Palimony is similar to alimony in that it is typically monthly support payments made by one party to another after a breakup. Palimony is derived from the words “pal” as in friend rather than spouse and “alimony.” With alimony, there is a clearly defined and legal relationship, so alimony is easier to calculate and enforce. With a significant or long relationship that didn’t end up in a legal marriage, it can be more challenging to determine what and if support payments should be made following the end of a relationship.

Do All States Honor Palimony?

Palimony may go hand in hand with common-law marriage. In a common-law marriage, there is no legal process or maybe even ceremony that acknowledges that you and your partner are in a marriage setting. Still, you may live together, share finances, and even refer to each other as husband and wife.

Most states, like Washington, will not honor common-law marriages, so most may assume that palimony or other forms of support after a long-term relationship will mean one of the parties is left with nothing.

What Washington state does recognize, however, is a Committed Intimate Relationship. A committed intimate relationship, or a CIR, helps parties establish legal rights to their long-term relationships, similar to a legal marriage. By establishing a CIR, both parties may feel more assured that they will walk away with something after a significant relationship rather than be left in financial duress.

Evidence can show that the couple shared resources and finances and lived together for years, and this may be enough for the courts to recognize the couple is in a CIR. The courts have ultimate discretion based on each situation, so it is essential to remember that and to have strong evidence to support why you feel you were in a CIR.

What is a Cohabitation Agreement?

Similar to a prenuptial or post-nuptial agreement, a Cohabitation Agreement can be formed between two individuals who wish to recognize financial responsibilities, living arrangements, and more between them regardless of their plans to marry in the future legally.

A cohabitation agreement may be a simple contract drafted and signed by both parties that explains how each party will proceed in the relationship while they are together and what is expected should the pair break up. Essential items in the contract may include how real estate is purchased, titled, and paid for, how finances are handled, how expenses are taken care of, and more.

Why is a Cohabitation Agreement or a Committed Intimate Relationship Important?

As with most states, Washington doesn’t recognize common-law marriages or have any specific laws in place regarding palimony. This doesn’t mean, however, that you are left without solutions. If you can establish a CIR or have an existing cohabitation agreement, courts will review this and determine issues after a breakup, such as support or division of assets.

Once a court has deemed a relationship in Washington a CIR, they can treat the division of assets like during a divorce. Debts are typically split up similarly.

The difference lies within the legality of marriage vs. a CIR. Washington follows the community property rule in marriage, meaning that most or all of the assets acquired throughout the marriage by either party are to be split equally through a divorce.

This rule isn’t followed with a CIR, and instead, the courts use their discretion to ensure assets and debts are equally divided between the two parties so neither is left more financially stressed than the other, sometimes referred to as the “fair and equitable standard.”

How Do Courts Divide Assets and Debts After a Breakup?

Courts will use their ultimate discretion as each case will be different. Some typical details that will be closely analyzed are how long the couple has been together, what resources each party contributed to the relationship, and what each party will be left with when all is said and done.

Their goal is to ensure that neither party is unbalanced with the other financially. So though palimony isn’t honored in most states, a fair division of assets and debts may mean you can walk away without massive financial stress.

For example, the courts may review your case and determine that you or the other party will be left with having to find new housing or a different vehicle. They may balance this by dividing the assets or debts, knowing the financial resources one of you will have to have in the future to start over.

If you owned something before the relationship, that asset stays yours and isn’t typically brought into the asset category that needs to be divided. The same goes for debt and, in most cases, inheritances or gifts you received while in the relationship. For example, if you owned a home before the relationship, that will remain yours. Similarly, if you have credit card debt from before your relationship began, this will remain your responsibility and not a shared one following the end of your relationship.

How Can a Family Lawyer Assist Me?

You may feel that there aren’t legal options for you to pursue following the end of a relationship if you weren’t married. If it can be established that you were in a committed intimate relationship with a partner and have clear evidence to support that notion, you have options.

Call our office at (360) 926-9112 to discuss your options and learn how we can best assist you. Let us be your fierce advocate in starting this new chapter in your life.