Spouse Won’t Accept Divorce Papers?

Posted: 26 October, 2022

When your partner does not sign divorce papers, what happens next will depend on the details of your situation – and, more specifically, whether your partner can be located and/or whether your partner contests the divorce.

Serving Divorce Papers

One of the initial steps of a divorce is serving a Complaint for Divorce, also called divorce papers. The complaint initiates the divorce by explaining who the parties are, verifying Clark County, Nevada is the proper court, asking for property, asking for support, and requesting other relief. The complaint is the paper declaring to the other person they are being sued. In all legal sense you are suing your spouse for a divorce.

Along with a complaint, most Clark County divorce papers consist of a summons, and joint preliminary injunction. The summons is the legal paper signed by the court noticing the defendant there are being sued and have 20 days to respond. The Joint Preliminary Injunction (JPI), explains you cannot incur community debts or dispose of community assets without the permission of the court.

Your spouse will only have 20 days from the date received to respond to the filed divorce papers. To ensure the papers were properly received, the court will not allow you to simply hand the documents to your spouse. Imagine how many people would say the papers were served when in fact, they weren’t. To keep everyone honest, the divorce papers need to be served according to Nevada Rules of Civil Procedure (NRCP).

Hiring a Process Server

NRCP 4 requires the divorce papers to be served by an independent person over the age of 18. Law firms hire process servers to handle this task. Process servers are people who serve court papers as a course of business. You may also use a constable, but they are more expensive and typically take longer. Normally, the process server will serve the divorce papers to your spouse’s last known legal residence, or in person to your spouse whenever possible.

The process server does not need to have anything signed. They simply need to leave copies of the papers at the residence with someone of suitable age. The process server then completes a form declaring they served the documents. This is all the court needs to consider service completed and to start the 20 day deadline.

In some cases, the spouse attempts to avoid service or is impossible to locate. Maybe you have been separated for several years and didn’t keep tabs on each other. In this situation, you need to ask the process server for their “due diligence”. This means they will make every attempt possible to serve your spouse. They will contact their job, talk with co-workers, talk with neighbors, call family members, run online searches, check with the department of motor vehicles, and even send emails or text messages.

If the process server attempts all methods of service, and documents these steps then a divorce lawyer can ask the court for your spouse to be served by publication.

Serving Divorce Papers When a Spouse Cannot Be Located

In some cases, divorce papers won’t be signed because a partner moves and cannot be tracked down. When this occurs (and when reasonable efforts to track down the person are unsuccessful), a request can be made to a family court judge to publish the Summons in an effort to notify the Defendant (i.e., the spouse who cannot be located) about the impending divorce action.

This publication can occur in any “newspaper of general circulation,” according to the Clark County Courts, and the notice must be published at least once a week for a minimum of four weeks.

You will need to run a notice of intent to divorce in a newspaper located in the city of the last known address of your spouse. In Las Vegas we use the Nevada Legal News. There is a typical newspaper in almost every metro city. You will need to run this notice for about a month. The newspaper will send you a notarized statement after the publication. This notarized statement is filed with the court to satisfy the service of papers. With this, the timer for your spouse to respond to the divorce papers will start.

Next, one of two things can happen. The first is your spouse responds by filing an answer. If this happens, then the standard divorce process unfolds.

The second, is your spouse doesn’t respond within 20 days. If after the 20 days your spouse has not responded you may request the court to issue a “Default.” A Default means that the spouse does not object to the request for a divorce, nor do they object to the terms you have requested. A default divorce is not absolute victory, because your spouse has six months to ask the court to set-aside the default. But, a default is a strong position to be in. Setting aside a default is not always easy.

When a Spouse Can Be Located…

If a spouse can be located and (s)he refuses to sign the divorce papers, then:

  1. That spouse will have to be served with a Complaint for Divorce, which will provide 21 days for that spouse to respond to the complaint (these are consecutive calendar days, not business days).
  2. If the spouse responds (i.e., “answers” the complaint or files a counterclaim), the divorce will be a contested matter.
  3. The court will then usually schedule a case management conference to give divorcing parties the opportunity to try to resolve the issues of their divorce without a trial.
  4. If the case management conference cannot resolve the issues of the divorce, a trial will be scheduled for the case.

Has your partner refused to sign divorce papers? Or are you facing a contested divorce? If so, it’s time to contact RIGHT Lawyers at (702) 664-8651 to speak with an experienced Las Vegas Divorce Lawyer.