Law School Case Brief
Connell v. Francisco - 127 Wash. 2d 339, 898 P.2d 831 (1995)
A meretricious relationship is a stable, marital-like relationship where both parties cohabit with knowledge that a lawful marriage between them does not exist. Relevant factors establishing a meretricious relationship include, but are not limited to: continuous cohabitation, duration of the relationship, purpose of the relationship, pooling of resources and services for joint projects, and the intent of the parties.
The boyfriend and girlfriend were involved in a meretricious relationship. When the parties separated, the girlfriend brought an action for property division. The trial court limited distribution to property that would have been community had the parties been married. The appellate court reversed this decision and determined that previously owned property should also be considered. The appellate court held that a community-property-like presumption applied to property acquired during the relationship. The boyfriend sought review.
In a meretricious relationship, are previously owned properties presumed community property, thus, subject to distribution?
The court found that the only property that was subject to distribution was property that would have been characterized as community property had the parties been married. Joint ownership was presumed for property acquired during the relationship and the fact that one party held the title did not rebut the presumption of common ownership. Previously owned property was not subject to distribution. The court determined that if both parties increased the value of separate property, then a right of reimbursement in the community could arise. The case was remanded for a just and equitable distribution.
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