Couples that have lived together in an intimate relationship may have the court treat their breakup in nearly the same fashion as the court treats a divorcing married couple. Formerly referred to as a “meretricious” relationship, the new term for couples that live together is “Committed Intimate Relationship”.
While the State of Washington does not recognize “Common Law Marriage”, the current court rulings controlling legal rights and obligations of Committed Intimate Relationship couples terminating their relationship is based upon the same legal principles controlling the divorce of married couples. Once the court determines that the couple has established a Committed Intimate Relationship, the court will enter Orders awarding a Parenting Plan, setting child support, and dividing the couples’ property and debts.
There is no set guideline or legal definition for what constitutes a “Committed Intimate Relationship”. The facts can vary case by case. There is no set minimum length of time for cohabitation. There is no specific required conduct or acts by the couple. In making a determination as to whether or not the couple has created a Committed Intimate Relationship the Court will consider:
- How long did the couple cohabitate?
- Was the relationship intimate?
- Was the cohabitation continuous?
- Was this an exclusive relationship?
- What was the purpose of the relationship and intent of the parties?
- Did the parties hold themselves out to the public as a domestic couple?
- Did the parties combine and commingle assets and debts?
Committed Intimate Relationships do not serve as a legal basis for awarding Spousal Support (alimony), or for ordering the payment of the other party’s attorney fees.
The term “Committed Intimate Relationship” and the legal principles applied to these relationships only apply to couples that have lived together for a length of time. These legal principles do not apply to short term, non-exclusive, or non-committed relationships. There are other laws and legal principles that control paternity, parenting plans and support obligations for children born to these other relationships.