Colorado is one of a few states that continues to recognize common law marriage. It is often misunderstood that a common law marriage can be established after a couple has cohabitated for certain period of time or simply by filing joint tax returns. The Colorado Supreme Court recently reconsidered the issue of common law marriage, stating that “the core inquiry is whether the parties intended to enter a marital relationship—that is, to share a life together as spouses in a committed, intimate relationship of mutual support and obligation.”[1]

If a common law marriage is disputed, the matter may proceed to a court hearing. The party wishing to prove a marriage will need to present evidence to prove “mutual consent or agreement of the couple to enter the legal and social institution of marriage, followed by conduct manifesting that mutual agreement.”[2]

Absent an express agreement to be married, the court will consider the couple’s conduct to determine whether the couple mutually agreed to be married. The two factors most often cited in establishing an intent to be married are cohabitation and a general reputation in the community that the couple was married.[3] Evidence of the parties’ intentions with respect to common law marriage may also be proven with joint tax returns, joint ownership of property, joint bank accounts, designation of the other party as a spouse on health insurance, medical or employment forms, designating the other party as a beneficiary on retirement and investment accounts, sharing of a family name or surname, evidence of a marriage “ceremony” or the exchange of rings.

Since every relationship is different, a court is required to consider the couple’s conduct “in context” and consider the totality of the circumstances.[4] If you have questions about common law marriage contact an experienced attorney.


[1] In re Marriage of Hogsett & Neale, 2021 CO 1, 3.

[2] In re Marriage of Hogsett & Neale, 2021 CO 1, 3.

[3] Whitenhill v. Kaiser Permanente, 940 P.2d 1129, 1132 (Colo. App. 1997); Smith v. People, 64 Colo. 290, 170 P. 959, 960 (1918); Taylor v. Taylor, 10 Colo. App. 303, 50 P. 1049 (1897); People v. Lucero, 747 P.2d 660 (Colo. 1987); Thimgan v. Mathews, 74 Colo. 93, 219 P. 211 (1923).

[4] In re Marriage of Hogsett & Neale, 2021 CO 1.


Nicole Hanson, esq

Nicole Hanson
Hanson Law Firm, LLC
44 Cook St., Ste. 100 | Denver, CO 80206
Ph: 303.459.2393

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