On October 1, 2009, the Nevada Secretary of State issued a Certificate of Registered
Domestic Partnership to Kaylynn S. P~ and Jennifer R. C~. You asked whether this Certificate
is valid. You also asked for information about the Nevada Domestic Partnership Act
and how it might affect benefits under the Social Security Act.
The Certificate of Registered Domestic Partnership that you submitted appears to be
a valid document reflecting a legally registered domestic partnership (not a legal
marriage) between Kaylynn S. P~ and Jennifer R. C~. The Certificate does not appear
to reflect a legal name change.
The Nevada Domestic Partnership Act should have no effect on spouses’ benefits or
deceased spouses’ benefits under the Social Security Act. However, a valid, registered
domestic partnership may impact determinations about whether and upon whom children
are dependant, and determinations about claimants’ assets.
The Nevada Domestic Partnership Act (NDP Act) took effect on October 1, 2009. The
NDP Act added a new chapter (Ch. 393) to the provisions of the Nevada Revised Statutes
(NRS) pertaining to domestic relations (Title 11). NDP Act, Tit. 11, ch. 393 (2009)
(to be codified at Nev. Rev. Stat. § 393.__), available at http://leg.state.nv.us/75th2009/Bills/SB/SB283_EN.pdf
The NDP Act establishes the “domestic partnership as a new type of civil contract
recognized in the State of Nevada,” giving registered domestic partners many of “the
same rights, protections, benefits, responsibilities, obligations and duties as do
parties to any other civil contract created pursuant to title 11 of NRS.” Id. The NDP Act does not require public or private employers in Nevada to provide health
care benefits to the registered domestic partners of employees. Id. § 8. It specifies that “a domestic partnership is not a marriage” under the Nevada
Constitution. Id. § 11. Under the Nevada Constitution, “[o]nly a marriage between a male and female
person shall be recognized and given effect.” Nev. Const. Art. I, § 21.
Although a registered domestic partnership is not recognized as a marriage, the NDP
Act does not limit the ability to register a domestic partnership to only same-sex
couples. All “persons sharing a common residence,” who are at least 18 years old and
not related by blood, who are competent to consent to the partnership, and who are
neither married nor a member of another domestic partnership, are eligible to register
for a domestic partnership in Nevada. NDP Act, § 6.
In order to register, a couple who wishes to form a legal, domestic partnership must
complete a form entitled “Declaration of Domestic Partnership,” in which they declare
that they meet the eligibility requirements outlined above, and of their own free
will, they “have chosen to share one another’s lives in an intimate and committed
relationship of mutual caring.” Id. Both parties must sign the declaration before a Notary Public, pay a filing fee,
and deliver it to the Nevada Secretary of State. Nev. Sec’y of State, Information
on Domestic Partnership Filings, http://nvsos.gov (last visited December 28, 2009). If the couple satisfies the requirements, the Nevada
Secretary of State’s Office issues a Certificate of Registered Domestic Partnership. Id.
Registered domestic partners who submitted their paperwork in advance were able to
obtain a Certificate of Registered Domestic Partnership on October 1, 2009, the date
the law became effective. Id. Thus, the Certificate of Registered Domestic Partnership issued to Ms. P~ and Ms.
C~ on October 1, 2009, appears to be valid. We now discuss the rights and obligations
conferred by this certificate.
First, if the parties wish to terminate their registered domestic partnership, they
must comply with the procedures set forth in NRS, chapter 125, pertaining to the dissolution
of marriage. Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 125.005-125.560 (West 2009). However, the parties
may expedite the termination if they have been registered for less than 5 years and
meet all of the following conditions: the partners have no minor children for which
they have not executed a custody agreement; no female partner is pregnant; the partners
have no jointly held property for which they have not executed a disposition agreement;
both partners have waived their right to future support; and both partners have waived
their right to terminate the partnership under NRS, chapter 125. Nev. Sec’y of State,
Domestic Partnership - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), http://nvsos.gov (last visited December 28, 2009).
For the purposes of Nevada law, the rights and responsibilities conferred by the NDP
Act upon current domestic partners, former domestic partners, and the surviving partners
of deceased domestic partners are the same as those granted and imposed upon spouses,
former spouses, and surviving spouses. The NDP Act sets forth the following specific
rights and obligations:
The rights and obligations with respect to a child of either domestic partner shall
be the same as those afforded and imposed upon spouses. The rights and obligations
pertaining to community property; third-party debts; financial support following dissolution
of the partnership; and other rights and duties as between the partners concerning
ownership of property shall be the same as those afforded and imposed upon spouses,
commencing on the date of the registration of the partnership.
Domestic partners have the same right to nondiscriminatory treatment as that provided
Nevada public agencies shall not discriminate against any person or couple on the
basis or ground that he or she is in a domestic partnership rather than a marriage.
NDP Act, § 7. The NDP Act also specifies that, to the extent that any provision of
Nevada law adopts, refers to, or relies upon a provision of federal law that otherwise
would cause domestic partners to be treated differently from spouses, the provision
must be construed as recognizing a domestic partnership in the same manner as Nevada
The NDP Act contains no requirement that one or both domestic partners change his/her
name when entering into a registered domestic partnership. Nev. Sec’y of State, FAQ.
The Secretary of State’s guidance instructs that, if one or both registered domestic
partners subsequently pursue a legal name change, they may obtain a new Certificate
of Registered Domestic Partnership depicting the legally-changed name(s) by filing
a name change amendment and submitting a copy of the legal proof of name change (e.g.,
court order). Id.; see also Domestic Partnership Certificate Reorder and Amendment Form, available at http://nvsos.gov. The Secretary of State recognizes that “it is not within the Office’s jurisdiction
to determine or require federal agencies to process a name change based on the Domestic
Partnership certificate.” Id.
Because the NDP Act has been in effect for almost three months, we could find no cases
discussing its various provisions. We anticipate that these provisions will eventually
be tested in Nevada courts. Therefore, any specific questions pertaining to child
relationships or assets, where a Nevada registered domestic partnership is implicated,
should be referred for a legal opinion.