Monday, October 17, 2011

Can I Be Accidentally Married?

Although we hear a lot of un-true estate planning rumors from clients, we seem to be encountering quite a few lately that deal with common law marriage.  Colorado recognizes common law marriage, but does not impose any particular time line for being considered married by common law.  Nor does Colorado have any kind of “automatic” common law marriage for couples living together.  Folks seem to think that just by living together for a particular amount of time (and the stories vary from six months to seven years), the state will legally consider the couple as husband and wife.  We want to set the record straight: you cannot be accidentally married, any more than you can be accidentally divorced.  Common law marriage is purposeful, and while not accomplished by filing for a marriage license, results from two people wanting to be married, holding themselves out to the community as married (by referring to each other as “husband” and “wife”) as well as creating a financial life together, such as filing “married” income tax returns.  But we also want to debunk one more fallacy - there is no common law divorce - those married by common law have to get a formal, court ordered decree of dissolution, just like a couple married by filing a marriage license. For more information, go to, click on the June 2007 Newsletter and go to the article entitled, “Look Before You Leap”. Another publication of interest might be the article entitled “Common Law Marriage”, as issued by the Office of Legislative Legal Services at If you want to clarify your cohabitation rights, call us at (303) 322-8943 or you can send an email through our website under the Contact Us tab.