Unmarried Partner Litigation

In Colorado, how is unmarried partner litigation different from litigation between a married couple?

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married couples who get divorced in

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Colorado are working under the uniform

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dissolution of marriage Act which is a

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comprehensive statutory scheme for

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dividing property dealing with parenting

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rights and uh it’s it’s very

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straightforward people who are unmarried

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have a couple of complications in

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Colorado first of all Colorado is one of

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the few states that still recognizes

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common law marriage and it’s very facts

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based in Colorado so that is the court

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can look at a number of factors to

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determine whether or not parties are in

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fact married even though they’ve never

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had a formal solemnization of their

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marriage people who hold themselves out

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as being married people who have joint

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bank accounts people who have sent

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Christmas cards saying you know Merry

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Christmas from the Millers they can find

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themselves in a circumstance where

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they’re married and their divorce will

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be handled under the uniform dissolution

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of marriage act even if they never

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intended a marriage to exist on the

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other hand you have unmarried Partners

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who never want to get married never did

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get married married bought a house

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together and suddenly they are splitting

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up and they don’t have the protections

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of the uniform dissolution of marriage

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act instead they’re under a series of

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common law

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theories and philosophies that will

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govern the division of their estate they

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may have to proceed with a partition

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action in order to divide their real

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property they may have to prove out

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their contributions for other property

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oftentimes there might be property

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that’s titled in one party’s name that

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both have contributed to or one party

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might have debt on a property and the

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other party has a claim on title if

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there’s jointly titled real property it

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definitely has to go to a partition

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action sometimes claims such as unjust

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enrichment that is I contributed to this

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property that is in your separate name

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and I would like to receive those monies

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back can be very helpful in dividing

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that property but basically we are

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seeing less and less unmarried partner

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litigation since the change in law in

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Colorado allowing same-sex Partners to

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get married but we still do have some

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people who they’re not willing to commit

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to a lifetime of marriage but they are

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willing to commit to a 30-year mortgage

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and for those people I strongly

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recommend that they sign a cohabitation

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agreement that will sort out all those

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issues in advance so they won’t have to

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proceed with common law arguments

From Kristi’s interview for the Masters of Family Law series on ReelLawyers.com.

The rules governing these cases follow the rules for civil litigation as opposed to divorce and legal separation cases. Many strategies in such cases rely on contractual remedies with origins in English common law.

Legal Theories

For example, in 2000 the Colorado Supreme Court allowed a claim by a man who contributed towards the down payment and construction costs, as well as design and drafting services for the home, which he shared with his girlfriend. Later, he deeded his interest in the home to the girlfriend, leaving her as the sole owner, and she eventually evicted him from the property. He was allowed to sue his ex for unjust enrichment, a centuries-old equitable claim in contract law, based on his financial and in-kind contributions to the home. Other legal theories in these non-marriage cases may include joint venture, breach of fiduciary duties and implied covenants, unjust enrichment, conversion, replevin, estoppel, and breach of implied contract.

Partition Actions

A civil court in Colorado may also divide joint property between unmarried former partners using its partition powers, an equitable remedy. Partition typically assigns the equity in real property in shares to the various owners based on contribution. Although rare, parties to a partition action may also request that that the court literally divide property into separate tracts. In a partition case, judges do not necessarily have to divide property equally among all owners, so the owners can make arguments regarding who contributed how much money towards the property, who put more sweat equity into the property, who paid liens such as mortgages or other obligations, etc. in arguing how the equity in the property should be divided.

Given the complexities of such litigation, creative settlements are favored. The attorneys at Wells Family Law are well versed in the intricacies of unmarried partner litigation and are here to help you survive your break up whether married or unmarried.