Yes, Nevada is among the eleven states that follow community property principles. The majority of these states are western states. Most states have enacted equitable distribution laws, but Nevada isn’t one of them. Under Nevada community property laws, a judge divide a couple’s property equally in a divorce.
Nevada’s community property laws mean that all income earned and property acquired by either spouse during the marriage is community property, unless it’s separate property such as a gift, inheritance, or property covered by a premarital agreement.
Community property belongs to both spouses equally, so it must be split equally between the spouses at divorce. Likewise, all debts incurred during the marriage are considered community debts and both spouses are equally responsible for them. Only a spouse’s separate property is excluded from the Nevada property division process.
Generally, separate property is property you owned before marriage. Under some circumstances, separate also includes property you acquired during marriage, like a gift from a family member, an inheritance, or a personal-injury award. Likewise, any profit or rent you receive from your separate property remains your property alone.
To keep something you gained during marriage out of a community property division, you need to provide clear and convincing proof to the court that it was yours before marriage, or was a gift intended only for you, or one of the other justifications that characterize property as separate. Even where you prove that an asset is separate, however, the court might set it aside to cover alimony, child support, or a community debt. In some cases, a spouse’s separate property can lose its separate character through “commingling” (mixing separate and community property). For example, a spouse’s premarital rental home can become a community asset if marital funds are used to maintain or improve the rental property.
Community property is essentially all property that is not one spouse’s separate property. It includes income, debts, cars, homes, stocks or other assets purchased or earned during a couple’s marriage. Real property like the family home, personal property like jewelry, and intangible property, dividends, and benefits will be divided at divorce. Liabilities, or debts, must also be divided or assigned to one spouse or the other. Just like other property, before dividing a debt, the court has to characterize it as community or separate based on when it was acquired, who acquired it, and how it was used. Then the court will apply the factors below to assign responsibility for it.
Several kinds of assets, such as 401(k) retirement accounts, can be both partially community and partially separate. It can be very complicated to determine what portions of these hybrid properties are community versus separate. Retirement accounts must be divided through a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). If you have questions about dividing retirement accounts in your Nevada divorce, contact a local family law attorney for advice.
Although community property is generally divided equally in a divorce, you and your spouse can reach agreements on property division on your own or with the help of a mediator. You and your spouse can create your own written divorce settlement agreement and avoid the time, expense, and stress of trial. A judge will still review the agreement to ensure it’s not unfairly one-sided. However, in most cases a judge will approve a couple’s agreement.
Nevada property laws allow a judge to base a property division award on certain factors, including:
Notably, one factor that a Nevada judge won’t consider when dividing property is one spouse’s fault for the breakup of the marriage. However, a judge can consider one spouse's misuse or waste of marital assets (such as gambling away a couple's savings). Nevada’s community property laws allow the court to distribute the community property unevenly based on compelling reasons, but those reasons tend to be economic rather than moral; they can’t be based on fault. See Nev. Rev. Stat. § 125.150(1)(b) (2020.)
You might be entitled to alimony if the divorce will make it difficult for you to maintain the standard of living you had during marriage. Alimony is not designed to punish a spouse, so fault is not considered under Nevada’s divorce laws. Instead, alimony is designed to bridge at least part of the financial gap if you contributed more of the unpaid work during marriage, or even if you brought monetary resources to the marriage but your age, health, ability to work, or some other factor leaves you unfairly disadvantaged at divorce.
Alimony isn’t exactly part of Nevada’s community property division process. Instead, the amount and duration of alimony payments depends on factors such as your age and health, but also on how you contributed to the marriage – including the contribution of a homemaker – and what your obligations will be after divorce. See Nev. Rev. Stat. § 125.150(8-11) (2020.)
Any award for alimony in Nevada should be equitable, so the court can’t ignore your spouse’s ability to pay. In accounting for both spouses’ financial conditions, the court can order alimony in lump sum payments or to be made on a schedule.