Asset Division/Property Settlement

The Las Vegas Review Journal reported that fewer people than ever are embracing the institution of marriage and opting to have children anyway.  In the last half-century, the numbers as a percentage of the population have more than doubled.  While people have different beliefs as to marriage and how the institution bolsters society, the fact that more and more children are born out of wedlock creates problems for Nevada.

Nevada’s statutes for dealing with custody issues for parents who never married is fragmented and chaotic. Indeed, the entire statutory scheme for dissolution of parental relationships is a hodge-podge of rules, some applying to married couples, others to unmarried couples, and yet others to custody determinations that are tied to only primary physical custody relationships but not to others. The Nevada Supreme Court does its best to homogenize their applicability, but it’s almost impossible to do. And sometimes the High Court gets it wrong. Recently, the Court handed down an opinion in a case called Druckman v. Ruscitti, where it tried establish rules for relocation of a parent and child to another state, then completely undermined those rules by letting someone off the hook who didn’t follow the rules. Why? Probably because the statutes and rules weren’t drafted to apply directly to them, and we have this document called “The Constitution” that prevents us from punishing people unless a law applies to that particular situation.

But what does that have to do with marriage—or the lack thereof? As more and more people jettison the marriage relationship in favor of a more temporary arrangement, it substantially increases the likelihood of more cases like Druckman where the unmarried parents find themselves in the gaps between Nevada’s statutes for dealing with them. It means more uncertainty for lawyers, and more costly litigation for parents who have to litigate to figure out what they are going to do with their kids.  And most importantly, it will expose more and more children to the shattering emotional damage that being the subject of conflict will bring.

Nevada needs to revisit its entire statutory scheme and draft the laws such that they apply to everyone. Otherwise our children will pay the price for our political inaction.

Survey: 20% of Americans have never married