July 05, 2006

Special Session Extra Duty: Common-Law Marriage Age Requirements

Not ending common-law marriage, just updating the age of consent:
DENVER -- After an uproar over a court ruling that 12-year-old girls can enter common-law marriages in Colorado, legislators appear ready to change the age requirements rather than scrap the concept altogether when they convene in a special session Thursday.

Gov. Bill Owens called the session primarily to address illegal immigration but also asked lawmakers to consider either scrapping common-law marriage or raising the age requirements. He suggested using the minimum ages required for statutory marriage: people ages 16 and 17 can marry with parental or judicial approval, while those 18 and older can marry on their own decision.

The state Court of Appeals ruled on June 15 that Colorado has no stated minimum age for common-law marriage but said the state has adopted English common law, which makes girls as young as 12 and boys as young as 14 eligible.

The ruling came in the case of Willis Rouse, 38, who was 34 years old when he applied for and received a license to marry a then-15-year-old girl in Adams County with the consent of the girl's mother.

The loophole exposed by the case alarmed lawmakers, the governor and family law experts.

. . .

Owens said the ruling conflicted with other law, particularly statutory rape.

"In Colorado a person can be convicted of statutory rape if the victim is 14 years of age and the perpetrator is four years older. Consent is not a defense to statutory rape," Owens wrote in his order for a special session.

. . .

Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany, R-Colorado Springs, also supported keeping common-law marriage as a legal option

"I'm not completely sold on the idea we need to get rid of it entirely, particularly in an era where people live together -- and a lot of people do live together that aren't married," he said.
Colorado Common Law Marriage--Girls At 12, Boys At 14


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