Cohabitation Rights for Unmarried Couples
Vancouver WA | Camas WA | Battle Ground WA
A term that is often heard is common law marriage, however in the state of Washington, this term is not recognized by the courts. The courts do recognize committed intimate relationships, which means that a couple has lived together for a substantial amount of time. A committed intimate relationship is determined based on the following elements:
- Length of relationship
- Whether cohabitation is/was continuous
- Intention of parties in relationship
- Whether relationship is/was exclusive
- Acquisition of property together vs. alone
- Joint banking
There are in fact other aspects that can impact the determination of whether a couple falls under a committed intimate relationship, but each case is different and needs to be evaluated as such.
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Rights in a Committed Intimate Relationship
If a separation occurs between unmarried partners, and the couple has been determined by the court to be in a committed intimate relationship, the parties have similar rights and responsibilities of a married couple. If an agreement cannot be made between the couple, the court will get involved. The most common issues include:
- Division of property and assets
- Child custody and support
Any property or assets acquired jointly, are most likely to be divided in a fair and just way. Property or assets acquired individually are generally awarded to the original owner and are not divided.
Committed Intimate Relationships vs. Marriage
Though there are some similarities, there are significant differences as well. Unmarried couples do not receive the same tax benefits as married couples. If a separation occurs, there is no spousal support or maintenance awarded to either party, unless a written contract states otherwise.
No matter where you may be in your relationship, a written agreement prior to cohabitation or shortly after moving, can be incredibly beneficial to both parties. It can protect assets and property if an unmarried couples’ relationship comes to an end. Professional help can ease complications and emotions.