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  • Cindy Wysocki

The Risks of Inadvertently Tying the Knot in Washington

Updated: Jun 1, 2023


​Living together with a partner without being married has become increasingly common in recent years. However, unmarried couples who live together in Washington State should be aware that they may be considered to be in a "committed intimate relationship." This presumption can have significant financial implications if the couple ever separates.


In Washington State, a committed intimate relationship is a legal term that describes a relationship between two unmarried adults who live together and share a mutually committed relationship. The court may presume that such a relationship exists if the couple lives together while unmarried and has demonstrated mutual commitment and support resembling a marriage. The duration of the relationship is not specified by law, but the court may consider various factors such as cohabitation, joint financial accounts, joint projects, sex, and shared property.


If the court determines that a committed intimate relationship exists, the couple’s assets and debts may be subject to a division of property, as if they were married. This means that both parties may be entitled to a share of any assets and assigned debts that were acquired during the relationship, including bank accounts, retirement accounts, real estate and credit card debts.


The implications of a committed intimate relationship can be significant for unmarried couples who live together in Washington State. This means that if the couple separates, they may have to go through a legal process to determine the division of property and debts, which can be time-consuming, expensive, and emotionally challenging.


To avoid the presumption of a committed intimate relationship and its potential financial implications, unmarried couples who live together in Washington State - and especially those who purchase real estate together or separately during cohabitation - should consider entering into a cohabitation agreement. A cohabitation agreement is a legal contract that outlines the terms of the couple's living arrangements, including the ownership of real estate and the division of asset and debts in the event of a separation. The agreement can provide certainty and security for both parties and can help to avoid the unwanted surprise of costly and emotional legal battles in the future.


Imagine the horror of realizing that your ex wants half the equity in that house that you saved for and purchased with your credit and your credit alone during your relationship! But - you argue - you made all the mortgage payments. And you created equity in the house with your sweat and skill while your partner whiled away hours on video games and bonbons. We've heard this story too many times already. We have seen it fail to protect against dividing the house acquired during cohabitation. Protect yourself now before it's too late.


​In conclusion, unmarried couples who live together in Washington State should be aware of the legal presumption of a committed intimate relationship and its financial implications. To protect their interests, couples should consider entering into a cohabitation agreement that outlines the terms of their living arrangements and can help to avoid disputes and legal battles in the event of a separation. Wysocki Law, PLLC can provide guidance and advice on the best course of action for each individual situation.


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