The Washington Post recently published an article about dating after divorce and discussing the question of whether it is better to be divorced or never married when dating as a 40-something.

It is all a matter of perspective and opinion, but the article brings up some interesting points. Those who have been married before are not necessarily “better” or “worse” at relationships than those who have not. Some may assume that divorcees have a proven capability of commitment and others may assume the opposite. As the article states, the word “divorced” really only tells two things for sure: 1) the person was at one point legally married to another person; and 2) the marriage legally ended, and it wasn’t due to one of the partners dying. Everyone’s situation is unique and complex in its own way. Divorce does not in itself do anything to define one’s relationship skills and abilities. Similarly, there is no way to make assumptions about those who are in their 40’s and not yet married. Once again, everyone’s experience is unique, multifarious, and cannot be amply described by the word “single”.

U.S. Census data shows 30% of unmarried Americans ages 35-44 have been divorced, and for ages 45-54 it is almost 50%.

Family Law implications:

If you are dating after a first divorce, or even if you have never been married, consider the rights that attach if you live with someone or things get more serious and you consider marrying.

Committed Intimate Relationships:  Washington courts recognize these relationships when an unmarried couple live together for a significant period of time. In Washington State, these relationships have property rights similar to those had by married couples. It is critical that you know and understand the implications of living with an intimate partner so you can plan accordingly.

Please see our prior blog posting, which provides further detail and describes some of the factors used to determine if a relationship constitutes a committed intimate relationship. Each case is evaluated individually, but generally a couple needs to have lived together for a minimum of 2-3 years and presented themselves to be in a committed intimate relationship. When such a couple separates, rights and responsibilities are similar to those of married couples and if they cannot negotiate their own agreements, the court may get involved to make determinations. This can include determining division of debt, determining division of assets and property ownership, and determining child custody and child support. Our prior blog posting provides further detail and describes some of the significant differences between rights in a committed intimate relationship versus a marriage.

If you are considering moving in with an intimate partner or currently live with a partner, and were unaware of the Washington law on committed intimate relationships you may be wondering what you can or should do with this information. A common option and best way to make sure that you and your partner dictate the terms of what will happen if your relationship and cohabitation are to end is to enter into a cohabitation agreement either at the onset of moving in or even after you already have. You can set forth how property will be divided and protect yourself from allowing a partner to gain a share of your property in the event of a break-up. Many couples prefer to allow their own decisions in advance to set the terms of cohabitation rather than a court, should the relationship end. Cohabitation agreements protect both parties and serve as insurance in the event that things are not on good terms or when there are questions at the end of a relationship when emotions often run high.

Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements:  As much as a marriage is a public declaration of love and commitment, it is a financial partnership, endorsed by the government and involving certain rights and responsibilities. Data shows that more than half of American marriages end in divorce, despite everyone’s best intentions. For this reason and others, prenuptial agreements are becoming increasingly popular. People are choosing to be prepared for all outcomes and to protect themselves and their separate property.

Washington is a community property state. Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements allow for clarity when it comes to property and asset ownership during a marriage and in the event of a divorce or legal separation. This can ease the struggle during an emotional tumultuous time. Spousal maintenance (also known as alimony or spousal support) and life insurance may also be included in these contracts. Washington State pre-and postnuptial agreements do not address child custody or child support issues.

Please see our prior blog posting for further detail and for definitions of prenuptial and postnuptial agreements.

Legal Representation:

Whether you are entering into, are in the midst of, or are facing the end of a marriage or a committed intimate relationship, we are here to help.

Cohabitation agreements, prenuptial, and postnuptial agreements can be complex and must meet certain criteria in order to be enforceable. It is essential to work with a knowledgeable and experienced family law attorney through this process. Our family law attorneys are well-versed in the sensitive nature of this topic area. We are prepared to help you navigate the process, offer sound legal advice and counsel, and draft your contract as appropriate. We are experienced in executing very complex and also more simple pre- and postnuptial agreements, depending on your unique situation.

In the event of a divorce or separation, our experienced family Law attorneys will help you navigate this complicated and emotional process objectively. We have the expertise, knowledge, and compassion to assist you effectively and collaboratively as you enter the next phase of your life.

Please contact our family law attorneys today for a consultation.