What is the Las Vegas Divorce Process?

Posted: 30 September, 2021

There are only two ways to get divorced;  uncontested or contested.  Uncontested divorce is where both spouses agree to the terms of the divorce.   A contested divorce is where spouses cannot agree.  The process and steps for each are very different.

Uncontested Divorce Process

With an uncontested divorce, both parties agree to all the terms of the divorce. If spouses reach an agreement on “all” issues regarding child custody, division of assets and alimony then an uncontested divorce can be filed. The average cost for an uncontested divorce is less than $2,000 and takes about three weeks.  While contested divorces average $6,000 and can take twelve months.

Unlike the contested divorce process, uncontested divorces do not require court appearance, discovery or a trial.

The uncontested divorce process begins with one party drafting the divorce documents. Both parties review the documents and agree to all the terms. The major terms spouses must agree on have to deal with child custody, child support, dividing the assets, dividing the debts, and alimony.

If both parties agree then a judge is asked to review the documents. If the judge approves then a final divorce decree is entered.  Review our uncontested divorce page to learn more about starting an uncontested divorce.

Contested Divorce Process

A contested divorce is more complex.   There are four stages to a contested divorce. First stage is called the beginning stage.  This is where initial documents are filed and both spouses try to negotiate a settlement.

The second stage is all about temporary motions and the Case Management Conference (CMC).  Motions are where you submit written requests to the judge.   Requests for a temporary custody schedule, temporary financial support, and attorney fees are typical. If you have children the court will require you to attend the Family Mediation Center (FMC) to try and mediate a child custody schedule.

The third stage is discovery.   This is where each side gathers evidence needed for trial.  Each side produces documents, files subpoenas, and depositions witnesses.

The fourth and final stage is trial.   This is where all the evidence and witnesses are presented before the judge.   The judge then makes a final decision on any issues you and your spouse could not agree on.

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.  Every contested divorce will go through the first stage.  But not all cases will need all four stages.  In fact, most cases settle at the first or second stage.   A case can settle at any stage during the divorce process.

 

Stage 1 – Beginning Stage

Filing the Complaint For Divorce

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.  Typically there is not an advantage to being a plaintiff or defendant.  Typically there is not an advantage to filing the divorce first.

Service and Summons

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 21 days.   The JPI warns both parties not to sell anything or purchase anything substantial. The court doesn’t want you to sell anything substantial or to incur new debts.  Divorce attorneys refer to this as marital waste.

The complaint, summons, and JPI need to be personally handed to the defendant. This is called process of service. Strict rules govern who qualifies to handle process of 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 by filing an affidavit.

21 Day Response Time

After being served the documents, the defendant has 21 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  seriously.  But, don’t get too over your spouse’s allegations. Remember, they are just allegations, or requests. The court will give you ample time to explain your story, and to listen to your wishes.

Filing a Financial Disclosure Form

Both plaintiff and defendant must file a Financial Disclosure Form (FDF) with the court. This form helps the court make decisions regarding child support, spousal support, division of assets, and division of debts.  Here is a copy of an FDF.  Here an article with videos on how to complete Financial Disclosure Form (FDF).

 

Stage 2 –  Temporary Motions & CMC

Motion For Temporary Orders

What if you need a temporary decision about financials or child custody schedules? It may take a year before you have a trial.   The court knows you cannot wait that long.   Instead of waiting your attorney can file a motion. The motion is called a Motion for Temporary Orders.   After the motion is filed the other side has 14 days to respond.  The court will schedule a hearing.  The hearing is typically held in 30 to 45 days.

A typical temporary motion contains requests for who will live in the marital home, who pays child support,  who will pay temporary financial support, and for a  child custody schedule.   The judge’s decision on these issues   will remain in place until your case ends.  Temporary orders can become permanent orders, but not always. Judges can create new orders after seeing different evidence at trial.

Case Management Conference

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.

Family Mediation Center

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 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.

COPE Class

When parents separate, children have a hard time adjusting. Nevada law 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.

 

Stage 3  – Discovery

Interrogatories (ROGS)

Discovery is where each side is allowed to request evidence to support their case.   The discovery process can be done with documents asking questions, or documents asking for copies of documents,  Or, discovery can be done through depositions.

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!

Requests For Documents (RFPs)

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 the documents.

Subpoenas

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.

Depositions

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.

 

Stage 4 – Trial

Calendar Call

The next step in the  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.

Divorce Trial

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.

Divorce Decree

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. 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.

Appeal

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.  Until the appeal is finalized you must follow the family court judge’s original order.

Have questions about the Las Vegas divorce process? Speak with a divorce attorney at (702) 914-0400.