Imagine that you have the perfect wedding, only to find out that your marriage was a sham, because your “spouse” was already legally married to someone else. Fortunately, there are legal recourses for victims in this situation. In particular, the Court may find that you are a “putative” spouse, in which case you are entitled to all of the same rights and remedies as a legal spouse.
C.R.S. § 14-2-111 provides, in pertinent part: “Any person who has cohabited with another to whom he is not legally married in the good faith belief that he was married to that person is a putative spouse until knowledge of the fact that he is not legally married terminates his status and prevents acquisition of further rights…”
The most common situation where Courts have found putative spouse status is in the circumstance described above – i.e., where one spouse was already legally married, and proceeded to have an apparently valid marriage ceremony with another. Notably, however, you are NOT a putative spouse if you have knowledge that the other spouse was already married. You must have a good faith belief that you are legally married in order to be a putative spouse, and that is not possible if you knew the other person had an existing legal marriage.
If you are found to be a putative spouse, the termination of your relationship will be treated the same as a divorce. Just like any divorcing individual, you are entitled to an equitable distribution of property, as well as maintenance/alimony depending on the length of the “marriage” and your financial circumstances.
Further, even if spouses are not found to be “putative,” the Colorado Supreme Court has held that non-married, cohabiting couples may legally contract with each other so long as sexual relations are merely incidental to the agreement. Combs v. Tibbitts, 148 P.3d 430 (2006). Thus, if you are in a relationship and are living with your boyfriend or girlfriend, you may enter into a contract, e.g., regarding division of your joint property upon termination of the relationship, so long as said contract is not based on sexual relations. Courts will interpret and enforce these types of contracts according to ordinary contract law principles, and they will often be upheld.
Please contact the Domestic Team at Feldmann Nagel Margulis for all of your family law needs.