How unmarried couples can strengthen their relationships by privately defining their relationship under the law.
A Property Status Agreement or Domestic Partnership Agreement (“the Agreement”) is an enforceable contract created between two people that allows them to legally define the boundaries of their relationship. The Agreement sets forth the couple’s intentions and clarifies each person’s rights and obligations within their relationship. In some respects, unmarried couples defy the underpinnings of the law. So, if a couple splits up or if one party dies, it can be a legal mess.
So, the Agreement can become very useful in the future because it provides a present-day snapshot of the couple’s intentions as to how they want to share and separate their property. It is critical that couples consult with counsel when preparing an Agreement because Agreements are binding in Washington and there can be very significant legal consequences. It is imperative to stay informed.
The Agreement generally includes an inventory of property, accounts, and assets. The inventory will include information as to what was acquired before the relationship began, what was acquired during the relationship and the couple’s intentions regarding ownership of the property.
For example, even if only one person’s name is on the legal title of the family home, the couple can explicitly set forth their intent to share ownership in the Agreement. The Agreement can also include explanations for the couple’s intentions around ownership of inherited property and how the couple intends to share future income.
Unmarried couples face a unique vulnerability under Washington law. But, you can take steps together to legally define the terms of your relationship. And, taking the time to sit down together to actively make legal commitments to one another can ultimately strengthen your relationship while maintaining your autonomy and privacy.
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