Walla Walla Unmarried Couples Lawyer
Breaking up is not necessarily easier for unmarried couples than married couples, especially if the relationship was long-term and involves children or significant property accumulation. Washington courts look at each relationship individually when making decisions about property division and estates. For unmarried couples, courts recognize and adhere by a “Committed Intimate Relationship” standard.
A Walla Walla unmarried couples lawyer could help you through the legal maze involving unmarried couples since applicable standards are not as clear-cut as they are for married couples. Skilled family attorneys could help you give courts evidence of your relationship and define it to your needs.
Factors Determining Property Division for Unmarried Couples
Washington is a community property state, but those laws do not apply to unmarried couples. Unmarried partners may be able to pursue a Committed Intimate Relationship cause of action. This allows unmarried people to essentially act like a divorcing married couple in terms of the asset and debt division process. In these cases, the court decides on a “just and equitable” distribution for property acquired during the relationship.
The court examines various factors when making decisions regarding property division with unmarried couples. These include:
- The length of the relationship
- How long the couple lived together and whether it was continuous
- The exclusivity of the relationship
- The purpose of the relationship
- Whether there were joint accounts and/or debts
- Whether one member made sacrifices such as moving for the career benefit of the other
Certain factors will rule out a marriage-like commitment, such as if one party married someone else during the relationship. If applicable, a Walla Walla unmarried couples attorney could help an individual identify any such factors and determine how they could affect your case.
Domestic Partner Law in Walla Walla
In Washington, domestic partners have many of the same rights as those who are legally married, but only at the state level. Today, with the legalization of same-sex marriage, domestic partner laws require at least one member of the registered partnership to be at least 62 years of age at the time of registration.
This is because many older people do not marry or remarry because doing so will mean losing pension or Social Security benefits. Under Revised Code of Washington §26.09.080, property division for a domestic partnership is the same as that for married couples.
Estate Considerations for Unmarried Couples
If either member of an unmarried couple dies without a will, or intestate, they generally will not qualify for intestate succession or property inheritance. However, those registered as domestic partners might be able to inherit property in the absence of a will.
Couples should bear in mind that a surviving member of an unmarried couple or a domestic partnership cannot inherit their partner’s Social Security benefits, as these are governed by federal laws instead of the state laws that govern partnerships. In the case where some property considered part of the deceased’s estate actually belongs to the late person’s surviving partner, the court would decide the appropriate inheritance based on the evidence presented.
Determining Financial Support
Since many of the rights afforded married couples who split are not given to unmarried couples, ending a long-term relationship does not necessarily involve one party paying spousal maintenance to another. However, the couple may enter into an agreement to provide support that is legally recognized.
In determining child support and custody for unmarried partners, courts refer to Washington child support guidelines, which focuses on the best interest of the children. In cases where a mother is seeking financial support from their child’s father, it may be necessary to file a paternity action and perform a DNA test to obtain legal recognition of the father. An unmarried couples lawyer in Walla Walla could review the circumstances regarding child support and custody and advise accordingly.
Consult a Walla Walla Unmarried Couples Attorney
If you are leaving your long-term partner, you may need the services of an experienced Walla Walla unmarried couples lawyer to help you sort through the legal issues that may arise during property division, estate succession, spousal maintenance, and child support discussions.
An attorney who understands the complexity of family law could help ensure legitimacy and fairness in your situation. Call today to arrange an initial consultation.