You requested have requested an opinion on whether in the state of Colorado a common
law marriage that is not supported by any documentary proof of the marriage constitutes
a legal basis for a name change. You have also asked whether a common law marriage
supported by documentary proof, herein a "Certification of Common Law Marriage," is
a legal basis for a name change.
A common law marriage is a legal basis for a name change in Colorado; however, the
State requires a proof of name document to change an individual's name on an established
record like a driver's license. Unlike a certified marriage certificate, the "Certification
of Common Law Marriage" is not acceptable documentary proof of name in Colorado.
You provided us with a copy of a "Certification of Common Law Marriage," dated May
22, 2006, which was signed by both parties in front of a notary. You stated that the
spouse, Rebecca (nee M~), wishes to use the affidavit as documentation of a legal
Under common law in Colorado, a person may change his or her name at will, without
resort to legal proceedings, by merely adopting another name, provided the adoption
is not made for a wrongful or fraudulent purpose. See In re K~, 537 P.2d 1085, 1086 (Colo. Ct. App. 1975).  Thus, we believe a common-law marriage would constitute a legal basis for a name
change in Colorado. The State, however, requires a proof of name document in order
to change the name on an established record. See What are Colorado's Identification Requirements?, http://www.revenue.state.co.us/mv_dir/wrap.asp?incl=faqdrli/faqdrli1 (last visited August 22, 2006).
Applicants for a Colorado driver's license or identification card are required to
submit proof of age, name, and lawful presence. See id. (citing Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 42-2-107, 42-2-302 (2006)). Applicants must present
two different documents. Id. One document must be from the proof of age/lawful presence list. Id. As pertinent here, if the applicant is changing the name on an established record,
the second document may be any of the following documents from the proof of name list:
1. Certified marriage certificate;
2. Certified divorce decree;
3. Certified court order of name change;
4. Valid U.S. military ID;
5. Tribal identification card; or
6. Out-of-state issued photo driver's license or photo identification card expired
one year or less.
An affidavit of common-law marriage is not included on the above list, and in an e-mail
transmission, a representative of the State's Division of Motor Vehicles stated that
the division does not recognize an affidavit of common-law marriage as proof of name.
Thus, we believe the "Certification of Common Law Marriage" between Christopher and
Rebecca is not acceptable documentary proof of name change in Colorado.
(1) A common-law marriage in the state of Colorado would constitute a legal basis
for name change; however, the State requires a proof of name document.
(2) A signed affidavit attesting to a common-law marriage (e.g., "Certification of
Common Law Marriage") is not acceptable documentary proof of name change in Colorado.
Deana R. Ertl-Lombardi
Regional Chief Counsel, Region VIII
Thomas H. Kraus
Assistant Regional Counsel