Senator wants marriage law clarity in homestead regs


A CNMI Supreme Court decision in December 2017 regarding common-law marriages has prompted the introduction of a bill that clarifies certain regulations regarding homestead program eligibility for couples.
Sen. Jude Hofschneider (R-Tinian) wants to clarify in his Senate Bill 20-99 that since the CNMI Supreme Court ruled in December 2017 that common-law marriage is not deemed valid in the CNMI, the Department of Public Lands should judge the eligibility of an applicant applying for participation in the homestead program by their legal marital status instead.

DPL’s homesteading regulations recognize common-law marriages and “treat common-law spouses the same as spouses that were married” in accordance to CNMI marriage laws. S.B. 20-99’s findings said this has resulted in the denial of homestead applications of people whose common-law spouses already own land in or is already a recipient of a village or agricultural homestead.

“…In the past, there are regulations deployed by DPL and previous agencies [Marianas Public Lands Authority] invoking that common law marriage as a [means] to determine whether or not cohabitating applicants should be considered one applicant or two [separate] applicants,” said Hofschneider.

“It appears that they have been deploying that policy to guide them, but it’s clear now that it is…not permissible simply because of the clarification by the [Supreme Court ruling],” he added.

That means DPL now has to revisit past applicants who have been denied lots under these regulations.

S.B. 20-99 seeks to clarify that those who are legally married to a recipient of a village or agricultural homestead lot may not apply for a homestead lot.

The bill also repeals NMI Administrative Code entries that recognizes common-law marriages as well as entries that prohibit individuals from applying for homestead within the first six months after ceasing to cohabitate with an applicant or recipient of an agricultural homestead lot and prohibiting individuals to apply for a homestead if they are residing with an applicant or recipient of an agricultural homestead.

The bill has yet to be acted on and is currently with the Senate Judiciary, Governmental, and Law Committee, chaired by Sen. Steve K. Mesngon (R-Rota).

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.

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