Colorado is one of only 16 states where common law marriages are recognized, and in some of those states, only common law marriages created before specific dates are recognized. Some people wrongfully believe that merely living together for some time will constitute a common law marriage. However, there are requirements for a couple to be regarded as common law spouses. Depending on the state of residence, the couple must have been living together for a specified time, and they must both be legally allowed to be married.
The parties must act in the manner married couples will act and refer to each other as husband and wife. Once the union is regarded as a common law marriage, it will be the same as any legal traditional marriage for the purposes of the law. For a wife to take on the surname of her husband, she only needs to use his surname openly and consistently. However, banks and other business entities may require a legal document as proof of the name change. In a traditional marriage, a marriage certificate will suffice, but in a common law marriage, a court order will document the name change.
When a couple moves to another state where common law marriages are not recognized, their marriage should still be legal in that state. However, this is only true in unions of opposite sex partners, as common law marriages are currently not an option for same-sex couples. Because traditional marriages are recognized in all states, all common law marriages have the same legal status.
When common law spouses want to end their marriage, they must go through the same divorce procedures as a married couple. Couples who consider ending a common law marriage may benefit from legal guidance. An experienced Colorado family law attorney may assist with legal issues such as property division, child custody and parenting plans.
Source: FindLaw, "Common Law Marriages FAQ's: What states recognize common law marriages and what is involved?", Accessed on Feb. 6, 2015