June 15, 2006

Colorado Common Law Marriage--Girls At 12, Boys At 14

Willis Lee Rouse, now 38 and in prison, began living with girl when she was 14.

In a case likely to grab headlines in the future, as well as portending potential debates over the age of consent sure to involve pedophilia arguments, comes this Colorado court decision:
A 15-year-old girl can enter into a valid common-law marriage in Colorado, and the minimum age could be as young as 12 for girls and 14 for boys, the state Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.

The court stopped short of setting a minimum age but said under English common law, which Colorado recognizes, common-law marriages could be legal at 12 and 14.

. . .

The appeal was filed by Willis Rouse, 38, who is serving time for escape and a parole violation. He argued that he and the girl, identified only as J.M.H., began living together in April 2002 and applied for an Adams County marriage license a year later.

The girl had become legally independent by April 2003, but her mother consented to the marriage and accompanied the girl and Rouse to the county clerk’s office to obtain a license, the ruling said.

The county clerk issued a license, but District Judge James Hartmann in neighboring Weld County granted a motion by the Weld County Department of Human Services to invalidate the marriage, saying anybody under age 16 must obtain judicial approval for either common-law or ceremonial marriage.

The Court of Appeals agreed with Rouse that he could legally marry J.M.H. The court did not conclude whether the two have a valid marriage, but sent the case back to the trial judge to make that determination.

. . .

Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald, D-Golden, said she was appalled by the ruling and said lawmakers need to look at the issue next year when the Legislature reconvenes.

"That’s a child. You’re taking advantage of an undeveloped person, putting them in a situation that’s for life. That’s something we need to take a look at," she said.
More here.


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