Common-law marriage is to ceremonian marraige as an oral contract is to a written contract. Both are equally valid, one is just much harder to prove than the other.
Whether the letter you describe is enough to demonstrate his prior agreement to be married to you is uncertain. It depends on what the letter says and it sounds like it may be rather ambiguous. He didn't ask for a divorce - something that only maried people can get. He also didn't talk about a legal separation. He talked about a civilized separation. Arguably this could apply to a boyfriend / girlfriend breakup just as well as a marraige so it may not be enough - especially if this is the only piece of evidence you have to support the establishment of a marriage.
There are likley other items that support or refute your cliam of common-law marriage. Did you ever take his last name? How did he introduce you to friends and acquaintances (friend, wife, girlfriend)? Did you ever file joint taxes? Did he claim you as a dependent on his tax returns? Did he carry you on his insurace? All of these things may or may not support a common-law marriage.
You need to gather the evidence you have to support your claim of common-law marriage. Then you need to file for divorce. If your husband does not challenge the validity of the marriage, then there will be no issue. If he does file to have your claim of marriage declared invalid, you will need to provide evidence to show that you lived together and that you agreed to be married. To prove the agreement, you need to show what steps he took that were inconsistent with being simply boyfriend / girlfriend and which establish his agreement to be married to you. If you can establish the marriage, you can seek spousal support, division of property and debts, and an order for him to pay some portion of your attorney fees.
Given the difficulties of proving a common-law marriage when its existence is in dispute, it would be best if you could find a way to retain an experienced family law attorney to represent you.
You can reach Harkess & Salter LLC at (303) 531-5380 or info@Harkess-Salter.com. Stephen Harkess is an attorney licensed in the state and federal courts of Colorado. This answer is for general information only and does not create an attorney client relationship between Stephen Harkess or Harkess & Salter LLC and any person. You should schedule a consultation with an attorney to discuss the specifics of your legal issues.
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