Same-sex marriage rights bolstered under new court ruling

Last month, The Supreme Court of Colorado expanded the definition of common-law marriage. This ruling gives same-sex couples additional opportunities to qualify for married status. As a result of the change, if a same-sex couple was in a qualified common-law marriage before it was legal, their marriage has now been retroactively validated.

Old qualifications

Under previous court rulings, a couple would be considered common-law spouses if they shared the same residence, purchased property together, filed joint taxes, or if the wife takes her husband’s surname. Common law marriages also don’t require a witness to the marriage nor an official document for state records. The new qualifications expand on these ideas; they do not remove or erase these old considerations for common-law marriage.   

New qualifications

The new ruling specifically broadened what indicators can be used to determine common-law marriage. New indicators include social reputation as spouses, estate planning, and similar symbols of spousal commitment.

It is important to note however, that even if a couple appears married, they must also consider themselves married. One particular case found there was no common law marriage because a prospective spouse did not believe in the idea of marriage.

New developments

A former Colorado assistant attorney general predicts that for the foreseeable future, the Supreme Court will continue to the ease the qualifications for same-sex marriages. The new qualifications for same-sex common law marriage are broad in scope and open to many interpretations.

The division of property or even child support may look different for a couple that qualifies as married under common law marriage. With the recent ruling, it may be prudent to consult an experienced family law attorney to see if common law marriage applies to a couple’s situation.

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