Same-Sex Marriage and Divorce in Nevada

The Present Reality

In Nevada today, essentially every family law issue should be resolved identically no matter the gender of the two parties involved. This goes for the rules governing marriage, divorce, guardianship, adoption, termination of parental rights, and every other family law issue that previously could be an issue between opposite-sex parties.

The Legal History of Same-Sex Marriage

The common law received in this country from England was the common law as it existed upon the founding of the United States, and thus at a time when jurisdiction over matters of marriage and divorce still belonged to the ecclesiastical courts.

Both under common law, and then by statute, the status of marriage, and thus the laws governing divorce, child custody, and many other subjects was either understood or expressly stated to apply only to opposite-sex couples. On September 21, 1996, the United States adopted a federal “Defense of Marriage Act” (“DOMA”) prohibiting judicial or legislative recognition of a same-sex marriage. Such laws were proposed throughout the country. In Nevada, a constitutional amendment was proposed by initiative petition and ratified at the 2000 and 2002 general elections.

Amending the Nevada Constitution to add a DOMA provision.

While Nevada did not have published case law from this era denying to same-sex couples the right to be equal co-parents, to adopt children, etc., such cases were common throughout the country in states lacking protection for same-sex couples.

On July 1, 2000, Vermont enacted a law permitting same-sex couples to obtain most of the benefits and legal status changes of marriage by way of a “Civil Union.” On June 10, 2003, Ontario, Canada, legalized same-sex marriage. Nevada adopted a “domestic partnership” law, open to same-sex couples, on October 1, 2009.

On October 27, 2014, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Nevada’s DOMA in Latta v. Otter, and on June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court decided Obergefell v. Hodges, striking down all States’ DOMAs and effectively legalizing same-sex marriage in the United States, holding that equal protection demands that same-sex couples be afforded “the constellation of benefits that the States have linked to marriage” as “personal choices central to individual dignity and autonomy.”

The Willick Law Group

The Willick Law Group actively practices in every aspect of family law, in both the family court, and in the Supreme Court. We have drafted agreements and litigated cases involving cohabitants, domestic partners, and divorcing spouses in same-sex cases, as we have in opposite-sex cases, addressing every aspect of property division, spousal support, and custody and support of children. In every case, we strive to achieve the legitimate goals of our client, always looking out for their and their children’s best interests.

The Nevada Case Indicating a Child Can Have “Two Mothers”