Nevada is a community property state. This means that each spouse owns 50% of the property assets and debts acquired during the marriage. Upon divorce or legal separation, courts distribute these assets and debts equally between the spouses.
Community property may be divided unequally upon divorce if the married couple entered
- a Nevada prenuptial agreement or
- a marital dissolution settlement agreement.
To help you better understand Nevada’s community property laws, our Las Vegas family law attorneys discuss, below:
- 1. What is community property in Nevada?
- 2. What rights do spouses have in community property?
- 3. Is community property always split equally in a Nevada divorce?
- 4. What is separate property?
- 5. What property constitutes separate property in Nevada?
- 6. Can separate property ever become community property?
- 7. What property can be used to pay debts incurred during a marriage?
- 8. Does domestic partnership create community property rights in Nevada?
- 9. What states are community property states?
Community property is property owned equally by each spouse in a Nevada marriage.1
All property acquired by either spouse during the marriage is community property except:
- When a prenuptial agreement or other contract between the spouses states otherwise,
- When a court issues a contrary ruling, or
- When the property is the separate property of one of the spouses (as discussed in Section 5, below).2
Under Nevada state law, spouses own community property equally. During the marriage, either spouse may sell, spend or give away community property, except:
- Neither spouse may bequeath more than one-half of the community property in his or her will;
- Neither spouse may give away community property as a gift without the consent of the other spouse; and
- Neither spouse may sell any real estate that is community property unless both spouses sign the deed.3
Additionally, neither spouse may purchase community real estate unless both join in the transaction.
Community property is generally split equally in a divorce since each spouse has a half interest by default. There may be an unequal distribution of community property when:
- There is a valid prenuptial agreement providing for the division of a couple’s marital assets upon divorce; or
- Before or during the divorce the couple enters into a settlement agreement regarding the division of property; or
- The divorce court finds that one of the spouses has “wasted” or “secreted” community assets.4
Example: Phil and Carla have separated and are planning to get divorced. While their divorce is pending, Phil uses $40,000 from the couple’s joint checking account to pay down his father’s mortgage.
The court finds that Phil did this in order to keep the money from Carla. Thus the court is justified in awarding an extra $40,000 of property (plus interest) to Carla.5
Separate property is property that is owned and controlled solely by one spouse. When property is separate, the other spouse has no
- interest in it or
- right to control it.6
Each spouse controls his or her own separate property. He or she can sell, give away, or otherwise dispose of any separate property without the consent of the other spouse.7
More importantly, property held as separate property is not subject to distribution between the spouses in the event of divorce. (Though it may be used for child support payments).
Absent a property agreement to the contrary, property is separate property in Nevada if:
- It was owned by a spouse before marriage, or
- It was acquired during the marriage as a gift, by inheritance, or as an award of damages for personal injury.8
Additionally, any profit or rent a spouse receives from separate property is also the separate property of that spouse.9
Example: Jenna owns a house when she meets and moves in with Mike. After Jenna and Mike marry, Jenna keeps her old house as her separate property and rents it out.
Rental income from Jenna’s house remains Jenna’s separate property. Any increase in the value of the house (appreciation) is also Jenna’s separate property.10
Under some circumstances, separate property in Nevada can become community property. This occurs when separate property is commingled with community property.
If the two types of property are indistinguishable it all becomes community property.
For instance, separate money kept in an account in one spouse’s name remains separate.
Though if that money is deposited into a joint bank account, it becomes community property unless:
- There is a written agreement or other document acknowledging that the amount is separate property, or
- There is another way of tracing which funds are separate and which are community assets.11
Debts incurred during the marriage are considered community debts in Nevada. Thus both spouses are equally responsible for them.
A common community property debt is an outstanding balance on a joint credit card.
Sometimes there is not enough community property to pay these debts. In that case, the debtor can seize the separate property of either spouse.
Note that if a spouse incurred a debt liability before the marriage, neither the community nor the other spouse is liable for it.12
Nevada allows same and opposite-sex couples to register as domestic partners with the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office.13
Domestic partners in Nevada have the same rights and responsibilities as are granted to spouses under Nevada law.14 These specifically include community property rights.15
For more information on Nevada’s domestic partnership laws, please see our article on Nevada same-sex marriage / domestic partnerships.
Nine states and the U.S. Territory of Puerto Rico are community property jurisdictions. The nine community property states are
- New Mexico,
- Washington, and
Getting divorced in Las Vegas? Call us for help…
If you are getting divorced in Las Vegas, we invite you to call us for a consultation.
Our Nevada divorce attorneys can help you navigate the Nevada divorce process and the community property system to ensure that you keep the property you are entitled to.
We also handle cases involving estate planning and probate.
- NRS 123.225. Note that non-community property states typically follow equitable distribution/common law rules for marital property and personal property (such as Tennessee, Alaska, and Florida).
- NRS 123.220.
- NRS 123.230.
- Lofgren v. Lofgren, 112 Nev. 1282, 926 P.2d 296 (1996).
- Same; See also Putterman v. Putterman, 113 Nev. 606, 939 P.2d 1047 (1997).
- NRS 123.060.
- NRS 123.170.
- NRS 123.130.
- There is an exception for income or appreciation from a spouse’s separate property that is derived from the other spouse’s labor or separate property or an investment of community property funds. In such a case, the court will order reimbursement to the contributing spouse or the community, or it will allocate the property using a fair method of apportionment. NRS 125.150(1)(b); See also Schulman v. Schulman, 92 Nev. 707, 558 P.2d 525 (1976); Wells v. Bank of Nevada, 90 Nev. 192, 522 P.2d 1014 (1973). See also NRS 125.040. Martin v. Martin (2020) 138 Nev. Adv. Rep. 78. See also NRS 125.155. Kilgore v. Kilgore (2019) 449 P.3d 843 (re. retirement benefits).
- See Lucini v. Lucini 626 P.2d 269 (1981).
- NRS 123.050.
- NRS 122A.100.
- NRS 122A.200.
- NRS 122A.200 (1)(j)(1).