Washington allows couples who commit themselves to a relationship long enough to divide property as if they were divorcing when they break up, despite lacking a marriage certificate. This depends on the exact circumstances of the relationship.
If you find yourself at the end of a long-term relationship, the courts may deem it a Committed Intimate Relationship, subject to property division. However, you may wish to appeal for the characterization sooner rather than later.
After a breakup
The statute of limitations to divide the property of a qualifying CIR is generally a three-year window after you and your partner part ways. The sooner you appeal, the better, since you may have more records and a fresher memory about what was yours prior to the relationship and what you two built together.
After a marriage
As the Washington courts have seen in the past, a CIR may end when two people choose to marry. In this case, it may be prudent to establish your premarital time together as a CIR. This way, in the event of a divorce down the road, there is less confusion about what counts as separate property, shared premarital property and marital property.
Married couples may live separately where their relationship is on rocky footing for years before deciding to divide things with a formal divorce. In a CIR, it is more important to act quickly when it ends or changes. If your relationship meets the criteria of a CIR, you may wish to learn more about the subject and your options when seeking to divide property fairly.