Is divorce necessary to end a common-law marriage?

On Behalf of | Apr 3, 2024 | Divorce |

Many marriages begin with intensive planning, as spouses host weddings. Weddings can be very involved depending on someone’s religion and culture, and many people eagerly look forward to their wedding days. Others may have a small ceremony in front of a judge instead of a wedding.

However, not all married couples in Colorado make a public pronouncement of their commitment to one another at a special ceremony. Some couples simply begin acting as though they have married and cohabitating. Those who hold each other out to the community as spouses, share finances and live together may have established a common-law marriage.

While most states in the country no longer recognize common-law marriage, Colorado does. Is it necessary to file for divorce to end a common-law marriage, or can someone simply move out of the home where they lived with their partner?

Common law marriage is effectively the same as formal marriage

Colorado does not differentiate between legally officiated marriages and common-law marriages. People in common-law marriages can file joint tax returns. They share income and resources with one another. In theory, common-law marriage protects those in committed relationships from certain kinds of devastation if something unexpected happens and extends to them many of the benefits that come with traditional marriage. People may then find themselves in a scenario where they need to go to court and may be unsure of how to handle that process.

Divorce is technically necessary to end a common-law marriage in Colorado. The spouses can potentially cooperate with each other for an uncontested filing in which they notify the state of their intent to live separately and provide an outline of the arrangements they established. Spouses have the authority to divide their property, reach their own support agreements and share parental responsibilities with one another.

If the spouses cannot reach an agreement or if one does not wish to acknowledge the relationship as a common-law marriage, then litigation may ensue. The family courts can help resolve disagreements between spouses, including whether or not common-law rules even apply. Judges can also order the division of property and can establish orders outlining parental rights and responsibilities.

Those who understand what is necessary to end a common-law marriage may have an easier time preparing for divorce. Learning about Colorado’s unique divorce and marriage statutes may benefit those who are ready to change an unfulfilling relationship.