Meretricious Relationships

In some cases, the court will determine that two parties had a marital like relationship which will enable the court to divide relationship property similarly to a divorce. The legal terms used to describe a marital like relationship include “meretricious relationship” and “committed intimate relationship.” They are also referred to as common-law marriages. Meretricious relationships are defined as a stable, marital-like relationship where both parties cohabit with knowledge that a lawful marriage between them does not exist.

How will property be divided if you weren't married?

How will property be divided if you weren’t married?

In determining whether or not a meretricious or committed intimate relationship exists, the court will examine the following five elements:

  • The duration of the relationship;
  • The duration of continuous cohabitation;
  • The nature of the relationship;
  • The pooling of resources for joint projects; and,
  • The intent of the parties.

If you believe that you may be in a meretricious or committed intimate relationship and you suspect the relationship may be coming to an end you should seek the counsel of an experienced attorney to ensure you your rights are protected and you understand your responsibilities.

If your relationship is determined to be “marriage-like”, the court will view property division similar to a divorcing couple. Property acquired during the relationships will need to be assessed for the court to divide in a just and equitable way – which doesn’t necessarily mean 50/50. The court does take non-financial contributions into consideration such as the care of children and assisting a partner with business.

If the court finds that your relationship was not “marriage-like” the property will be divided according to general property division laws.

To learn more about property law for unmarried couples and how it might affect you, contact Elizabeth Christy by email or phone at 503-847-2900. Laws in Washington relating to meretricious relationships and family law are different than Oregon. The Northwest Justice Project has uploaded helpful information about online

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