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Common Law Marriage
The provisions for handling questions concerning military benefits for common law spouses are as follows.

First, common law spouses in Colorado may be entitled to the same military benefits as legally married spouses.

The procedure for common law spouses obtaining a military identification card is provided in AFI 36-3026I, Identification Cards for Members of the Uniformed Services, Their Eligible Family Members, and Other Eligible Personnel, Para 2.4.2.

The common law marriage must have been entered into within a state that recognizes common law marriages. Colorado recognizes common law marriages as established in the case of Graham v. Graham, 130 Colo. 225, 274 P.2d 605 (1954) and in C.R.S. 14-2-104 (2004). Since a common law marriage is valid in Colorado, it is entitled to be given recognition by the jurisdiction of any other state of the United States. In a common law marriage, the parties are in fact married and the marriage can only be terminated by divorce. To obtain a divorce, the Colorado state divorce procedures must be followed in state court.

There is no specific formula as to how parties become common law married. Generally, the mutual consent or agreement of the parties to be husband and wife, followed by a mutual and open assumption of a marital relationship, establishes a common law marriage.

The assumption of a marital relationship consists of cohabitation as husband and wife. Cohabitation alone does not establish a common law marriage. The strongest evidence of the assumption of a marital relationship is the general reputation in the community that the parties hold themselves out as husband and wife.

The problem with a common law marriage is the difficulty proving the relationship since there is no process for registration of the marriage. It may be subject to challenge at any time if it appears the requirements of a common law marriage have not been met. It will also be more difficult to prove the marriage to governmental agencies for entitlement to benefits. In order to receive benefits, common law marriages require the sponsor or spouse to prove to the satisfaction of the local legal authority that the relationship is valid (e.g., tax returns, bank statements, statements from disinterested parties attesting the couple was holding themselves out as husband and wife). A statement from the local legal office attesting to the validity of a common law marriage constitutes acceptable documentation to establish eligibility as a spouse.

Common Law marriage cannot be a sham to collect benefits. The marriage may be scrutinized if it appears not to be valid.

Legal Assistance attorneys can advise clients on common law marriages and produce affidavits for clients, if needed.
U.S. Air Force Academy, USAFA, CO 80840, (719) 333-1110 DSN: 333-1110, Updated: 02 Oct 14
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