What is Palimony?

Posted On March 10, 2021 Family Law

Most people are familiar with the term alimony, but maybe not palimony. Palimony is an award of monthly support payments to one partner upon the dissolution of a non-marital relationship. In other words, it is alimony for unmarried couples who have formed a “meretricious” relationship or who have lived together for a period of time.  Because of the absence of marriage, palimony can be challenged even if the couple had an oral or written agreement to share assets accumulated during the relationship.

What is a “Meretricious” Relationship?

A “meretricious” relationship is a marital-like relationship between two individuals that cohabit with the knowledge that they are not legally married. There is no precise formula to determine if a relationship meets the standards of a “meretricious” relationship. Washington State law may deem a couple who lives together in a “Committed Intimate Relationship (CIR)” to be in a meretricious relationship after reviewing the following:

  • Continuous cohabitation (how long the couple lived together)
  • The length of the relationship 
  • The purpose of the relationship (formed for romantic reasons or more as a business partnership)
  • Whether the couple pooled resources and services for joint projects (what the couple has purchased together)
  • The intent of the parties (planning to marry in the future)

Once a court determines that a meretricious relationship exists, the unmarried cohabitants now have the rights and duties similar to those of married couples. This includes a duty to support their children, property ownership rights, and debt and liability responsibilities. There are, however, a few significant differences. For example: 

  • No legal duty to provide financial support to one another throughout or after the relationship
  • No tax benefits

Does Washington State Award Palimony?

Washington State does not award palimony, although unwed couples are granted the same rights and responsibilities as married couples regarding child custody, support, and visitation. When a cohabitation relationship ends, and a court finds that a committed intimate relationship (CIR) exists, then it will evaluate the interest each party has in the property acquired during the relationship and make a “just and equitable” division of that property, debts, and determine child custody and support. The couple has the opportunity to negotiate the terms of an agreement, but if the parties are unwilling to work together, a court will decide. 

What is a Cohabitation Agreement?

A cohabitation agreement is a legal contract between two individuals living together in an intimate relationship that specifies their rights and responsibilities. The agreement can include whether or not income and expenses are shared, who is responsible for debts or bills, how assets are owned, and who retains the rights to the possessions and real estate once the relationship ends due to a breakup or death. It is designed to mimic the obligations and rights that married people have toward each other. Since living together does not automatically come with entitlements, a cohabitation agreement can and should be created to define the relationship and protect both parties. 

Contact a Spokane Cohabitation Attorney

If you or someone you love is considering seeking palimony, contact Twyford Law Office. Our highly experienced Spokane cohabitation attorneys can give you more information or advice specific to your case. Call (509) 327-0777 to schedule your free consultation.

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