Nevada "Cohabitation Agreements" and "Civil Union" Laws

A Nevada cohabitation agreement is a contract between unmarried people who live together. It lays out terms such as how assets are to be divided in the event of a break-up.

A couple can enforce a cohabitation agreement in court with a so-called "palimony" suit.

To help you better understand cohabitation agreements, our Las Vegas family law attorneys discuss below:

Cohabitation 202

1. How can couples share property in Nevada?

Nevada is a community property state.1

Married couples own most property they acquire during the marriage on an equal basis.2 If the couple divorces, each spouse gets one-half of the community property.

Both heterosexual and same-sex couples can get married in Nevada. But people do not need to get married to own community property. They can also enter into a domestic partnership.

A Nevada domestic partnership gives couples most of the same rights as marriage. Or a couple can enter into a cohabitation agreement.

2. Does Nevada allow common-law marriage?

Nevada does not recognize common law marriages entered into after March 29, 1943.3 

To be valid, a Nevada marriage requires solemnization. The couple must meet certain requirements and get a marriage license from the state.4

3. What is a cohabitation agreement?

A cohabitation agreement is a legal contract. It allows an unmarried couple to formalize their property arrangements. People sometimes refer to it as a “living together” agreement.

An unmarried couple can choose any property arrangement it wants. They can even own property as though it was community property.5 This is sometimes called “quasi-community property” or community property “by analogy.”

A cohabitation agreement is similar to a Nevada prenuptial agreement. But a couple can enter into a cohabitation agreement at any time -- either before or after they move in together.

4. How do you create a cohabitation agreement?

Cohabitation agreements do not need to be in writing. A couple can create one:

  • By express agreement, whether written or verbal, or
  • By the couple's conduct.6

It is a good idea, however, to put a cohabitation agreement into writing. This will prevent misunderstandings in the event of a break-up.


5. What terms can go into a cohabitation agreement?

Terms that go into a cohabitation agreement can include (but are not limited to):

  • Division of property in the event of a break-up;
  • Financial support following a break-up;
  • Child custody and child support;
  • What happens to the couple's home if they split up; and
  • The right to make medical decisions for the other person.

6. How do I enforce a cohabitation agreement in Las Vegas?

A cohabitation agreement is a contract. If someone breaches the contract, the other party can take them to court to enforce it.

The person suing will have to prove the terms of the agreement. This is much easier if the contract is in writing. But it is still possible to prove the terms of a verbal cohabitation agreement.

It is also possible to prove that the parties intended to share property – even if they never discussed it.

Example: Joe and Marie live together and are not married. But Marie changes her last name to Joe's last name. Most of their friends think they are married. They have a joint bank account. All their income goes into it.
The house is in Marie's name to keep Joe's ex-wife from making a claim against it. But Joe paid the down payment and both couples have put in money to fix it up.
After 15 years of living together Joe and Marie break up. Marie refuses to sign half of the house over to Joe or to buy out his interest. So Joe takes her to court. The court finds that the couple intended to share their property equally. It orders Marie to pay half the home's value to Joe or else to sell it.

7. Should I have a cohabitation agreement?

There are many reasons why a couple might not want to get married or register as domestic partners.

But both marriage and domestic partnerships confer certain rights automatically. These include:

  • The right to visit the other partner in the hospital,
  • The right to make important medical decisions on the other partner's behalf,
  • The right to inherit the other partner's property if the partner dies without a will, and
  • The right to own assets as community property.

Partners can agree to most of these rights (other than inheritance) in a contract. But they will need to spell them out or otherwise make their wishes clear.

8. Why should I hire an attorney?

You may have to give up substantial rights in order to enter into a cohabitation agreement.

An attorney can advise you what you are giving up and what you are getting in return.

Having a written contract also ensures that your arrangements reflect your wishes.

An experienced Las Vegas family lawyer in your practice area will make sure all your needs are covered.

Need help with a Las Vegas cohabitation agreement? Call us…

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If you are thinking about signing a cohabitation agreement we invite you to contact us for a free consultation.

We can also help if you are ending a live-in relationship and need to fight for your rights.

To schedule your FREE consultation, call 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673). Or fill out the form on this page.

One of our experienced Las Vegas family law attorneys will contact you promptly to discuss your situation.

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