deemed to be by common law, the laws of the state of Colorado consider your marriage legal. As a result you have the same rights and obligations as if you obtained a marriage license and were formally married in a ceremony.  Thus, if you divorce, the same divorce laws apply to common law marriages as they do to formalized marriages.

The issue that usually arises is that one party believes they are common law married, and the other believes they are not married. You may not have intended to enter a legally-binding relationship, and may not have.  It depends on the facts of your specific situation.

 If the facts of your case do not support a common law marriage, Sharon Liko can challenge the marriage. If the marriage is valid, she can  help you protect your property and limit your financial exposure. Call Sharon D. Liko, P.C. today at (303) 534-4888 to set up a consultation.

Sharon Liko represents clients throughout Colorado, including Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas and Jefferson counties. She is based in Denver, and is also licensed to practice in Texas.


Colorado Common-Law Marriage Information Center


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Determining Whether a Common-Law Marriage Exists

A common-law marriage often develops over time. However, the legal determination of whether a common -law marriage exists will often not occur until the relationship is over, and  someone files for divorce.
Once a divorce has been filed, if the other party disputes that the parties are actually married, the court will have to determine whether a common law marriage exists before it can enter orders regarding anything else such as maintenance and property division.

Since there is no statutory definition of common law marriage, the court must consider a series of subjective factors in determining whether or not a marriage exists.

In the analysis of the subjective factors presented by the parties at a hearing, the court must determine whether or not “the parties held themselves out as a married couple.”   

The court will look at a number of factors, including:

  • Whether the wife uses the husband's last name;
  • Whether she introduces him as her husband;
  • Whether he introduces her as his wife;
  • If friends and family believe them to be married;
  • If one or both designates the other as a spousal beneficiaries for the purpose of health, or life insurance;
  • If one or both designates the other as a surviving spouse for the purpose of a pension or retirement benefits;
  • If one or both designates the other as their spouse in a will,  trust, or estate plan;
  • If one or both designates the other  as their spouse on  financial applications  or for informational purposes
  • If they are designated as spouses for the purpose of auto insurance;
  • If they file joint tax returns;
  • If they have joint bank accounts;
  • If they have joint credit cards;
  • If they are living together; 
  • Titles to property such as If they own a home together; and
  • If they are living together

A common misconception is that the length of time the parties cohabitate determines if they are common law married.  In the state of Colorado, parties can live together for 100 years and still not be common law married.  The issue is the intent of the parties.  Did they intend to present themselves as a married couple to the world at large?


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Divorce in a Common-Law Marriage in Colorado

If the court determines that a common-law marriage exists, the divorce process is the same as if   you were formally married.  The issues in the divorce can include maintenance, division of property, division of debts, and allocation of parental responsibilities, child support, and attorney’s fees.

The court can only divide assets in the marital estate.The marital estate includes property which was acquired during the marriage regardless of title. Since the date of a common law marriage is often nebulous and difficult to determine, it can be a highly litigated issue since it can mean the difference between separate property and marital property.

Colorado is an equitable division state.  Equitable does not necessarily mean equal.It means fair. The court must consider  several factors in dividing property including  each spouse's contributions to the property, including contributions as a homemaker and the economic circumstances of each spouse.

The higher earning spouse may be required to pay maintenance (formerly called alimony).  Although Colorado has a maintenance statute, the statute serves as a “guideline” rather than a requirement that judges must follow. Keeping in mind the suggested maintenance amount determined by the guidelines, judges also  consider other factors such as   the payee spouse’s potential income and employability, both parties&rsquo ; ages, amount of education, and  the economic circumstances of  the payee spouse.


Sharon D. Liko, P.C. Representing Men in Divorces from Alleged Common-Law Marriages

If your ex-girlfriend is claiming you were in a common-law marriage with her and seeking your property and/or maintenance payments, it's important that you have an experienced Colorado divorce lawyer representing you. You could stand to lose significant amounts of your estate and be saddled with maintenance payments for a long time.

Sharon D. Liko, P.C. proudly represents men throughout the state of Colorado, including Douglas County, Arapahoe County, Jefferson County and the communities of Littleton, Englewood, Centennial, Castle Rock, Cherry Hills, Cherry Hills Village, Greenwood Village, Lakewood, Golden and Arvada. Contact Sharon D. Liko, P.C. at (303) 534-4888 to schedule a confidential attorney consultation.


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