Can the man I have lived with for 22 years evict me from the homewe have shared, if title is in his name?

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Can the man I have lived with for 22 years evict me from the homewe have shared, if title is in his name?

During that time I have done the lion’s share of housework, yardwork, shopping, etc. I have worked very hard. I have invested myself heavily – emotionally and financially – in our life together and our household. He has grown quite comfortable in using the threat of eviction as a means of control and emotional abuse. Can he legally have me served with papers and evicted from this home? Do I have any rights at all? And before you say it, yes I was stupid to have not protected myself better all those years ago. I was way too trusting.

Asked on February 22, 2011 under Family Law, Colorado

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Whether or not he can evict you depends on whether or not this house will be considered to be the "marital home". CO is one of a few states which still allows parties to enter into a common law marriage (marriage without a formal marriage ceremony).  While there is no hard and fast rule as to what constitutes a common law marriage, the courts have outlined certain requirements that need be met:

  1. Cohabitation (no specific time period),
  2. Mutual agreement to be married, and
  3. The parties publicly holding themselves out as married

In determining whether or not the above requirement have been met, the divorce courts look at such things as:

  • Did the couple refer to themselves as married to third parties
  • Did they file joint federal and/or state tax returns
  • Did they list list the other party as a spouse on insurance forms and/ or retirement plans
  • Did they have joint finances (i.e. bank accounts, property ownership, etc.)
  • Did the woman take the man's last name. 

If it is judicially determined that a common law marriage does in fact exist, spouses enjoy all of the benefits of marriage as if they were formally married.  And if they break-up, the spouses in turn have the same rights/protections as any party to a divorce.

The answer to your specific question is that if you are legally married, he cannot just evict you, no matter how title to the house is held.  Until a formal separation agreement or divorce degree is rendered, you have the same rights to occupy the marital home as he does (provided you have not in some way put him in fear for his safety).  If he tries to force you out - by changing the locks, removing your belongings etc. -  he can be liable for damages (and put himself in a bad light in any future divorce action).  However, if no valid common law marriage is found, then yes, you can be evicted from the residence.  But you must be given at least a 30 day written notice, and again, no self-help measures such as locking you out can be used. 

You may have additional rights to reimbursement, a portion of appreciation in the home, etc. but without knowing more of your situation it's hard to advise further.  This is just a very brief summary.  You really need at this point to discuss the details of your case directly with a divorce attorney in your area.


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