Denver Divorce Lawyer News & Blog

Do I Still Have Rights if We Didn’t Get a Marriage License?


For various reasons, couples sometimes don’t obtain a marriage license. Perhaps they don’t want to involve the state in their relationship, or they choose to have a religious marriage but not a civil one.

Regardless of the reasons for never getting a license, these couples can end their relationships just like married people. And when they do split, one or both partners begin to wonder if they have the same rights and protections as those who actually went through with the legal formalities.

The answer is “maybe.” Colorado is one of a handful of states that recognizes common law marriage, which will effectively make the couple married.

The Requirements for Common Law Marriage

Common law marriage hails from the days when people on frontier country wanted to get married but there often wasn’t a justice of the peace anywhere around. Instead of going to find one, a couple could just move in together and start calling themselves husband and wife.

Colorado still recognizes common law marriages, though there are plenty of justices of the peace around. To qualify, your relationship must meet the following requirements:

  • Both spouses must be 18 or older
  • Both must have consented to marriage
  • The couple must live together as a married couple
  • The couple must hold itself out to the public as married

As you can see, there is no requirement that a couple live together for a certain amount of time. Also, living together for decades does not create a common law marriage.

One key element is whether the couple held themselves out as married. This can include identifying each other as husband and wife, owning property jointly, using the same last name, listing each other on their retirement or life insurance plans, and even filing joint income tax returns. However, if one person says, “We’re getting married eventually,” then they are not married.

Rights During a Divorce

Common law marriage might exist, but common law divorce does not. Instead, a couple will need a judge to grant a divorce decree.

The divorce will proceed just as the divorce of a couple who obtained a marriage certificate would. However, at the outset, the judge will need to first determine if a common law marriage existed. If not, the couple does not need to be divorced.

If a judge finds the couple married, they must divide their marital property, which is generally the property they obtained while married, along with marital debts.

If the couple has children, the judge will need to assign the rights and responsibilities by approving a parenting plan. A judge will also award child support.

A spouse might also have a right to alimony, which is spousal support.

Contact Divorce Matters Today if You Have Questions About Divorce without Marriage License in Colorado

If your relationship is ending, you need to fully understand your rights. Splitting up is difficult financially for many people, especially women. Even if you never got a marriage license, you may still be entitled to spousal maintenance and child support. Call us today to discuss your specific situation.