The definition of common-law marriage in Colorado was expanded on Monday by Colorado Supreme Court rulings in three cases dealing with how couples who are not formally married divide assets when one person dies or leaves the relationship.
While legal protections for couples and their children have increased significantly in the decades since the Colorado Supreme Court last ruled on common-law marriages, Monday’s rulings open the door for those who may not appear married in the traditional sense to prove their status in other ways.
Unlike formal marriage, common-law marriages don’t require a witness and are not recorded by the state. Monday’s rulings broadened the indicators used in court to decide whether or not a couple is or was in a common-law marriage, with one of the most important determinants being whether both people agree that they are or were in a common-law marriage.
“The key question is whether the parties mutually intended to enter a marital relationship — that is, to share a life together as spouses in a committed, intimate relationship of mutual support and mutual obligation,” Justice Monica Márquez wrote in a case that found a couple was not technically married because one of the supposed spouses did not believe in the idea of marriage.