As a successful, professional man, you may have decided long ago that modern marriage wouldn’t suit your legal or financial security. Perhaps you have a previous failed marriage, or maybe you just worry about protecting your income and independence.

Quite a few people no longer consider marriage the ideal for relationships and choose to enter long-term relationships involving cohabitation or even have children without the state formalizing the relationship through marriage. Given how common this scenario has become, you might feel surprised to learn that in some cases, the couple is in a more legally complex situation than one or both partners realize.

What you may not know is that your romantic companion may have a claim to common law marriage under Colorado’s statutes. If your partner chooses to claim a common-law marriage, you may find yourself facing the stresses of divorce despite never having had a wedding.

What is a common-law marriage?

Currently, only nine states still recognize the concept of common-law marriage as legally binding, and Colorado happens to be one of them. These laws extend the protections of marriage to those in long-term relationships, even if the couple never gets a marriage license or says any vows.

Under common-law marriage laws, the state government chooses to recognize committed relationships where the individuals act like spouses and present themselves as a married couple to the community. Despite having never gotten married, the couple may have to go through an actual divorce in order to end their relationship.

Could your ex claim that you had a common-law marriage?

Ending a long-term relationship is difficult, but a common-law marriage could make it an infinitely more complex process. If your former partner claims you entered into a common-law marriage, you may have to prove that is not the case, which can be difficult, depending on your circumstances.

Still being legally married to someone else is probably the simplest way to deny a common-law marriage claim, as Colorado doesn’t recognize common-law unions among those who cannot legally get married.

Beyond that, common law marriage consists of living together, presenting yourself as married to the community or having a reputation as a married couple. If your ex can produce multiple people who thought you were husband and wife, messages where you refer to her as your wife or even tax returns filed as a married couple, you may find yourself facing divorce despite having never gotten married.