You may have heard the term “Common Law marriage,” and wondered if it’s possible to become married without a marriage ceremony, or out of simply living together. The short answer is “no” — common law marriage is now only recognized in a few states, although a common law marriage created in one state will generally be recognized in others (including Nevada). While Nevada doesn’t permit the creation of Common Law marriages here, it does allow couples to deliberately create a similar situation in terms of shared property.
This concept can be tricky, however, and the Willick Law Group is here to help clarify the concept and guide you through the process if you need it.
Community Property and Nevada Cohabitation
Since 1984, the Nevada courts have permitted couples, by agreement, to apply community property law to their acquired property “by analogy,” allowing community property laws to apply to the property acquired by unmarried (usually cohabiting) couples. To do so, both partners must explicitly or implicitly agree to hold property together as though they were married, whether their economic agreement is thought of as a joint venture, partnership, or contract.
Originally, the rationale behind this was that the public encouragement of legal marriage wasn’t “well-served by allowing one participant in a meretricious relationship to abscond with the bulk of the couple’s acquisitions.” The concept has evolved over the intervening decades, applying the concept of joint ownership to property acquired by cohabiting couples before their formal marriage, or after their formal divorce, or where they never married at all. A different line of authority can allow jointly-titled property to not actually be equally owned, however, but instead belong to the parties when the relationship ends in accordance with how much each party contributed to the property’s price.
Breaking It Down
When taken together, the two lines of cases basically indicate that any Nevada cohabiting couple may have their property treated as equally co-owned, or owned by proportion to contribution, regardless of whether it is titled in the name of one party or both parties.
Generally, to treat property that is not expressly jointly titled as co-owned requires clear evidence of the intention to co-own the asset, or more generally to pool the couple’s resources so as to treat property acquired as belonging to both parties. In the absence of such evidence, only the actual monetary contributions of each partner might be considered in terms of determining ownership, even if title to the property is jointly held.
A related line of cases involves parties who believed that they were married, but were not actually so because of a “legal impediment” (usually, the failure to have dissolved a prior marriage as of the date the parties attempted to marry). In those cases, property that was accrued during the second, “putative marriage,” would be divided as though the couple had been legally married. However, the courts also held that usually alimony can not be ordered in such cases.
Willick Law Group
Each of these cases is entirely unique and individual, however, and the facts of your case will drive the end result. The attorneys of the Willick Law Group have litigated many cases that involved Nevada cohabitation, including cases involving a marriage before or after cohabitation, and those involving no actual lawful marriage at all. We are active in this area and are on top of all the evolving laws and cases. We will strive to make sure all of our clients receive a fair settlement under the law. For more detail on how Nevada treats palimony and cohabitation, see the articles and materials linked below, or get in touch with us to discuss your case today.
- Property and Support Claims for Same-sex Couples in Nevada after Obergefell (Originally published in the COMMUNIQUÉ, the official publication of the Clark County Bar Association, October 2021)
- Landreth v. Malik, 127 Nev. 175, 251 P.3d 163 (2011)
- Legal Note 71 – Engagement Rings and the Nevada Law of Gifts
- 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)
- Cohabitation and Alimony Payments: Understand the Laws in Nevada
- Initial Checklist for Drafting Cohabitation Agreement (What to Consider and What Information We Need)
- Property Transfers Between Cohabitants After Howard v. Hughes
- Premarital Agreements
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