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  • Cindy Wysocki

Criteria for committed intimate relationships in WA

Updated: Apr 5

In Washington State, “common law marriage” does not exist; however, the courts do recognize something called “committed intimate relationships.” Committed intimate relationships (CIR) exist when an unmarried couple lives together for a significant period of time and meets certain criteria. CIRs create property rights like those of married couples. Below are some of the criteria that couples must meet for their relationship to qualify as a committed intimate relationship: 


  1. Both Parties Must Be at Least 18 Years Old: Both partners in the relationship are 18 years of age or older. 

  1. Both Parties Must Be Mentally Capable: Both individuals are of sound mind and capable of understanding the legal implications of their cohabitation choices.  You don’t need to know that you are creating a CIR through your actions; you only must be capable of understanding this. 

  1. Both Parties Must Not Be Legally Married or in a Domestic Partnership: You cannot form a CIR in Washington if you are already married or in another domestic partnership. 

  1. Both Parties Must Share a Residence: CIR are found only when couples live together, so you must share a common residence. 

  1. Both Parties Must Be in a Committed Relationship: While Washington law does not require you to prove a specific length or depth of relationship, the intention should be to create a partnership based on mutual commitment and support, similar to what married couples do. 

The courts may also consider the following factors when determining if a relationship constitutes a CIR:  

  1. Length of the relationship. 

  1. Whether the cohabitation was continuous. 

  1. Whether the relationship was exclusive. 

  1. The intentions of the parties involved in the relationship and whether the parties displayed themselves to others as being in a committed relationship. 

  1. Whether the parties shared financial resources. 


If you consider yourself in a CIR and would like to discuss your particular situation, whether planning for the future with a cohabitation agreement or discussing your options after a breakup (such as division of assets or child custody), it is important that you reach out to a qualified family law attorney with experience handling CIRs.  

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