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Colorado Marital Property Laws

Marital property is generally those things that were bought or received during a marriage. Marital property doesn’t include things that are owned individually by each spouse, such as property owned before marriage, gifts, or inheritance to that individual spouse, property excluded by a legal agreement, or property acquired after legal separation. Those items are called “separate property.”

Colorado is an “equitable distribution” or “common law” state rather than a “community property” state. That means marital property isn’t automatically assumed to be owned by both parties and therefore should be divided equally upon divorce. Instead, when a couple divorces in Colorado, the marital property is divided in an “equitable” manner. Often, that means the higher earning spouse receives a bigger piece of the pie upon divorce.

The following table outlines some main aspects of Colorado’s marital property laws.

Code Sections Colorado Revised Statutes Sections 14-10-113: Disposition of (Marital) Property in Dissolution or Legal Separation and 15-20-104: Disposition (of Community Property) Upon Death
Community Property Colorado doesn’t recognize community property, as it’s a separate property state. However, the Uniform Disposition of Community Property Rights at Death Act (UDCPRDA) was adopted by Colorado legislators in 1973.

The Colorado UCDPRDA law provides that when one married person dies, half of the marital property goes to the surviving spouse. The other half belongs to the deceased person and will be distributed according to his or her will or the Colorado intestate succession laws. The surviving spouse will also receive a portion of this marital property as the main beneficiary of his or her will. If the deceased spouse disinherited his or her spouse in the will, the surviving spouse can take an “elective share” of the estate.

Common law marriages are recognized in Colorado and common law spouses can inherit from their deceased spouses.
Dower and Curtsey Dower is an old-time European practice of a wife having continued use of her husband’s real property upon his death, also called a life estate. Conversely, curtesy (or courtesy) was the husband’s interest in the real property solely owned or inherited by his wife, if she bore a child capable of inheriting the property.

Both dower and curtsey have been abolished in Colorado for many years.

Note: State laws are constantly changing, so it’s important to verify the state law(s) you are researching by conducting your own legal research or consulting with a qualified Colorado family law attorney.

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