The State of Nevada does not recognize “common law marriage,” meaning a marriage that comes about without a marriage ceremony simply by cohabitation and the holding out by two people as married. However, in the past quarter century, Nevada law has evolved so that much the same effect might be created – at least as to the right to property acquired while a couple cohabits.
Starting in 1984, Nevada cases started recognizing that community property laws of the state might “apply by analogy” to cohabiting couples, and that unmarried couples might agree, explicitly or implicitly, to hold their property as if they were married, by way of contract, partnership, or joint venture. The Court found that the public policy of encouraging legal marriage would not be “well served by allowing one participant in a meretricious relationship to abscond with the bulk of the couple’s acquisitions.”
However, an entirely different line of cases involving cohabitants has also been decided during the past 25 years or so, in which the courts found that there was no reasonable assertion of a holding out as husband and wife, or as partners. In those case, the Court has even disregarded the formal title of ownership (for example, as joint tenants) and confirmed setting the property entirely or mostly apart to the parties in accordance with how much they contributed to the price of the property in question.
The two lines of cases, together, indicate that when a couple claims to be husband and wife, they might be found to hold all property as if they were married, bound by the community property laws of the State of Nevada. However, if there is not adequate evidence of an intention to “pool” resources or treat property as if it was community property, only the actual monetary contributions of each party to the property might be found to count for anything, regardless of the form of title by which property is held.
Most recently, the Nevada Supreme Court decided that where a couple thought they were lawfully married, but they were not (because the “wife” was never really divorced from her first husband) all property accrued during the “putative marriage” would be divided in the same way as if they had been married. The Court ruled, however, that alimony cannot normally be ordered in such a case.
Much greater detail of how Nevada treats “palimony” or cohabitation cases, and citations to relevant statutory and case law, is set out in the article that can be reached through the link below.
Of course, the facts of all such cases are unique, and as in most things, the facts drive the legal results that are possible. The WILLICK LAW GROUP has litigated a number of cases involving cohabitant relationships – including those cases in which the parties ultimately did marry, and those cases in which they did not. We have been, and intend to continue being, active in this area as the law continues to evolve, and in every case we strive to ensure a fair result for our clients within the bounds of the law.
- Palimony – Cohabitation chapter of NFPM
- Cohabitation Relationships and Community Property What Do You Do, When They Won’t Say “I Do”
- The Evolving Concept of Marriage and Coming Convergence of Marital and Non-Marital Property and Support Law (Nevada Lawyer, May 2011)
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