"Common law marriages" are not recognized in Washington State. (Washington does, however, recognize common law marriages from other states that authorize them). Instead, Washington has a "committed intimate relationship" or "meretricious relationship" doctrine that governs unmarried couples who live together in "marriage-like" relationships. These laws allow the court to make a "fair and equitable" division of certain property and debt acquired during the relationship when the couple separates.
There are no hard and fast rules that determine whether a relationship qualifies as "marriage-like" enough to invoke the protections of these laws. Generally, however, the court will consider things like:
- Duration of the relationship
- Whether the couple lived together continuously
- Purpose of the relationship
- Joint pooling of resources and services
- Whether both parties knew a legal marriage did not exist between them
- Stability and monogamy
For more information, contact a Kirkland family law attorney.