What Are the Requirenments for a Valid Marriage in Washington?
Community property refers to the system in some states for dividing a married couple's property in a divorce or upon the death of one spouse. In this system, everything a husband and wife acquire once they are married is owned equally (fifty-fifty) by both of them, regardless of who provided the money to purchase the asset or whose name the asset is held in, with the exception of inheritances, specific gifts to one of the spouses, and property and profits clearly traceable to property owned before marriage, all of which is separate property.
Community property recognizes the equal contribution of both parties to the marriage even though one;or the other may earn more income through employment. By agreement or action the married couple can turn (transmute) separate property into community property, including by commingling community and separate funds in one account.
The courts in California will divide the community property of the parties equally after setting aside to each spouse that spouse's separate property. Community property is presumed to be all property acquired by the parties during the marriage and held in joint form. This presumption may be rebutted by a clear statement in the title by which property is acquired that the property is separate and not community property or by proof that the parties have a written agreement that the property is separate property. In cases where the asset is claimed to be converted to marital property by commingling, in order to prove the separate nature of the property, the other spouse may attempt to trace the funds used to separate property, such as when funds from a spouse's separate property home owned before marriage are used to purchase a joint home after marriage. In such cases, having documentation regarding the source of funding is used to trace the separate funds used to purchase the marital asset.
Generally, separate property acquired before the marriage or by gift or inheritance during the marriage may be excluded from the marital estate if neither the property nor its income has been used for the common benefit of the parties during their marriage. Where the parties regularly use property acquired by one party before marriage for the common benefit of the parties, it is more likely to be available for consideration in dividing property. The frequency of use may be considered by the court in making the decision.
The Court makes a distinction between marital assets and separate assets. Marital assets are assets acquired during the marriage. Separate assets are asset which one party acquired prior to a marriage and maintained as separate property, property inherited during the marriage and property received as a gift by one party during the marriage. A party can turn a separate asset into marital asset by commingling the asset. Examples include: adding a new spouse's name to a bank account, car title, or deed to the home as joint tenants with right of survivorship.
Gifts between spouses pose problems. Many courts presume gifts from one spouse to another to remain marital, rather than separate, property. Some courts allow this presumption to be rebutted with clear evidence that the gift was intended to be the property only of the recipient. Courts can also look at factors such as the intention of the giver, along with whether the gift is subsequently used by one or both spouses.
I'm unable to determine whether your marriage was legal. Please refer to the statutes below. A minority of states continue to recognize common law, or informal, marriages. Many states only recognize common law marriages entered into prior to a certain date, but all states will recognize the validity of a common law marriage if it is recognized in the state where the parties reside, agreed to be married, and hold themselves out as husband and wife. In the state of Washington, there has never been a recognized common law marriage. The only marriages that Washington does recognize are those which are created by state license, through either a wedding or civil ceremony, and later made a public record. There are a few states that are still recognizing common law marriage. Those are Alabama, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah. There are also five states that will recognize common law marriages if they were established by a certain date. They are: Georgia, Idaho, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania. I
Common law marriage allows persons who live together as man and wife for a significant time and with the intent of having an exclusive relationship akin to a marriage to have the legal rights of formally married persons, including rights related to insurance and other benefits, property distribution on dissolution of the marriage, and distribution of property upon the death of one spouse. For a common law marriage to achieve validity as a marriage, the couple generally must agree to enter into a martial arrangement, must cohabit with one another, and must hold themselves out as husband and wife to others. California does not recognize common law marriages. Proof that the marriage exists is often the most difficult aspect of a common law marriage, and this issue often arises after the relationship has ended either in death or divorce. For example, the question of whether a common law marriage exists may arise after one of the partners in a relationship dies and the other seeks to prove that the partners were informally married to receive property through the other partner's estate. Similarly, when a relationship ends, a partner may seek to prove that an informal marriage exists in order to seek property distribution under marital or community property laws. Many California cities and counties, however, extend benefits to domestic partners. Iowa does recognize common law marriage.
Generally, unmarried cohabitants do not enjoy the same rights as married individuals, particularly with respect to property acquired during a relationship. Marital property laws and other family laws related to marriage do not apply to unmarried couples, even in long-term relationships. The characterization of property acquired by unmarried cohabitants is less clear than that of married couples whose ownership of property is governed by marital and community property laws. Some property acquired by unmarried couples may be owned jointly, but it may be difficult to divide such property when the relationship ends.
Cohabitation is generally defined as two people living together as if a married couple. State laws vary in defining cohabitation. Some states have statutes which make cohabitation a criminal offense under adultery laws. Under one state's law, cohabitation means "regularly residing with an adult of the same or opposite sex, if the parties hold themselves out as a couple, and regardless of whether the relationship confers a financial benefit on the party receiving alimony. Proof of sexual relations is admissible but not required to prove cohabitation." Another state statute defines cohabitation as "the dwelling together continuously and habitually of a man and a woman who are in a private conjugal relationship not solemnized as a marriage according to law, or not necessarily meeting all the standards of a common-law marriage." Yet another state, Georgia, defines cohabitation as "dwelling together continuously and openly in a meretricious relationship with another person, regardless of the sex of the other person."
Living together, or cohabitation, in a non-marital relationship does not automatically entitle either party to acquire any rights in the property of the other party acquired during the period of cohabitation. However, adults who voluntarily live together and engage in sexual relations may enter into a contract to establish the respective rights and duties of the parties with respect to their earnings and the property acquired from their earnings during the nonmarital relationship. While parties to a nonmarital cohabitation agreement cannot lawfully contract to pay for the performance of sexual services, they may agree to pool their earnings and hold all property acquired during the relationship separately, jointly or to be governed by community property laws. They may also agree to pool only part of their earnings and property, form a partnership or joint venture or joint enterprise, or hold property as joint tenants or tenants in common, or agree to any other arrangement.
Other legal issues that may be affect cohabiting couples include estate planning and medical care. Generally, someone who cohabits with another is not considered an heir under the law or have the same rights to make medical care decisions in the same manner as a spouse. Therefore, unmarried cohabitants may consider estate planning and power of attorneys in addition to having a nonmarital agreement.
In some cases of people who formerly cohabited, courts have found a trust created in property of one person who cohabits with another, whereby the property is deemed held for the benefit of their domestic partner. When there is no formal trust agreement, a resulting trust may still be found under certain circumstances in order to enforce agreements regarding the property and income of domestic partners. If there is evidence that the parties intended to create a trust, but the formalities of a trust are lacking, the court may declare a resulting trust exists. The court may also declare that a constructive trust exists, which is essentially a legal fiction designed to avoid injustice and prevent giving an unfair advantage to one of the parties. This may be based on the contributions made by one partner to the property of the other. Each case is decided on its own facts, taking all circumstances into consideration.
A minority of states have anti-cohabitation laws on their books, although they are largely not enforced. State laws also exist allowing cohabitation as affirmative defense in certain criminal sexual offenses. Cohabitation alone may not qualify as common law marriage. Under the terms of an alimony order, payments may cease if the recipient cohabits with another. Some state statutes and case law allow modification or termination of alimony based upon a significant change of circumstances, such as cohabitation. State laws involving cohabitation vary by state, so local laws should be consulted for requirements and applicability in your area.
Jared Laskin, a prominent “palimony” lawyer in California has written an online article about palimony since the 1976 decision of Marvin v. Marvin; see: http://www.palimony.com/7.html. Reading that article will give some notion of the rights of a cohabitant whose domestic partnership is not working.
It is recommended for cohabiting couples to create a cohabitation agreement, which can be enforced under contract law principles. Such agreements provide for the terms of dividing assets and debts upon termination of the relationship. Please see the links to the forms below.
A resulting trust is a trust created in property of one person who cohabits with another, whereby the property is deemed held for the benefit of their domestic partner. When there is no formal trust agreement, a resulting trust may still be found under certain circumstances in order to enforce agreements regarding the property and income of domestic partners. If there is evidence that the parties intended to create a trust, but the formalities of a trust are lacking, the court may find a resulting trust exists.
The court may also declare that a constructive trust exists, which is essentially a legal fiction designed to avoid injustice and prevent giving an unfair advantage to one of the parties. This may be based on the contributions made by one partner to the property of the other. The court typically requires a finding of unjust enrichment before it wil impose a constructive trust. Each case is decided on its own facts, taking all circumstances into consideration.
The doctrine of unjust enrichment is based upon the principle that one should not be permitted unjustly to enrich himself at the expense of another but should be required to make restitution of or for property received, retained or appropriated. The general rule is that a payment of money under a mistake of fact may be recovered provided that such payment will not prejudice the payee. It is considered unjust enrichment to permit a recipient to retain money paid because of a mistake, unless the circumstances are such that it would be inequitable to require its return. This applies even if the mistake is one on one side (unilateral) and a consequence of the payors negligence, or that the payee acted in good faith. "A person who has conferred a benefit on another by mistake is not precluded from maintaining an action for restitution by the fact that the mistake was due to his lack of care." (Restatement of Restitution § 59.) Equity, which is based on notions of fairness, often allows a person who pays money to another under the mistaken belief a valid contract exists to recover that money when the contract is subsequently canceled for fraud or mistake and the rights of innocent parties have not intervened. (Restatement of Restitution §§ 17, 28.)
A constructive trust is one that arises by operation of law against one who, by fraud, wrongdoing, or any other unconscionable conduct, either has obtained or holds legal right to property which he ought not to, in good conscience, keep and enjoy. A constructive trust is an appropriate remedy against unjust enrichment. Unjust enrichment is present in nearly every case where a constructive trust is imposed. However, the court's creation of a constructive trust is not necessarily dependent on a finding that the person whose property is subjected to it has acted wrongly, but may rest as well upon a finding of unjust enrichment arising from other circumstances that "render it inequitable for the party holding the title to retain it." (Starleper v. Hamilton 106 Md.App. 632, 666 A.2d 867 (1995).)
The basis for creating a constructive trust is to prevent unjust enrichment. (Restatement of Restitution § 160, comment c.) "Where a person wrongfully disposes of property of another knowing that the disposition is wrongful and acquires in exchange other property, the other is entitled to enforce a constructive trust of the property so acquired." If the property so acquired is or becomes more valuable than the property used in acquiring it, the profit thus made by the wrongdoer cannot be retained by him; the person whose property was used in making the profit is entitled to it." (Restatement Restitution § 202.) When property is given or devised to a defendant in breach of a donor's or testator's contract with a plaintiff, equity will impose a constructive trust upon that property being held by another even though (1) the transfer is not the result of breach of a fiduciary duty or an actual or constructive fraud practiced upon the plaintiff, and (2) the donee or devisee had no knowledge of the wrongdoing or breach of contract. (Jones v. Harrison , 250 Va. 64, 458 S.E.2d 766 (1995 ).)
A person who has been unjustly enriched at the expense of another may be required to make restitution to the other. Despite not having a contractual agreement, a trial court may require an individual to make restitution for unjust enrichment if he has received a benefit which would be unconscionable to retain. A person may be deemed to be unjustly enriched if he (or she) has received a benefit, and keeping it would create injustice.
Please see the following WA statutes:
RCW 26.04.060 A marriage solemnized before any person professing to be a
minister or a....
A marriage solemnized before any person professing to be a minister or a
priest of any religious denomination in this state or professing to be an
authorized officer thereof, is not void, nor shall the validity thereof be
in any way affected on account of any want of power or authority in such
person, if such marriage be consummated with a belief on the part of the
persons so married, or either of them, that they have been lawfully joined
RCW 26.04.090 A person solemnizing a marriage shall, within thirty days
A person solemnizing a marriage shall, within thirty days thereafter,
make and deliver to the county auditor of the county wherein the license
was issued a certificate for the files of the county auditor, and a
certificate for the files of the state registrar of vital statistics. The
certificate for the files of the county auditor shall be substantially as
STATE OF WASHINGTON }
COUNTY OF ..........
This is to certify that the undersigned, a ......, by authority of a
license bearing date the .... day of ...... A.D., 19..., and issued by the
County auditor of the county of ......, did, on the .... day of ......
A.D., 19..., at ...... in this county and state, join in lawful wedlock
A.B. of the county of ......, state of ...... and C.D. of the county of
......, state of ......, with their mutual assent, in the presence of F H
and E G, witnesses.
In Testimony Whereof, witness the signatures of the parties to said
ceremony, the witnesses and myself, this .... day of ......, A.D., 19...
The certificate for the files of the state registrar of vital statistics
shall be in accordance with [*] RCW 70.58.200. The certificate forms for
the files of the county auditor and for the files of the state registrar of
vital statistics shall be provided by the state registrar of vital
RCW 26.04.120 All marriages to which there are no legal impediments,
All marriages to which there are no legal impediments, solemnized before
or in any religious organization or congregation, according to the
established ritual or form commonly practiced therein, are valid, and a
certificate containing the particulars specified in RCW 26.04.080 and
26.04.090, shall be made and filed for record by the person or persons
presiding or officiating in or recording the proceedings of such religious
organization or congregation, in the manner and with like effect as in
RCW 26.04.160 (1) Application for a marriage license must be made and filed
(1) Application for a marriage license must be made and filed with the
appropriate county auditor upon blanks to be provided by the county auditor
for that purpose, which application shall be under the oath of each of the
applicants, and each application shall state the name, address at the time
of execution of application, age, social security number, birthplace,
whether single, widowed or divorced, and whether under control of a
guardian, residence during the past six months: PROVIDED, That each county
may require such other and further information on said application as it
shall deem necessary.
(2) The county legislative authority may impose an additional fee up to
fifteen dollars on a marriage license for the purpose of funding family
services such as family support centers.