February 21, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/
-- Time limit applies to lawsuits alleging committed intimate relationship
Under Washington law, a long-term cohabitation similar to a marriage can result in the couple bearing many of the rights and responsibilities of a married couple. This is referred to as a "committed intimate relationship
," and can result, for example, in certain possessions being treated as community property, to be evenly divided.
The ending of such a relationship may lead to serious disagreements and court proceedings, as seen in the Washington Court of Appeals case of In re Kelly and Moesslang.
A 20-year relationship
The couple lived together in a house from 1986 to 2006, although the dispute which arose centered around when the relationship actually ended. The woman filed a complaint in 2009, seeking to divide their property acquired during their relationship.
Although the woman admitted they had had some problems with the relationship between 1999 and 2001, and again in 2004, she argued that the relationship did not end until 2006. The man alleged that the relationship ended in 1999, and that he had a serious relationship with another woman beginning at that time.
The woman had lived in a house titled in the man's name beginning in 2006, and alleged that the man had promised this residence belonged to her. She sought a declaration that the two had been in a committed intimate relationship, an equitable distribution of the property, as well as ownership of the home.
The man argued that the statute of limitations--the time period during which the lawsuit could be brought--had expired. Specifically, that the relationship had ended prior to 2006, more than three years earlier. The court agreed, dismissing the case. The woman appealed.
Had the time to bring the lawsuit expired?
In the Washington Court of Appeals, the woman argued that property acquired during a committed intimate relationship should be treated like community property acquired during a marriage and that the time limit for bringing her lawsuit did not begin to run until the man removed her from the house.
However, the Washington Court of Appeals held that the action for property division
of assets acquired during the relationship accrued when the relationship ended. The woman knew or should have known the relevant facts to establish her claim when the relationship ended, not later.
Marriages and committed intimate relationships may be similar in some ways, but they are not the same. Therefore, the case was subject to a three-year statute of limitations. The man had provided evidence, including emails, showing that the woman was well aware of the man's other relationship and that the woman had considered herself "single" earlier than 2006. Therefore, the court had properly dismissed the woman's case.
Seeking answers to your questions
It is important for couples in Washington to realize that the law may treat you as if you were married for certain purposes, such as the division of assets. While the woman in this case had apparently waited too long to file her case, that will not be the deciding factor in most cases. If you have questions about family law as it relates to unmarried couples, you should seek a confidential consultation with attorneys who have handled a wide range of family law issues for unmarried or married couples.
Article provided by DuBois Cary Law Group, PLLC
Visit us at www.duboislaw.net