Easy Guide to the Las Vegas Divorce Process
There are three stages to the Las Vegas divorce process for a contested divorce. First the beginning, then the discovery, and finally the trial. Uncontested divorces are much faster, easier, and cheaper. But you need both parties to agree on absolutely everything. Even then, it’s smart to have your own divorce attorneys to review everything.
These stages need to go in order. You cannot go to trial without going through discovery. You cannot get to discovery without a Case Management Conference (CMC), etc. Not all cases will get to trial. In fact, most cases settle. A case can settle at any part during the divorce process.
This article breaks-up the Las Vegas divorce process into easy-to-follow steps.
The divorce process begins when a Las Vegas divorce attorney files a Complaint for Divorce. The Complaint is the legal document asking for the specific terms of the divorce. It includes requests, like child custody, child support, division of property, division of debts, spousal support, and attorney fees.
The plaintiff is the person who files the Complaint. The defendant is the other party who must respond to the Complaint. There is no advantage to being a plaintiff or defendant. Talk with your divorce lawyer about filing for divorce first.
In addition to the Complaint, the defendant receives a Summons and a Joint Preliminary Injunction (JPI). The summons is the court’s official notice to the defendant they are being sued. It also tells them they must respond to the attached complaint within 20 days.
The JPI warns both parties not to sell anything or purchase anything substantial. The court doesn’t want you to sell anything substantial to fudge the finances so you pay less child or spousal support. Divorce attorneys call that marital waste. You can be penalized for it.
The complaint, summons, and JPI need to be given to the defendant. This is the legal service or process of service. Strict rules govern who qualifies to handle proper service. Most divorce attorneys use a company to hand deliver the papers to the defendant at home or at their work. The person who delivers the documents also certifies the documents were served correctly.
After being served the documents, the defendant has 20 days to respond with an Answer for Divorce.
The Answer is the legal document responding to the complaint. An Answer responds to each allegation in the complaint by either denying or admitting it. You may add counterclaims with your Answer. Counterclaims are your requests. For example, your spouse may ask you for the house in their complaint and you may ask for the house in your counterclaim.
Take the requests in the Complaint or seriously. But, don’t get too over heated about the allegation. Remember, they are just wishes. The court will give you ample time to explain your story, and everything at trial will be discussed openly and fairly.
Both plaintiff and defendant must file a Financial Disclosure Form (FDF) with the court. This form helps the court make decisions regarding the following:
- child support
- spousal support
- division of assets
- division of debts
What if you need temporary decision about finances or custody schedules? It may be three months before the Case Management Conference (CMC), and it could take eight months before you go to trial. If you took on the job of raising the kids for the past 10 years, how will you survive without the finances you are used to?
Your attorney can file a motion, which is a request for the judge to make temporary orders. We call this a Motion for Temporary Orders. One of the divorce attorneys files a motion, and the other party’s has 10 days to respond to this motion.
Typical temporary orders cover things like who lives in the marital home, who pays child support or spousal support, child custody schedule, etc. The judge enters the temporary orders. They will remain in place until your case ends in one of the two scenarios:
- You and your spouse settle the case
- The judge determines the final order
Temporary orders can become permanent orders, but not always. Judges can create new orders after seeing different evidence at trial.
After you file the Complaint and Answer, the court will schedule your first hearing. Your first hearing will probably be a Case Management Conference (CMC). Both spouses and their divorce attorneys attend the CMC. A judge will also be present at the hearing.
The goal of a CMC is to determine to which requests both spouses can settle on. Any unsettled requests need to go to trial. If a trial is necessary, then the divorce lawyers and judge agree on dates for discovery and trial.
You may experience several motion hearings. Motion to Compel, Motion for Reconsideration, etc. During the pendency of the case (time before the judge’s final decree), a motion is a formal request to the judge to make a decision. Most motions require a written brief of legal reasons for granting the motion as well as a notice of the date of the hearing.
When a motion is filed and served, the opposing party has 10 days to respond by filing an opposition. An opposition is a document filed in response to the motion. The opposition provides the judge an opposing version of the facts and issues.
For those divorces with children, mediation is mandatory. The judge will order the couple to meet with the Family Mediation Center (FMC). Here a mediator will to attempt to work on a weekly timeshare schedule of the child(ren), and child support.
While the meeting is mandatory, mediators at FMC cannot force you to accept the terms. A judge will decide any custody issues not settled before the trial.
The court will schedule a Return Hearing called a Return from FMC. The purpose of the hearing is to ask about your attempts at resolving the child custody disputes. If there are still disputes the judge will open discovery and set a date for a trial.
When parents separate, children have a hard time adjusting. The Las Vegas divorce process requires separating parents to attend a class called the “Cope Class.”
The purpose of COPE class is to reduce any negative impact on the children. In the class, parents learn how to focus on the needs of the children and to work together for the benefit of the child. The judge will not sign a final order unless you complete this class.
Interrogatories, typically called ROGS, are questions. The ROGS will ask specific questions, which you must answer. The questions gather information for trial. Alternatively, your ex’s divorce attorney may use your answers to cross-exam you at a deposition.
Admissions are questions written in a way for you to respond yes or no. Sometimes people call these admits. They can be tricky. Under Nevada law if you don’t answer the admissions, then the court assumes all answers are yes. So make sure to respond to admissions! If you feel like the questions are leading or someone could twist your answers, make sure to talk to your own lawyer.
Requests for documents, called RFP’s, is a request for documents. You must provide any of the requested documents you have or can get. Typical requests are bank records, medical records, pay stubs, contracts, etc. Nothing is off-limits. You may not like the request and refuse to produce the documents. Talk with your divorce attorney first. You are usually better off giving them the documents.
Subpoenas are when one of the divorce attorneys requests documents from a third party. These can be employers, schools, doctors, or anyone with relevant information. A subpoena is similar to a RFP. The law requires the third party to provide the documents. You don’t need to do anything. You may not even know your medical records (for example) have been subpoenaed.
In depositions, both divorce lawyers will interview the other party or witnesses under oath. Depositions are usually scheduled after the ROGS and RFP’s. The attorney will use the answers from the ROGS and admissions to choose specific questions. Keep in mind your answers in a deposition are under oath. The opposing attorney can use them against you at the trial.
The next step in the Las Vegas divorce process is a Calendar Call. This is the final hearing in court before trial. At Calendar Call, the judge will ask what issues you have settled as well as what issues remain for trial. It is common during Calendar Call for the judge to attempt to settle the claims still at large. The judge may even ask the attorneys to meet in small meeting rooms in order to attempt to settle the issues.
Another settlement option used is to order a settlement conference. This is a hearing, where a senior judge meets with all parties and attempts to reach a settlement. Agreeing to a settlement is not mandatory. If you and your spouse reach a final settlement, then you file a divorce decree with the court. The filing of a divorce decree will finalize the case.
If you don’t reach a settlement, then you and your spouse will proceed to trial. A judge will make the final decision.
At trial you and your attorney will present evidence found during discovery. Witnesses will also testify before the judge. Your spouse will have the opportunity to do the same.
A trial only takes a day or two, but takes many days for your divorce attorney to prepare. Your attorney needs to have a game plan for every piece of evidence and every potential witness. Trial is the final hearing where the judge reviews all the evidence and makes a final decision.
After the trial is over, the judge will make a final ruling. This is also called a divorce decree. The judge may make the order immediately after trial or several weeks later. This is the final step in the Las Vegas divorce process for most people.
One of the attorneys writes up a document detailing the order. Then the judge signs it. This is your final divorce decree and details the final decisions regarding all legal matters presented to the court. Anyone who violates the court order could be held in contempt of court.
If you disagree with the judge’s decision you can file an appeal.
A divorce or child custody appeal is then reviewed by Nevada’s Appellate Court or Supreme Court. The appellate court could agree with the judge, disagree with the judge and ask him to make a new decision, or they can make a new decision. Appeals take years and until the appeal is finalized you must follow the judge’s original order.