Colorado has long recognized the existence of common law marriage. Allegedly it started back in the territorial days when access to ministers and judicial officers was not readily available. Some people believe that common law marriage is mere cohabitation or living together. In today’s world that is a fairly frequent occurrence but does not in and of itself give rise to a valid common law marriage. Consistently, the courts have held that to have a valid common law marriage there must be the intent to be married by both parties. The courts recognize that that intent can be shown either by words or by conduct. Conduct that could be considered includes the maintenance of joint banking and credit accounts, purchase of property in joint ownership, use of the man’s surname by the woman, use of the man’s surname by children born to the parties, and the filing of joint tax returns, among others. The final requirement is that the parties hold themselves out as husband and wife and that their families, friends, and others who know them understand that they are married.
Creating of a valid common law marriage results in the existence of a valid marriage under Colorado law and hence is valid throughout the nation. A problem arises because while Colorado recognizes common law marriage it does not recognize common law divorce. Once a valid common law marriage has been established then it may only be terminated by the death of one of the parties or by divorce through a court.