Questions About Committed Intimate Relationships and Cohabitation Agreements
My partner and I lived together for three years but are not married. What is our legal status as partners?
A court may consider you and your partner in a “committed intimate relationship” (CIR). Formerly known as “meretricious relationships,” a CIR is a stable, marital-like relationship where both partners cohabit with knowledge that a lawful marriage between them does not exist.
Courts will consider the following factors in determining whether a CIR exists between partners:
- Continuous cohabitation;
- Duration of the relationship;
- Purpose of the relationship;
- Pooling of resources and services for joint projects; and
- The intent of the parties.
As with a divorce or legal separation proceeding, a court has the authority to divide the assets and liabilities acquired during a CIR relationship once it has ended.
Our office can help determine if you are in a CIR if you are unsure and can provide more tailored advice based on your circumstance.
If I’m in a committed intimate relationship, how does this impact my situation if I want to leave my relationship?
Although a court has the authority to divide assets and liabilities, there are several significant differences between a CIR and a dissolution or legal separation. First, a court cannot award spousal support (alimony) to one partner or the other in a CIR situation. Second, while attorney fees can be awarded in a dissolution action if one partner has a need and the other can pay, attorney fees cannot be awarded in a CIR case. Finally, there is a 3-year statute of limitations to bring a property division action based on a CIR. In other words, you must bring a lawsuit within three years of the end of the CIR relationship to establish that it existed for the purpose of having the court determine the division of property.
My partner and I want to move in together but do not plan on getting married. We’re concerned about future property division. How can my partner and I prepare for the future?
Partners can change or limit how a CIR can alter their property rights by entering into a written agreement, commonly referred to as a “living together” or cohabitation agreement. Like a prenuptial agreement, a cohabitation agreement allows the partners to agree in advance as to the effect of their relationship and the consequences should it end on each partner’s property.
However, courts carefully review cohabitation agreements and will only enforce those that meet specific substantive and procedural requirements.