Married in Vegas. Do You Divorce in Vegas?

The Clark County Marriage Bureau has issued more than 5 million marriage licenses.  Making Las Vegas the wedding capital of the world.   More marriages have been performed in Las Vegas than any other city in the world.   However, getting married in Vegas does not mean you can get divorced in Vegas.  Not everything that happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

Our divorce court must have jurisdiction over your divorce.   Jurisdiction is basically the court’s way of saying we have authority over this legal issue.   For a Nevada court to have authority over a divorce, the husband or wife must be a physical resident of Nevada for 6 weeks prior to the filing.   Getting married over Valentine’s weekend at the little white chapel and flying back to Florida or Texas would not meet this residency requirement.

Mr. Anderson called our office last week.   He was married in Las Vegas in 2014.   He is from Chicago.  His spouse is also from Chicago.   They flew to Las Vegas to get married at a drive-through chapel.  Driving through in a rented Cadillac with Elvis as their marriage officiant.    Sounds like a “Burning Love” type of weekend.

Fast forward to his call this week.  The honeymoon had worn off and they both wanted a divorce.   His wife had already moved to Dallas, Texas.  Mr. Anderson is still living in Chicago.   They were both happy with the decision to file a divorce.   He asked if he could get divorced in Las Vegas.   For a couple of reasons this is a very common question.

The first reason, plenty of callers believe they must get divorced where they got married.   Second reason, it only takes a little Google research for callers to learn Nevada has one of the easiest and fastest divorce processes.   Especially when it comes to filing an uncontested divorce.  Sadly, my answer was no, he could not get divorced in Nevada just because he got married here.   He (or she) needed to live in Las Vegas.

I explained he (or she) needed to be a “physical” resident of Nevada for at least 6 weeks prior to filing for a divorce.  We both knew neither me this rule.  I also told him that a little wrinkle in the rule is cohabitation.  If Nevada was the last state they cohabited together in, the 6 week requirement is not necessary.  This was a no, too.

Mr. Anderson asked if he could fly to Las Vegas, stay in a hotel for 6 weeks, file the divorce, and then fly back to Chicago.   Yes, that is an option.   In fact, his idea is more common than slot machines on Fremont Street.  So common that the people who made the law for a 6 week residency requirement were hoping for this.   Most states require 6 months of residency to file.   6 weeks is one of the shortest requirements of any state.  This was not by accident.  In the 1930’s Nevada reduced the time requirement to 6 weeks to increase tourism.   I sent him this article explaining how Nevada invented “Divorce Tourism”.

I mentioned another exception.   Military members who are deployed out of the country have an option to file in the state they are residents of.    A military member deployed to Japan would not meet any states residency requirement.   If they needed a divorce, they would need to file in Japan.   This is a problem Congress noticed.   Congress passed a law that allows any deployed military member to file a divorce in the state they list as their home state on their military records.   This was not an option for Mr. Anderson.

Absent Mr. Anderson moving to Nevada for 6 weeks he was going to need to file his divorce in Chicago or Texas.

Mr. Anderson asked how come his cousin was able to file an annulment in Nevada a few years earlier.   Annulments are much different than a divorce.   An annulment is the state agreeing the marriage should be void.  The laws of every state allow you to file an annulment in the state you live in or the state you got married in.   But annulments require proof of fault, fraud, or misunderstanding.

A divorce does not require fault.    A spouse does not need to show his spouse did anything wrong to get a divorce.   All states are what we call “no fault” divorce states.  An annulment requires the showing of fault because you are asking the court to void the marriage.   An annulment requires facts about fraud, or fault on the party that would justify the voiding of the marriage.   I sent him this article on annulment and fault.   He had been married too long and could not provide me any facts to argue for an annulment.

My advice to Mr. Anderson was to see whether Chicago or Dallas had the simpler divorce process.   I talked to him about calling attorneys in each location and asking about costs, time, and rules for filing an uncontested divorce.   Then choose the better location because either city (and state) would have jurisdiction over this divorce.

Thanks for the call Mr. Anderson.  I hope your luck at the tables went better 2014, than your luck playing “where can I file my divorce” roulette.

author avatar
Rock Rocheleau