Common law marriage in Nevada allows for couples to have the same legal recognition as a couple that is legally married, without having to go through the time, expenses, and hassles of actually getting married.
Today, Nevada does not allow for the formation of common law marriages but may recognize those that were established before abolishment.
In this article, we discuss the legality of common law marriages in Nevada today as well as alternatives to common law marriage.
Does Nevada Recognize Common Law Marriage?
No, Nevada does not recognize common law marriages established after March 29, 1943. Nevada marriage laws require that marriage be solemnized and that the couple get a marriage license from the state for their marriage to be legal. What’s more, they should meet various requirements as provided by Nevada laws.
While couples can’t enter into common law marriages in Nevada today, such marriages that predated March 29, 1943 could still be considered valid by Nevada courts.
Such couples that need to validate their common law marriage have to show that they:
- Cohabited for a particular period
- Had an agreement to be married
- Considered themselves to be husband and wife
- Held themselves out to others as husband and wife or introduced each other as ‘my husband’ or ‘my wife’
- Shared assets and expenses, which could be proven through a joint account
Couples can use sworn statements from other people who witnessed them living together, or other records of the relationship, such as a cohabitation agreement. The more evidence you have of these things, the better the chance of having the marriage approved without much hassle.
– Filing For a Marriage License
If a couple meets all of these requirements and files an application for a marriage license with the proper authority, then they will be considered to be legally married. If they do not meet any of these requirements, they cannot become legally married just by filling out paperwork and getting a license. They would still have to get married through a traditional wedding ceremony.
If spouses who are already in a common law marriage want to get divorced, their only legal recourse is to file for divorce the same way any other married couple would.
Alternatives to Common Law Marriage in Nevada
If you and your partner are not looking to get married but still get the same rights and obligations as couples who are legally married, there are various alternatives you can explore. Below are the main ones.
– Domestic Partnerships in Nevada
Nevada law defines a domestic partnership as a legally recognized relationship involving two parties that grants nearly all rights and responsibilities as a marriage. A couple that seeks to remain unmarried but enjoy marriage-like rights and responsibilities can create a domestic partnership by registering with the Nevada Secretary of State.
Before you can register as domestic partners with your different-sex or same-sex partner in Nevada, the state requires that both of you meet the following requirements:
- Be at least 18 years of age
- Both live together or share a common residence
- Not be in another domestic partnership, marriage, or significantly equivalent legal relationship with another person
- Not be closely related by blood
- Have the legal capacity to consent to the domestic partnership
– Domestic Partnership Documentation:
The registration of your domestic partnership should also involve some written documents filed with the Secretary of State according to NRS Chapter 122A indicating such an intention.
Such documentation can include:
- Affidavits from both partners
- Joint insurance policies
- Joint checking accounts or stock certificates
- Shared responsibility for debts (e.g., car loan payments)
Same-sex couples who have already entered into a domestic partnership, married each other, or entered into a substantially equivalent legal relationship still have to register as Nevada domestic partners if they want the State to recognize them as domestic partners. According to the state’s laws, you don’t have to be a Nevada resident to register a domestic partnership with Nevada.
If you and your partner are already married or entered into a civil union in another jurisdiction, the law regarding the creation of domestic partnerships requires that you must register with the Nevada Secretary of State for your relationship to be recognized as a domestic partnership by the State.
– Process of Registering a Domestic Partnership
A couple looking to be registered as domestic partners has to file a one-page Declaration of Domestic Partnership with the Secretary of State. Both parties have to sign the declaration, which also has to be notarized. The form must then be submitted, in-person or by mail, to the Secretary of State’s office in Las Vegas or Carson City along with a fee of registration.
– Rights and Obligations for Domestic Partners
While partners who wish to stay unmarried may not enjoy common law marriage rights in Nevada, domestic partnerships confer certain rights to them.
– Family Law Rights and Responsibilities
- Obligations for the financial support of your domestic partner and liability for debts arising from the relationship
- Joint adoption or access to step-parent on similar terms and procedures as traditionally married couples
- The legal presumption that both domestic partners are the parents of children born into the partnership
- Termination of the domestic partnership and equitable division of the assets and debts of the relationship
- Right to request award for financial support upon a breakup
- Child custody, support, and visitation rights upon a breakup
- Crime victim and domestic violence laws for protection of the domestic partners and their children
– Death-related and Medical Rights
- Automatic hospital visitation rights, health care decision-making, and the power to receive information regarding a partner’s medical condition or treatment
- Power to authorize anatomical gifts and take charge of funeral arrangements after the partner passes on
- Right to seek damages for the wrongful death of a partner, loss of companionship
- Rights to inherit in case the partner doesn’t leave a will
Besides death-related, family law rights, and responsibilities, registering a domestic partnership guarantees partners additional rights and responsibilities such as:
- Right to hold real property in the relationship as community property
- Right to withhold testimony against domestic partner
- Right for particular public employees to take family leave to care for a sick partner
- Veteran benefits that are available to spouses in civil marriages or as provided by state law
Parties wishing to dissolve their domestic partnership in Nevada have two options. First, one of the partners can file a petition for the termination of the domestic partnership in a family court following procedures similar to those involved in the divorce process.
However, filing a Termination of Domestic Partnership form, provides partners meet the following conditions:
- The domestic partnership was registered less than five years before the date of termination
- Having no minor children or an agreement in place regarding child custody and support
- Have no community property or have an agreement in place regarding the division of such property
- Waive any rights to financial support
- Waive any rights to more detailed proceedings regarding the dissolution of marriages under Nevada law
– Can I Seek Child Support if I was in a Common Law Marriage?
Yes, child support can be sought provided a court validates your common law marriage. However, the amount may take into consideration the living standards of both parties during the existence of the relationship which could mean very little or even nothing for some people despite them having lived together for years.
– How is Property Divided After the Dissolution of a Common Law Marriage?
It depends on the situation, some property acquired during the common law marriage is considered to be community property and must be divided equally. However, some can also be considered as separate property of either party.
Separate property consists of any property that was held by one party before the relationship started or acquired after separation (i.e., inheritance). Community property includes any income earned or asset acquired by either individual during their time together. For long-term relationships, the court may consider other things such as contributions made into a house or education, and each party’s respective skillset.
– How is Custody Determined If I was Married Common Law?
Custody of a child born within a common law marriage is determined by applying standard legal criteria, which includes:
- The relationship between the parents and child
- Ability to provide support
- Where it would be best for the children to live, etc.
Such decisions are made based on what is best for the child rather than who has legal custody over them.
The state of Nevada neither recognizes common law marriages formed after 1943 nor does it allow for the creation of similar marriages today.
Below is a rundown of the discussion regarding common law marriage in Nevada:
- A Nevada common law marriage established before 1943 may be recognized by the state
- Domestic partnerships provide unmarried partners with rights and obligations similar to those of married spouses
- Annulments or dissolution of valid common law marriages have to follow the same legal procedure as the dissolution of civil or traditional marriages
Couples who live together for a long time often presume that they are in a common law marriage. Since Nevada no longer allows the establishment of common law marriages, such couples are better off exploring other options such as domestic partnerships.
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