Though Washington is one of many states that no longer recognizes common-law marriages, it does recognize “marriage-like” relationships. State law refers to these relationships as “Committed Intimate Relationships.”
In Washington, if the courts consider your relationship a CIR, breaking up with your significant other may prove more difficult than you or he or she could have imagined it to be. This is because, per WashingtonLawHelp, the state requires persons in a Committed Intimate Relationship to go through the property division process once those parties decide to part ways.
When the courts may consider your relationship “marriage-like”
Unfortunately, Washington law does not have any single set of criteria for what constitutes a CIR. To determine if your relationship is of marriage-like status, the courts will consider the following:
- The length of your relationship
- Whether you and your partner lived together continuously
- Whether your relationship was committed and stable
- The reason for your relationship
- Whether you and your partner acted like a married couple but chose not to marry for personal reasons
- Whether you and your spouse combined your resources and services to complete joint projects and achieve mutual goals
- Whether you both recognized that you were not a legally wed couple
- Whether either of you moved or made a career choice for your relationship
This is not a complete list, and the courts will consider the unique circumstances of your relationship to determine if you were, in fact, in a Committed Intimate Relationship.
The division of property following the end of a CIR
If you or your partner decide to seek court intervention at the end of your relationship, and the courts decide you enjoyed a stable, “marriage-like” relationship during your time together, they will treat your breakup as they would divorce. What this means is that the judge presiding over your case will assume you and your partner acquired and owned property together. If neither of you can prove otherwise, he or she will divvy up your joint property in a way that is equitable. Equitable does not necessarily mean 50/50 but rather, what is fair.
In addition to considering the aforementioned factors, a judge will consider your and your partner’s financial situations at the time of your separation. He or she will also assess the non-financial contributions you and/or your spouse made to the relationship.
Just because you and your long-time partner never legally tied the knot does not mean neither of you has rights to the other’s property. Consult with an attorney to learn more about those rights and how to protect what is yours.