3 myths about common-law marriage you probably still believe

Common-law marriage is an arrangement in which you and your chosen spouse agree that you want to be married but does not involve a formal ceremony. Your reasons for choosing a common-law marriage may vary. Perhaps you do not want to incur financial hardship through an expensive ceremony or you reject the involvement of a religious organization.

Common-law marriage is a term that many people know but a concept that few understand. It dates back centuries, and during that time, a number of myths have grown up around it. Here are a few of the most common erroneous beliefs debunked.

1. Common-law marriage happens automatically after years of cohabitation

You may have heard that once you cohabitate with someone for a certain number of years (most people say seven or 10), common-law marriage is automatic, but this is not true. While common-law marriage is informal, you do need to come to an agreement with your chosen spouse and meet certain requirements.

One of the requirements is cohabitation, but it is not the only one. More importantly, you have to present yourselves to others as a married couple when in public. You also have to meet general eligibility requirements for marriage, e.g., be over the age of 18 or have the consent of a parent and/or judge if still a minor.

2. Common-law marriage is legal in all states

According to LoveToKnow, there are only a handful of states, including Colorado, that allow common-law marriage. Most states outlawed it in the 1800s. While weddings can be either religious or secular, most states require that some sort of ceremony take place in the presence of witnesses for the marriage to be valid. However, the law requires that all states recognize the validity of a common-law marriage that took place in a state where it is legal.

3. You can bring a common-law marriage to an end by mutual agreement

While a common-law marriage can begin with an informal agreement, dissolving it requires a more traditional legal process. You and your spouse require a statutory divorce to end your common-law marriage under Colorado law.

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