Marriage or civil union requires three steps: licensure, solemnization or certification, and registration. This page covers each, including common-law marriage. Let's begin…
Where to apply?
Before getting married in Colorado you must apply for a Colorado marriage license at any county clerk and recorder's office. Civil union licenses can also be gotten there.
The person who will assist you during the application process is the county clerk and recorder (an elected official) or their deputy (a hired employee).
Colorado's Department of Public Health and Environment thankfully standardizes the marriage and civil union application, license, and certificate forms used by every county.
Marriage and civil union law
Marriage law is covered by the "Uniform Marriage Act" circa 1963 and civil union law is covered by the "Colorado Civil Union Act" established in 2013.
Civil unions have existed in Colorado since May 1, 2013 and still do. The marriage and civil union process is virtually identical. Both will be discussed and differentiated.
A Colorado marriage license or civil union license costs $30. Cash is universally accepted. Check, money order, and credit or debit card acceptance varies by office.
|23%||$7||Retained by the county|
|10%||$3||Credited to the vital statistics records cash fund|
|67%||$20||Credited to the Colorado domestic abuse program fund|
There are no residency requirements. Apply anywhere in Colorado and hold your ceremony anywhere in Colorado.
The Colorado marriage license application (form M-1) or civil union application (form CU1) is a one-page document where you must disclose the following:
- Previous married name
- Last name at birth if different
- Date of birth
- Social security number
- Place of birth (city, and state or country)
- Parents' or guardians' names and residences
- If related by blood, specify how (e.g., first cousins)
- Current marital or civil union status (e.g., single, widowed, divorced or dissolved or annulled, married, civil union)
- Date, place, and court (if applicable) last marriage or civil union ended
- Prior spouse's or partner's name
Absentee affidavit application
If one of you can't attend the making of the application, complete and have notarized an "absentee affidavit application" instead—questions are the same.
Issued license and certificate
Once your application is processed and fees paid, the county clerk and recorder will issue you a two-part document: license and certificate form.
If you've been previously married or in a civil union, bring your certificate of divorce, dissolution, or annulment. Death certificates are unnecessary.
You'll need to present proof of age, such as an original or certified copy of your birth certificate, valid driver's license, passport, or equivalent document.
Cavaet: minors cannot enter into civil unions under any circumstance.
18 years old and above
If you're 18 years old or older, you can marry or enter into a civil union without anyone's permission; however, if you're a ward you must get permission from your guardian.
16 and 17 years old
If you're 16 or 17 years old, you must obtain consent to marry from any of the following:
- Both parents
- Custodial parent
If you cannot obtain consent to marry from any of the above, you may appeal to the juvenile court assuming any of the following is true:
- You have no living parent or guardian
- Your parent or guardian is unable to grant consent
- Your parent or guardian is unwilling to grant consent
15 years old and below
If you're 15 years old or younger, you must obtain permission to marry from the juvenile court and the consent of any of the following:
- Both parents
- Custodial parent
Juvenile court refers to the "juvenile court" in the city and county of Denver or the "juvenile division" within the district court everywhere else.
If you're underage and seek permission to marry from the juvenile court, it will only be granted if applicable consent requirements are fulfilled and it's judged to be in your best interest. Pregnancy alone doesn't constitute best interests.
If the court approves, you'll be granted a court order instructing the county clerk and recorder to issue a marriage license. Get court approval before applying.
Colorado does not impose a blood test requirement on applicants.
There is no waiting period; your license will be issued immediately.
Your license will expire 35 days after issuance, after which it will be void. Expired licenses should be returned to the county clerk and recorder for cancellation.
Witnesses are not required to attend your marriage or civil union ceremony; however, two witnesses are allowed to sign the certificate portion of the license afterward.
Colorado law is fairly flexible regarding who may solemnize marriages or certify civil unions, which includes:
- Court judge, active or retired
- Court magistrate
- County court magistrate
- Small claims court magistrate
- The couple, for a self-solemnized ceremony
- Public official empowered to solemnize or certify
- Authorized person(s) belonging to any Indian nation or tribe
- Authorized person(s) belonging to any religious denomination or society
Solemnization or certification
The performance of a marriage is called solemnization. The performance of a civil union is called certification. Before either can begin, give your license to the officiant.
Once the ceremony is over, the officiant must complete the certificate form attached to the license by documenting the following:
- Ceremony date
- Ceremony location or address
- Printed names and signatures of the couple
- Officiant's signature (if self-solemnizing, enter your signatures)
- Officiant's title (if self-solemnizing, enter self-solemnize, bride/groom, bride/bride, or groom/groom)
- Witness signatures (optional maximum of two)
Whoever performs the ceremony must forward the license and certificate to the issuing county clerk and recorder for registration within 63 days following the ceremony.
Failure to make the return results in a late fee of $20 which increases by $5 daily until $50 is reached. Late fees are assessed based on the postmark date.
Proxy civil union
Colorado law does not allow civil union by proxy.
Marriage by proxy is allowed if the following conditions are met:
- Either's a resident.
- Both are 18 years old or older.
- Whoever's absent is out-of-state serving in or for the U.S. military.
- Whoever's absent authorizes in writing a third-party to act as their proxy.
If the person who solemnizes your marriage is unconvinced that you meet the proxy requirements, you can petition the district court to compel solemnization.
Once your license and certificate is returned to the issuing county clerk and recorder it will be registered—also called recording—and then your marriage becomes official.
You can order certified copies of your marriage certificate or civil union certificate from the issuing county clerk and recorder or Colorado's vital records division.
Living spouse or partner
Before entering into another marriage, civil union partnership, or cohabitation, you must dissolve any prior marriage, civil union, or cohabitation. Failure to do so would make you guilty of bigamy, which is a class 6 felony.
If you knowingly marry a bigamist, you too would be a bigamist, but the charge would be dropped to a lesser class 2 misdemeanor.
Cohabitation refers to living together with someone and acting as though you were actually married to that person even though no such marriage was ever solemnized.
Bigamy lines of defense
There are three lines of defense against an accusation or charge of bigamy:
- Reasonably believed remarriage or civil union lawful.
- Reasonably believed prior spouse or partner to be deceased.
- Prior spouse or partner absent for five years and not known to be alive.
Whichever excuse you go with, the burden of proof is on you.
Forbidden family relationship
If you enter into a marriage of civil union in Colorado with any of the following members of your family, it would be considered invalid, incestuous, and a class 4 felony:
- Adopted child
- Sibling (half or whole blood)
You are allowed to enter into a marriage or civil union with your first cousin.
Common law marriage
Colorado does recognize common law marriage; however, if it was established on or after September 1, 2006, both parties must have been 18 years old or older at the time.
If you get married outside of Colorado, the marriage would be recognized as valid in this State as long as the marriage was lawful in whichever jurisdiction it was contracted.
You should now have a solid understand of what it takes to enter into a marriage or civil union in the great State of Colorado. Your next step is to choose a county clerk and recorder's office to apply in. See the list of Colorado counties.