February 25, 2018

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Colorado Wrongful Death and the Common Law Spouse

Colorado is one of the few states that still embraces common-law marriage. Forming a common-law marriage, in Colorado, is very simple. You both agree that you are married and you hold yourself out publicly as married. Proving common law marriage, on the other hand, can be very difficult. And when it comes to wrongful death claims, you may find that the very people who would be the best witnesses on your behalf are the ones who are claiming that you weren’t married. Why? Because the spouse gets top priority and has the opportunity to be the sole beneficiary in a Colorado wrongful death suit.

Colorado Common Law Marriage is Simple

There are only two components necessary to form a common-law marriage, in Colorado. The verbal contract between you and your spouse and representing yourself publicly as being married.

It doesn’t matter how long you have lived together. You might need to read that line a few times and let it sink in. For some reason, most people are convinced that if you live together for a certain amount of time, you are automatically common-law married. The myth varies. Six months, three years, seven years, 10 years, etc. The reality is, you can live together for 100 years and still not have a common-law marriage. Nor do you have to be together for a certain amount of time for your common-law marriage to take effect.

Proving it is Complicated

How do you prove that you had a verbal contract with someone who is no longer here to back up your story? First, by reputation. If you two were acting like married people, introducing each other as “my husband” or “my wife”, and that kind of thing, you should have a reputation as being a married couple.

Even more helpful is if one of you took the other’s last name, you filed your taxes jointly, held joint accounts, filled out applications and contracts as spouses, and did other things on paper that married couples do that you can use as evidence in court.

If you are planning to file a wrongful death suit as a common-law spouse, you need to talk to an experienced Colorado wrongful death lawyer before the people who want you out of the way start building a case against you. You have a very short amount of time to take legal action, so please, contact one today.

About Sandra Dalton

With a background as a paralegal, focusing on criminal defense and civil rights, Sandra Dalton launched her freelance writing career in 2000 with a weekly column on Freedom for Suite 101 and pro bono projects for individuals and organizations supporting causes close to her heart. One of her first projects was for the Police Compliant Center writing about police misconduct. Sandra’s legal writing quickly expanded to include personal injury, animal welfare, criminal defense, disability discrimination, family law and much more.

Sandra’s other writing around the web includes a broad range of topics such as food, pet health, feral cats, music and film. Sandra is also a fine art photographer, helps with animal rescue and TNR in her community, and volunteers as a DJ at her local radio station.