What is a Stipulated Divorce?

How can you get your spouse to sign divorce papers? 

Generally speaking, there are only types of divorce in Las Vegas Family Courts.  There is the “uncontested divorce”, and the “contested divorce”.   The uncontested divorce is where both spouses agree to all the terms of the divorce.   An contested divorce is where the spouses cannot agree and must submit their case to the judge to make a final decision.

A contested divorce is accomplished by filing the divorce papers and then serving your spouse with them.  Your spouse has 21 days to respond or you can seek a default.  If your spouse responds then the divorce proceeds until a judge makes a final decision, or you and your spouse reach a settlement.

The uncontested divorce  is accomplished by filing of a joint petition for divorce.  Uncontested divorces are easier because both spouses agree on all the issues such as child custody, child support, division of marital assets, and alimony.  Both spouses agree to the terms and sign the divorce papers.

Obviously, the uncontested divorce is easier to deal with.  Since both spouses are in agreement there is less conflict.  Uncontested divorces are quicker and less expensive because there is no conflict.  But, your spouse doesn’t have to sign uncontested divorce papers.   And your divorce attorney cannot make them sign uncontested divorce papers.

Stipulated Divorce.  The Third Type of Divorce. 

There is a third type of divorce, a “Stipulated Divorce”. A stipulated divorce is used when the other spouse should agree to a divorce but will not sign.   Divorce lawyers use a stipulated divorce in this type of case.    Sometimes the couple “could” file an uncontested divorce but one spouse will not sign anything.  This is where a stipulated divorce comes in.   Divorce attorneys use this method to get the other side to agree to an uncontested divorce after a contested divorce has been filed.

In many cases one spouse decides they want a divorce and the other spouse does not. The other spouse is fine with the marriage, or still loves their spouse, or for religious purposes does not want a  divorce. The other spouse will not sign documents for an uncontested divorce, even though they have nothing to fight over. The other spouse can’t stop the divorce but they can prolong the divorce by not agreeing to it.   Remember, to get a divorce you either get your spouse to agree to the terms, or you submit your evidence to the judge who will make the final decision.

It takes two spouses to get an uncontested divorce.  So, how do we get our client divorced without wasting time and money getting to a judge? We use a stipulated divorce.

We don’t bother drafting an uncontested divorce.  The other spouse will not sign it.  An uncontested divorce filing does not have a deadline for responding.  The other spouse does not have to sign it, ever.   Instead, we file a contested divorce and serve the documents on the other spouse.   By filing a contested divorce the other spouse only has 21 days to respond or we can file a default.  If they don’t respond in 21 days we  file a default divorce order.  The divorce is over.

To get the other spouse thinking of a settlement we attach a settlement letter to the documents.   The letter outlines specific terms for the divorce.  Now the other spouse has to do something and they only have two choices.  They can spend thousands of dollars hiring a divorce attorney to respond, or they can reach out to their spouse’s divorce attorney to discuss the terms outlined in the letter.

By serving the divorce papers and including a settlement letter we have done two important things.  We are forcing the other spouse to take action, and we are giving  them an option to negotiate the terms of the divorce.   They can fight, or they can negotiate.   But they can no longer do nothing.

In cases where there really isn’t anything to fight over the other spouse will settle.   In cases where there is no reason to fight the other spouse will agree and we can finalize the divorce.   We draft a document called a “stipulated divorce decree” and both spouses sign it.  The word “stipulated” essentially means all parties agree on the terms of the divorce.   After the stipulation is signed we submit it to the judge for a review.  The judge simply reviews the settlement stipulated to by both spouses and approves it.

The overall goal of a stipulated divorce is to come to an agreement on the divorce that both spouses can live with. With the terms agreed to both spouses, the divorce attorneys can  sign it and file it with the court.

Court Approval of a Stipulated Divorce

It is critical that the stipulated divorce agreement be approved by the court.  It won’t become legal and binding until a judges signs the agreement.   While most stipulated divorce agreements survive the court’s review, occasionally the court will withhold its approval if the details of the agreement doesn’t comply with Nevada law.

The agreement must divide assets and debts in a fair and equitable manner and it must address the future of any children, including child support, visitation and custody. Once the stipulated agreement is agreed to and signed, the papers are filed with the court. In Nevada, a stipulated or uncontested divorce can only be granted if every one of the following conditions have been met:

  • The stipulated agreement settles all issues related to custody, visitation and child support, in accordance with the laws of Nevada.
  • The agreement divides the property to everyone’s satisfaction and in accordance with Nevada law.
  • Both spouses have either waived their right to alimony, or they have come up with a satisfactory alimony agreement.
  • Both spouses have given up or waived their right to appeal the judge’s order or to contest the order in any way.
  • Both spouses agree that the court may enter a final, permanent divorce decree.

There are several advantages to a stipulated divorce. It allows both spouses to reach an agreement they can both live with.   A stipulated divorce is quicker and less expensive than a contested divorce.  Contested divorces can cost tens of thousands of dollars in divorce attorney fees.   Contested divorces can take six months or more to finalize.    A stipulated divorce might only take 30 days.   A stipulated divorce is half the cost of a contested divorce.  Stipulated divorces are an excellent way to get your spouse to agree to the divorce.

Need a Stipulated Divorce?  Contact the Right Divorce Lawyer at (702) 914-0400.