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Committed Intimate Relationships

Washington State recognizes Committed Intimate Relationships (previously referred to as: Meretricious Relationships). There is no specific definition of what constitutes a Committed Intimate Relationship, instead the Court will consider relevant factors that have been developed over the years to determine if such a relationship exists. The bottom line when considering the factors is that the more marriage-like the relationship, the more likely a Court is to consider it a Committed Intimate Relationship.

The factors for a Committed Intimate Relationship are as follows:

  • Continuous, exclusive co-habitation during the relationship, or living together the same home as a couple;

  • Duration of the relationship, or having been together for a long period of time;

  • Pooling of resources and services for joint projects during the relationship; such as home improvement projects, buying a home together, or simply maintaining joint accounts;

  • Intent of the couple to be involved in a marriage-like relationship, such as having children together or referring to each other as "my spouse/wife/husband"

  • Purpose of the relationship, or enjoying the benefits of marriage such as companionship, friendship, love, sex, and mutual support.

Any one factor is not necessarily more significant than the others and in some cases all factors do not need to be present. Determining whether a Committed Intimate Relationship exists is dependent on the specific factual and legal aspects of each individual case.

After a Committed Intimate Relationship has been established, the Court has the authority to divide property, allocate debts, divide retirement with some limitations, establish a parenting plan and order child support. However, unlike cases where the parties were actually married, the Court cannot award spousal maintenance (alimony) or award attorney’s fees in Committed Intimate Relationships.

At the end of a Committed Intimate Relationship, the court will divide only community property and community debts. All property (except gift or inheritance) acquired during the relationship is presumed to be community property. Property acquired before the relationship or following separation is also presumed to be separate in nature. The division of community property should be fair and equitable. This may be a 50/50 division, or it may not. In some cases when one member of the relationship is economically disadvantaged, a greater award of community property may be appropriate.

The division of community debts is similar. Debts acquired during the relationship are presumed to be community in nature, while debts acquired before the relationship, or following separation, are presumed to be separate in nature.

The Court may divide the parties Retirement Benefits and will do so based on what is just and equitable. While this is an unsettled area of the law, generally the Court a divide a partner’s private retirement account. Generally governmental benefits are not divisible.

The Court can establish a Parenting Plan and Child Support. Regardless of what type of relationship the parties have, each parent has a legal responsibility to care for and support their child.

If you believe that you may be in a Committed Intimate Relationship, and the relationship might be ending, it is highly advisable you seek the advice and assistance of a experienced family law attorney.

Family law litigation can be emotionally difficult and complex. Decisions made about each step of the litigation can affect you for many years. We have years of experience helping our clients with Committed Intimate Relationships and can help you through the process. Contact us today at (253) 838 – 3377 or email at, to talk about your situation.

Disclaimer: All materials provided on this website have been prepared by Bains Law Firm for general information purposes only and no representation is made as to their completeness or accuracy. Information on this website is not intended as legal advice, and may not be relied upon as such. Only an attorney who can review the unique facts of each case and apply them to the statutes, case law and court rules can provide legal advice. Nothing in this website shall be construed to create an attorney-client relationship.

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