The court of appeals in Greulich and Creary, 238 Or App ____(November 3, 2010) recently reaffirmed the law on implied domestic partnerships. This would be a situation where a couple cohabited and formed a relationship similar to marriage without a writing setting out their intentions. If the couple broke up or as here, one person died, would either be entitled to some share of the other’s assets or appreciation of those assets? It all depends.
The court stated that the proper focus is not on how long the couple was together but the parties’ intent to pool resources. Quoting from another case the opinion states the rule as follows: “In general, an equitable property division on dissolution of domestic partnership is appropriate where the parties’ intent to share assets and expenses is shown by evidence that they have jointly purchased, built, or maintained property, held joint accounts, and made substantial economic and non economic contributions to the household for mutual benefit.”
In this case they did not find such evidence even though the couple had been together for 18 years. One also had to think that the court disapproved of the plaintiff, a man, who as far as the court was concerned did little more than sleep with the defendant who was 22 years his senior. Although a personal relationship is not irrelevant, the emphasis in domestic partnerships is on economic contributions, bringing assets to the table for the partners’ mutual benefit. Finally, if people want the benefits derived from the legal status of marriage or something tantamount to it, they need more than circumstantial evidence of their intentions, they need a writing.