Nevada Supreme Court upholds spousal rights in annulled marriage
The Nevada Supreme Court ruled this week that a spouse has community-property rights in a long-term relationship even if the marriage is later found legally invalid or annulled.
The case involved Richard and Marcie Williams, who were married in August 1973 and stayed together for 27 years, raising a family and buying property together.
But in 2000, Richard discovered that Marcie had never been legally divorced from her former husband, although she believed all along that she had.
Based on that fact, he filed a complaint seeking to annul the marriage and fought to deny her half of the couple’s joint property claiming she either knew she wasn’t divorced or should have been required to make sure of that fact.
She said her ex-husband told her the divorce was final, and she had no reason to question him.
District Judge Chuck McGee in Reno ruled Marcie was not only entitled to half of all the couple’s joint property, but to $500 a month in alimony for four years.
In reviewing the appeal, the high court agreed with McGee that she should be entitled to half the couple’s joint property because they agreed in good faith to marry in 1973, and there is no evidence she knew she wasn’t finally divorced from her previous husband.
The Supreme Court opinion said both had an honest and reasonable belief the marriage was valid, and that recognizing her rights under community property law is fair and equitable.
But the court reversed McGee’s award of alimony, saying Nevada statutes don’t provide for alimony after annulment and that – absent bad faith or fraud – there appears to be no legal basis to award spousal support in this type of case.
Contact Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.