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July 21, 2018

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5-minute expert:

Why Sin City is the wedding mecca and divorce capital of the country

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Las Vegas is the undisputed wedding capital of the world. Last year, the Clark County Clerk’s Marriage License Bureau issued 80,738 marriage licenses, at a rate more than double any other jurisdiction in the country.

The marriage industry brings big bucks into Clark County. Last year, wedding tourism pumped $2 billion into the local economy and generated $69 million in tax revenue.

But our dominance is waning. A decade ago, Clark County issued more than 128,000 marriage licenses annually, and weddings generated $190 million each year for county government coffers.

Why the drop? Nevada no longer is alone in quick, easy weddings. Other states increasingly are enacting relaxed marriage laws to compete for wedding tourists.

Still, there aren’t many other places people can go to file marriage paperwork at midnight or have Elvis officiate their wedding.

How to tie the knot in Sin City

Both the bride and groom must appear in person to apply for a marriage license before a clerk at a Clark County Marriage Bureau location. The bureau at the Regional Justice Center, 201 E. Clark Ave., Las Vegas, is open 8 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week.

Under special circumstances, a marriage license may be issued when only one party can be present due to a mate’s hospitalization or incarceration.

Applicants must be 18 or older and be no closer of kin than a second cousin or cousin of half-blood. Applicants also cannot be legally married to anyone else.

Teens ages 16 and 17 can marry with permission from a parent or legal guardian, and people younger than 16 can marry if a judge approves it.

What to bring

Be sure to bring original identification to prove your name and age, such as a driver’s license, passport or military ID. You may bring an original or certified copy of your birth certificate but will need a second form of ID as well in that case, such as a sheriff’s work card, Social Security card, bank-issued debit card or membership card from a store such as Costco or Sam’s Club.

U.S. citizens also must provide a Social Security number.

Marriage licenses will be prepared with your name exactly as it appears on the identification you present. So if you want your marriage license to reflect your full middle name, the identification you submit must contain it.

If you are divorced, you’ll have to list the month, day and year of when your divorce was finalized, as well as the city and state where it was granted.

Foreign birth certificates must be translated into English and notarized.

The cost

A Clark County marriage license costs $60, although the state Legislature approved a bill that allows county commissioners to raise the fee by up to $14 in counties with populations greater than 700,000. Marriage license applicants can pay with cash, credit card, traveler’s check or money order.

Compare with the cost of a marriage license elsewhere:

■ $90 Los Angeles

■ $35 New York City

■ $76 Phoenix

■ $60 Hawaii

Same-day service

Marriage licenses are issued on the spot, as soon as the application is approved by bureau staff. Licenses are valid for one year, and there is no waiting period to get married.

Wedding ceremonies must be performed by a certified marriage official.

It is the officiant’s responsibility to send the marriage certificate within 10 business days to the county recorder. Certified copies are available the next day and can be ordered online, by mail or in person at the Clark County Recorder’s Office for $15.

How to get divorced

While Nevada is a wedding mecca, it’s also the divorce capital of the country.

For decades, it has had the highest divorce rate in America.

That the state is a divorce hub isn’t surprising considering divorce was one of the industries that put Nevada on the map. From the 1930s to the early 1960s, Nevada was the go-to state for quick and easy marriage dissolution.

In 1931 (the same year gambling was legalized), as a way to boost the local economy during the Great Depression, state lawmakers approved a bill that allowed essentially anyone to get a divorce as long as they lived in the state for six weeks.

Technically, Nevada offered nine grounds for divorce — impotency, adultery, desertion, conviction of a felony, habitual drunkenness, neglect to provide the common necessities of life, insanity, living apart for three years, and extreme mental cruelty — but officials required no proof. Many other states limited divorce to victims of adultery or outlawed it entirely and had yearlong residency requirements.

As a result, men and women from across the country flocked here to live on dude ranches for six weeks to bide their time until they could divorce. Historians estimate the divorce trade pumped $5 million a year into the local economy in the early days of the ranches.

A spouse may obtain a divorce in Nevada if he or she has at least one of three statutory causes:

1. Incompatibility

2. Insanity for at least two years

3. Spouses have lived separately for more than a year

The law

Nevada is a community property state, meaning income earned by either spouse during the marriage and all property bought with those earnings are considered equally owned. In a divorce, the property is split equally.

Nevada is also a “pure no fault” jurisdiction, meaning infidelity or other

bad behavior is irrelevant to divorce proceedings.

Joint petition

Joint petitions are the easier method, as they are used when both spouses agree on all issues, including custody of children, child support, alimony and how to divide property and debts.

Both spouses must sign the joint petition, then file it in Family Court. Judges typically sign the decree without a hearing because nothing is disputed.

Complaint for divorce

If you are ready to file for divorce but your spouse isn’t willing to sign the papers, you can file for divorce by yourself.

You must fill out a complaint that outlines what you want from the divorce, such as custody of children and/or alimony. The person who files is the plaintiff; his or her spouse is the defendant.

Once the complaint is filed, the plaintiff must notify the defendant of the case by serving him or her paperwork. The defendant then has 20 days to answer the complaint.

Both parties are prohibited from selling community property, moving children out of state or harassing one another as the divorce case proceeds. Financial disclosures also must be filed.

Once the paperwork is complete, a judge typically sets a hearing date. Mediation for parents who can’t agree on custody or visitation also is common.

The judge also can issue temporary orders outlining where children live, child support or alimony payments and other logistics until the divorce case is settled.

The filing fee in Nevada for both types of divorce is $289.

For more information, visit familylawselfhelpcenter.org.

Sources: Clark County Marriage Bureau, Clark County Recorder’s Office, Clark County Family Court Self-Help Center, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Nolo

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