IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF: JENNIFER D. HANSEN, Petitioner and Appellant, and THOMAS J. ROFFE, JR., Respondent and Appellee.
Submitted on Briefs: October 9, 2019
FROM: District Court of the Fifth Judicial District, In and
For the County of Jefferson, Cause No. DR-2017-17 Honorable
Luke Berger, Presiding Judge.
Appellant: Thomas J. Karem, Karem Law Firm, P.C., Bozeman,
Appellee: Christopher J. Gillette, Christopher J. Gillette,
P.C., Bozeman, Montana.
McGrath, Chief Justice.
Jennifer Hansen ("Hansen") appeals from an order of
the Fifth Judicial District Court, Jefferson County,
dismissing her Verified Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
on the basis that she failed to establish a common law
marriage with Thomas Roffe ("Roffe").
We address the following issues on appeal:
1. Whether the District Court erroneously concluded that
Hansen failed to establish that Hansen and Roffe assumed a
marital relationship by mutual consent and agreement.
2. Whether the District Court erroneously concluded that
Hansen failed to establish that Hansen's and Roffe's
alleged common law marriage was confirmed by public repute
when they were held out as "life partners."
AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND
In 2005, Roffe and Hansen, both unmarried, met and began
dating exclusively for a period of ten years with their
relationship ending in 2015. In 2007, Hansen moved in with
Roffe at his Bozeman home. While living together Hansen led
and financed remodeling efforts of Roffe's home.
Hansen's financing of the remodel served as repayment of
a 2008 loan from Roffe to Hansen that was formalized in a
In addition to living together, Roffe and Hansen travelled
extensively together and hosted parties at their shared
residences. Roffe and Hansen would also send holiday and
invitation letters to friends jointly, but none of the
letters referenced that they were husband and wife or
married. In fact, the only cited reference to using marital
terminology was by Hansen in an email where she referred to
Roffe as her husband. Roffe was not copied. Both Hansen and
Roffe agree that they viewed each other as "life
Throughout the relationship, Roffe gifted Hansen jewelry,
including several rings. The parties dispute the
classification of the rings, but there was no mention by any
witness, other than Hansen herself, that the rings signified
marriage. Hansen claimed that one of the rings was an
"eternity ring" that commemorated them being