Meretricious Relationships – Complex and Damaging – Just reading “meretricious” is complex, don’t ya think? The easiest way to explain this type of relationship – is that it is an “un-marriage.”
A relationship is deemed meretricious when two people are living together but have absolutely no intention of getting married – formally or informally. Unlike common-law marriage, these are consenting adults who are simply living together in a long-term intimate relationship who do not intend to be married. Intent is the key here because neither person has a good-faith belief that they are married, even though they may appear that way.
Sounds like a perfect set up, right? Not quite.
In the eyes of this state, a meretricious relationship is not a legal marriage and is never treated as one by the Texas Family Code. That may not be a big deal to some couples when the relationship is going smooth, but things can get tricky from a legal perspective when these types of relationships end – especially when children and property are involved.
Think about how long such relationships can last! Just like a marriage, they can last for years. And because the couple shares a residence, everything becomes comingled. That can include bank accounts, property, cars and other types of resources.
Unfortunately, most couples who are living together and share assets and/or debts fail to consider that there is no statutory framework within which to unwind the relationship like there is when you are married.
If it’s a case of property acquired during the relationship, this property is not divided in a “just and right” manner by the court. Instead, a spouse party to a meretricious relationship must prove:
- Joint ownership – example, property title in both parties’ names.
- Express trust – example, property title in one party’s name.
- Resulting trust – example, establish that one spouse contributed to purchase before title was vested.
- Constructive trust – example, breach of fiduciary relationship, or actual fraud.
- Partnership or joint venture – example, show agreement that both parties agreed to share profits.
- Gift – example, prove property was a gift.
I could speak on these in more detail in this blog, but each can be so complex depending on your specific case that you’re better off visiting with a trusted member of our legal team at Nelson Law Group.
With all that being said, the real issue is when children are born from a meretricious relationship. When it comes to children, the difference between marriage and meretricious relationships is that when you are married, there is a presumption of rights that each parent has over any children born from that union. When you are simply living together, and there is no marriage, that presumption does not apply. The father must then take affirmative steps to ensure his rights to his children are protected.
If you are in a meretricious relationship that may be coming to an end, you need proper counsel to help protect your rights and understand your responsibilities going forward. Please give us a call.