• calendar19th Mar 23 10:00 pm
  • userJamie

Legal Rights of Unmarried Couples in Colorado

Legal Rights Of Unmarried Couples In Colorado

According to the United States Census Bureau, the number of unmarried cohabiting couples has nearly tripled in the past two decades from 6 million to 17 million. With this situation becoming more common, it is understandable that unmarried couples may be concerned about their legal rights. The legal rights of unmarried couples in Colorado are not always clear and depend on context, which is why it may be helpful to speak with a lawyer. Consider contacting an experienced family law attorney from the Colorado Divorce Law Group by calling (720) 593-6442 to schedule a consultation today.

What Is an Unmarried Partner in Colorado Entitled To Under the Law?

A common question from unmarried couples in Colorado is what are their partners entitled to, especially if the couple breaks up. Put simply, unmarried couples have very few legal rights and financial benefits. Unlike divorce cases, in which the division of property is based on equity or fairness, unmarried couples will find that their assets are typically divided based on how the property is titled. Even if one partner contributed more to a property than another, if the property is jointly owned, it may be divided equally rather than equitably.

Additionally, the legal rights of unmarried couples in Colorado are limited regarding retirement assets, investment accounts, health insurance, life insurance, or inheritance. A partner does not automatically have rights to any of these assets. However, one way that an unmarried couple may be able to establish rights as a couple is to enter into a cohabitation agreement.

What Is a Cohabitation Agreement?

A cohabitation agreement is a legally binding contract that establishes ownership over property and stipulates how the property will be distributed if the couple decides to separate. This document can play a key role in establishing a Colorado couple’s legal rights and often addresses the following concerns:

  • Ownership of existing assets
  • How income and expenses, including mortgage payments, are shared
  • Ownership of assets acquired during the relationship
  • Management of bank accounts, credit cards, tax payments, and insurance policies
  • Division of assets in the event of a break up
  • Processes to be used for resolving disputes, such as court or mediation

What Should You Include in a Cohabitation Agreement?

Cohabitation agreements may contain many details related to a couple’s life together. Some of the most critical components of these legal agreements include:

  • Homeownership
  • Support payments
  • Income
  • Debt liability


Homeownership may be an important component of a cohabitation agreement. In cases where the couple owns a home together, the following elements are helpful to consider when creating the agreement for cohabitation:

  • How ownership is listed on the property deed—When the couple are joint tenants with rights of survivorship, then the surviving partner gains ownership of the house if one partner passes away. However, if the couple owns the house as tenants in common and a partner dies, that partner’s share of the property will be passed on to the beneficiaries listing in his or her Last Will and Testament (will)
  • What will happen to the house if the couple separates—The couple may want to decide whether the house will be sold or if one person will buy out the other and keep the house. If the couple allows buyout rights, they will also need to determine how to value the house

Support Payments

In Colorado, neither partner of an unmarried couple has a right to financial support after the couple separates unless the couple has previously agreed to such support. Therefore, a couple may wish to decide within a cohabitation agreement whether support will be paid and by which partner following a separation.


In certain circumstances, especially when one partner makes significantly more than the other, it may make sense to include income in a cohabitation agreement. For example, in a partnership where one partner is the primary earner, that partner may pay more for a house while the other partner spends more labor maintaining the house. The couple may want to agree on a joint tenancy of the house in case the higher earner dies.

Debt Liability

Another important consideration is debt liability. Usually, partners who are not married will not be responsible for their partner’s debt. However, in some cases, the couple may have joint accounts, and the surviving partner may be liable for amounts owed on those accounts. Entering into a cohabitation agreement can seem complicated, but a knowledgeable family law attorney from the Colorado Divorce Law Group may be able to help.

How Long Do You Have To Be Together for Common Law Marriage in Colorado?

The National Conference of State Legislatures defines common law marriage as a legally recognized marriage of a couple who did not purchase a marriage license or have a ceremony. Importantly, common law marriage is only allowed in a select number of states, and is defined by the law of that state.  When couples want to learn more about the legal rights of unmarried couples in Colorado, they often ask about the amount of time needed for the relationship to be considered a common law marriage. However, in Colorado, there must also be an intent to marry, and the Court will consider the totality of circumstances.

Some of the factors that a court will use to determine whether there was intent to marry and, as such, a relationship can be defined as a common law marriage include:

  • The couple living together
  • A reputation in their community as married – holding themselves out as a married couple
  • Listing one another on insurance as a spouse
  • Shared assets, such as bank accounts, credit cards, and property ownership
  • Joint tax returns
  • Use of one partner’s surname for the other partner or for the couple’s children
  • Evidence of shared financial responsibility, such as leases and joint bills
  • Shared estate planning
  • Beneficiary and emergency contact designations
  • The couple’s beliefs regarding marriage

Contact an Experienced Family Law Lawyer Today

Navigating the legal rights of unmarried couples in Colorado may feel difficult. This is why many couples seek answers to their questions from a knowledgeable family lawyer. Consider contacting an experienced family law attorney from the Colorado Divorce Law Group today by calling (720) 593-6442 to learn more about your legal rights.