What is a Meretricious Relationship?

While a great number of relationships will split up between their first and second year, many will persist for many years or even decades.

If both parties can not agree or do not believe in the traditions of marriage, they might still be regarded under the law as in a meretricious relationship (definitions and terminology vary depending upon the state of residence).

Here is everything to know about whether or not your last relationship could be considered to be meretricious.

What Is a Meretricious Relationship?

Some people live together for years without getting married. As our society’s concepts of relationships, marriage, and commitment change, we need laws to accommodate our lives and recognize the bonds we make. Without having been married by the state, two people can typically still be considered married in many legal situations.

This is when a relationship is called a meretricious relationship, or a similar term, and considered a legal entity by the state.

Not every state recognizes this situation by the term meretricious. Some states call it something different like a “cohabitation” agreement.

If you have never been married but live with a partner and share intimate moments of your life, property, and finances, with them, you’re probably in a meretricious relationship.

Defining Your Relationship Is Tricky

Many factors determine whether or not you are in a meretricious relationship and they can feel relatively nebulous.

One item that demonstrates a marriage-like relationship is simply the length of your commitment. If you’ve got documentation that can show when you started dating or living together, you will be able to prove this should your claim to assets or support ever come into question.

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do…

If a court of law can find that you and a former partner had a meretricious relationship, then any property related to the relationship could be split if desired (or if contested).

These things could include but are not limited to your actual money, assets, your home, and any vehicles you drive. They could even include custody for kids.

So What Do You Do Now?

We are not here to give you relationship advice. However, we can help you and your significant other to set up your estate and family protection plans to take into account the nature of your partnership. Whether you choose not to wed by choice, or you have not been allowed to due to the laws where you live, we know how to prepare you, financially and legally, for the stresses and challenges to come.

Do not let the nature of your relationship be the reason you do not reach out for help in planning your future together!

Contact Lilac City Law for Estate Planning Help

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What is a Meretricious Relationship?

What is a Meretricious Relationship?

What is a Meretricious Relationship?

 

When working through estate planning, estate transference, or family planning issues, things are not always as clear-cut as we tend to write about here.  For instance, what if you and your unmarried partner (in a meretricious relationship) c0-parent a child from one of your earlier relationships and there’s an untimely death, who will be responsible for temporary guardianship?  

As you can start to see from this brief example, the definition of your relationships are key to starting to unravel the puzzle that can be estate issues in unforeseen situations.   If you are living together and not married, you should understand what a meretricious relationship is.

 

Requirements of a Meretricious Relationship

Even though there are no specific “requirements” to be in a meretricious relationship, there are some factors that are looked at when the nature of a relationship comes into question, for legal issues like trusts, estates, and more..

  • Length of the relationship: How long were you in a relationship with the other person? There are no set timeframes, but typically it is a minimum of 2 to 3 years.
  • Time of continuous cohabitation: How long did you live together? Again, there is no set timeframe.
  • Nature of the relationship: Did you behave as though you were married? If you both treated the relationship as a marriage, then this is one thing that a court can take into consideration.  If you thought of your relationship as a marriage but your significant other did not, then your relationship may not be considered meretricious if aspects of your family protection planning are not strictly defined.
  • The extent to which the funds and assets are commingled: Did you share a bank account? Did you own your house together? Again, this is showing marriage-like behavior and would factor into how assets are divided. 
  • The intent of the parties in question: Were both of you intending to stay in the relationship long-term? If you had no intention of it being long-term, then your relationship may not be considered meretricious.
  • Stability and commitment to your relationship: Were you both faithful to each other during your whole relationship? Did you have a loving and stable relationship? Your relationship will be considered not meretricious if one of you were not faithful or if you had an unstable relationship.
  • Living as though married (have a family together, refer to each other as husband and wife, etc.)

 

Two things to note: 

  • Washington state can recognize same-sex relationships as meretricious relationships.
  • Even though the state recognizes meretricious relationships in certain situations, it does not give the relationship the same rights as a legal marriage.
  • A couple generally needs to live together continuously for a minimum of 2-3 years and present themselves as being in a committed relationship like a marriage.

 

An Example of a Meretricious Relationship

John and Susan have been dating for the past five years.  They live in the same house, share a bank account and bills, and have a 3-year-old daughter together.  Everyone they know considers them married even though it is not legal.   Their relationship can be considered a meretricious relationship.

 

Rights in a Meretricious Relationship

When you are in a meretricious relationship you the right to have a contract with each other, you have a shared duty to support any children you have together, you have property co-ownership rights and a shared responsibility for debts and liabilities. However, you will not receive the same tax benefits as a married couple, and there is no duty to financially support one another during or after the relationship.

 

Other Areas Where You May Have an Issue Being Unmarried:

 


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How Does A Meretricious Relationship Play Into An Estate Plan?

How Does A Meretricious Relationship Play Into An Estate Plan?

Regarding marriage, Washington state does not recognize common law. Instead, Washington State looks at a long-term, committed relationship as a meretricious relationship or cohabitation.

Being in a meretricious relationship versus being legally married can affect what happens to your property and assets should one of you become disabled or die.

What is a Meretricious relationship?

In the state of Washington, a meretricious relationship is where there is cohabitation in marital nature but not legally on paper. You might casually refer to this as “living together, but not married.” So, for example, you and your significant other have been in a relationship for the past 20 years where you live together, have joint bank accounts, and make joint decisions on all financial decisions, but you are not legally married then you can be considered to be in a meretricious relationship.

  • Several factors that the court considers when determining if it is a meretricious relationship are:
  • Length of the relationship
  • Time of continuous cohabitation
  • Nature of the relationship
  • Extent to which the funds and assets have been co-mingled
  • Intent of the parties in question
  • Stability and commitment to your relationship
  • Living as though married (have a family together, refer to each other as husband and wife, etc.)

Each case is looked at individually. A couple generally needs to live together continuously for a minimum of 2-3 years and present themselves as being in a committed relationship like a marriage.

Washington state recognizes same-sex relationships as a meretricious relationship.

Even though the state recognizes meretricious relationships in certain situations, it does not give the relationship the same rights as legal marriage.

How will this affect my estate plan?

If you are in a meretricious relationship, you want to make sure that you have an estate plan in place. Your assets will be divided according to the court as they see fit if you do not have specific wishes in your will, and you do not have a legal marriage in place.

Having a comprehensive estate plan ensures that the division and distributions of your assets are done the way you want them to be.

Things you can do:

Put it in Writing

Putting your wishes in writing in your will ensure your assets will be divided the way you want them to be. In some cases, such as a same-sex couple, your partner could be completely left out if the state you live in does not recognize same-sex marriage. In other instances, your house could be awarded to your children instead of your partner because it was not in your will.

Consider a Trust

A revocable living trust keeps your assets from having to go through probate. If you die the court will appoint a someone to manage your probate estate, and if they do not recognize your partner as speaking with the authority of a married partner, that could create ambiguity you want to avoid.

Establish Rights

Cash, investment accounts, and real estate assets should be put into joint ownership so they can pass to the surviving owner. Also, if the couple has children together and only one person is the biological parent, the not-biological parent should adopt the child to get parental rights.

If you are in a meretricious relationship, you should contact a family law attorney. They can help you fill out all essential estate planning forms and help you make sure your assets are divided and distributed according to your wishes.

Contact Lilac City Law for help in setting up a living trust

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