As the world continues to struggle with COVID19, our team is in our office, working to help clients resolve complex family law matters. Our staff is taking every precaution to comply with social distancing measures and can meet with clients over phone or video conference, as well as in-person office meetings.

Non-Marital Relationships

In the state of Washington, it’s not just married couples that can be entitled to property after the dissolution of a partnership. Some unmarried couples may be legally entitled to divide certain assets acquired by the couple during their relationship. State laws recognize some long-term relationships can be treated as similar to marriages even if there isn’t a marriage ceremony or certificate.

Depending on several factors, the court system might award both individuals with property. If you have ended a long-term relationship where you have shared property with the other person, it’s always wise to seek out legal assistance to guide you through the process of securing what is yours.

Serious relationships take many different routes, and not all wind up in marriage. Just because you and your former partner were not married doesn’t mean you are not entitled to certain rights. In Washington, there are established principles that allow the courts to determine if certain non-marital relationships qualify for benefits. To learn about these and more, contact an experienced family law attorney to assist you today.

Attorney for Non-Marital Relationships in Seattle, WA

At Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson, we understand the complexity that comes with serious long-term relationships. When they end, there are significant consequences that affect every facet of life, including finances. At Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson, our seasoned family lawyers have the knowledge, skill, and dedication to provide you with the kind of legal service your case requires.

From start to finish, in and out of court, our legal team will work with you to build the case and present it before a judge. We will listen to your side of the story, help you compile evidence and construct an argument, and guide you through the entire court process. For us, nothing is more important than advocating for a brighter and happier future for our clients.

Contact us today at (206) 712-2756 to schedule a free consultation. [firm] serves clients in Seattle, Tacoma, Everett, Bellevue, Kent, Renton, and many other cities in the surrounding area.

Overview of Non-Marital Relationship Laws


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What is a Marriage-like Relationship?

Many unmarried couples unknowingly qualify as belonging to a marriage-like relationship which bestows specific rights and privileges similar to what marriage and domestic partnerships have.

In Washington, certain unmarried relationships, referred to as “committed intimate relationships,” are considered to function within a similar dynamic to marriage. There is no strictly defined way for courts to determine if people are part of a committed intimate relationship. Instead, judges generally go through a checklist of features that may or may not be present in that kind of relationship. Listed below are some of the most common guidelines for determining if a couple had a committed intimate relationship:

  • Was the relationship romantic and personal?
  • How long did the relationship last?
  • Did the couple live together continuously for an extended period of time?
  • Was the relationship continuous?
  • Was the relationship exclusive?
  • Did the partners pool resources together for a joint effort?
  • Did the partners behave like a married couple?
  • Own property together, adopt or have children together, share accounts and benefits, etc.
  • Was anyone in the relationship married to another person at any point in the relationship?

Ultimately a judge will determine, based on a variety of facts whether a couple was in a committed intimate relationship. As such, when preparing for any court process, it is imperative that you consult qualified legal assistance.


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Seattle’s Domestic Partnership Registration Program

Seattle offers unmarried couples in long-term committed relationships an opportunity to register a domestic partnership with the Seattle City Clerk's Office. The registration, worth $25, is fully voluntary and does not require residency. It is open to any couple that wishes to register. There are a few exceptions, however. Under City of Seattle Ordinance 117244, partners in a domestic relationship can only register if they:

  • Are both 18 years of age or older
  • Are not married
  • Are not related to one another by blood in a manner that would bar their marriage in Washington State
  • Have a relationship of mutual support, caring, and commitment
  • Do not have any other domestic partner

If a couple desires to register a domestic partnership with the city of Seattle, the first step is to download the Domestic Partnership Registration form or request a copy from the City Clerk's Office. Both parties should fill out the same form and answer all eligibility questions truthfully. Both signatures must be notarized in the original document. Once completed, the couple will have to mail the form with the $25 registration fee to the City Clerk's office.


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Unmarried Couple Rights in Seattle

If the court determines that you have a “committed intimate relationship,” the court will follow the guidelines for how assets will be divided within both parties. Only property was gained during the relationship (community property) can be distributed; property acquired before the relationship (separate property), as a gift during the relationship, or after the relationship is not accessible to the other party.

The shared property includes shared debt. If you and your ex-partner accrued debt on a joint-expense, or in the purchasing or development of shared property, debt collectors might be able to take funds from your personal account. This is because the court divided your joint debt between you and your ex-partner when you legally terminated your relationship.

For relationships in which one of the partners dies without a will, the remaining partner is not legally entitled to an inheritance. An exception to this is if the relationship was classified as a domestic partnership under RCW 26.60. However, the surviving partner may have some claim to property accumulated during the relationship that is understood to belong to both parties.


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How a Seattle Family Law Attorney Can Help

There are many ways to prepare for a court battle, but a few key strategies stick out as most important. The first step you or anyone else facing this legal issue should do is to seek out an experienced family law attorney. The second step is to utilize that attorney’s guidance to compile all the relevant information and evidence, and to use those items to develop a strong argument for the judge.

The outcome of the case is determined by a family law judge. Although a judgment is required, judges will not make decisions without evidence to support it. Gathering data and constructing a reasonable case is the most effective strategy in preparing for family law court.  


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Additional Resources

The Office of the City Clerk - Visit the Office of the City Clerk webpage to learn about Seattle's domestic partnership registration. Since 1994, the city of Seattle has offered unmarried couples in long-term committed relationships an opportunity to document those relationships by registering a domestic partnership with the Seattle City Clerk's Office. Domestic partnership registration is voluntary.

Washington RCW 26.20 – Visit the Washington State Legislature page to view Chapter 26.20 of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW). The page compiles all of the statutes relevant to domestic partnerships in Washington. Sections include family abandonment, family nonsupport, evidence, proof of wilfulness.


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Non-Marital Relationships Lawyer in King County, WA

No matter how the relationship ended, or what the circumstances are financially, if you were in a committed, long-term relationship in the state of Washington, you might be legally entitled to certain benefits or property. Going to court and fighting for what you deserve takes guts, and it takes quality legal assistance.

At Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson, the case-specific needs of our clients are the highest priority. From the time our clients decide to entrust their cases to us, our team of legal veterans will work tirelessly and aggressively to build, refine, and present an argument for their claims. Contact us today at (206) 712-2756 to schedule a free consultation. Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson represents clients in King County, Kitsap County, Snohomish County, Pierce County, and many more in the surrounding area.


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