Having peace of mind is an important factor in the divorce process. So hiring the right Las Vegas divorce lawyer is a critical first step. You deserve to have the best legal representation possible. But you shouldn’t hire a high-powered divorce attorney in every circumstance. It’s vital to understand that there is no one best divorce lawyer in Las Vegas. The best one is the one best for you. That is, the attorney that’s best suited to your unique case facts.
If you have a lot at stake, whether financial, child related, or both, you deserve a divorce lawyer that will protect your rights. Getting the best results in a divorce case is not an accident. Our divorce attorneys and certified paralegal staff focus exclusively on divorce, child custody, and marital law matters. There is no substitute for their experience. We offer courtesy phone consultations at no charge with one of our State Bar of Nevada Board Certified divorce lawyers. Call 702-222-4021 and gain some peace of mind today.
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Las Vegas Divorce Lawyer’s Guide to the Divorce Process
The following steps are typical of the divorce process in Las Vegas. This is only a guide. Depending on the case facts, the order of certain steps may vary or be unnecessary. Most importantly, this information is only a guide, not direct legal advice. There are also a variety of legal terms used in divorce cases. Because many people are unfamiliar with these terms, we describe them below.
Resolution of divorce cases occurs in one of two ways: negotiated settlement or by a judge at trial. Regardless of the items presented below, settlement negotiations can occur during every phase of the divorce process. This is not to say that settlement is proper for every case. If your spouse refuses to settle on agreeable terms, you have every right to let a judge resolve the divorce matter at trial. Las Vegas divorce lawyers Jennifer V. Abrams and Vincent Mayo have successfully negotiated hundreds of complex divorce settlements. They are also aggressive litigators when trial is your best option.
Plaintiff and Defendant
The first set of definitions is what each party is referred to in the divorce proceedings. The spouse who initiates the divorce is known as the Plaintiff. The spouse receiving the divorce documents is the Defendant. There are advantages to being the Plaintiff in a divorce matter. However, these vary from cases to case and only experienced divorce lawyers know how to use it to your benefit. A consultation with a highly qualified divorce lawyer is the best way to know how it applies to your case.
Grounds for Divorce
Nevada is a “no fault” divorce state. This means that you don’t need to prove your spouse did anything wrong to get a divorce. Simply stating that you and your spouse are incompatible with no chance of reconciliation is reason enough. Legally there are other reasons, such as insanity, or living apart for more than one year, but these are rarely used.
Infidelity has no bearing on a divorce in a no fault state such as Nevada. While we understand the emotional factors, infidelity is not a consideration for financial compensation. However, if one spouse committed marital waste by spending community property on a third party, that can be a cause for the other spouse to receive compensation.
State of Nevada Residency
For divorce cases, either you or your spouse must be a full-time resident of Nevada for at least six weeks. Nevada requires a third party to attest to this in an Affidavit of Resident Witness. Falsifying this document is committing fraud. The family courts frown heavily on this conduct and the penalties for fraud can be substantial.
Initial Divorce Documents
The Plaintiff initiates a divorce case. This is done by having their divorce lawyer prepare and file a series of documents with the family courts in Las Vegas. These documents include a Complaint for Divorce, Summons, and Joint Preliminary Injunction.
Complaint for Divorce
The first document in a divorce proceeding is the Complaint for Divorce. This document tells the family courts that you are seeking divorce and wish to dissolve your marriage. Some divorce attorneys list specific requests for things such as temporary spousal support, child custody, alimony, and division of assets and debts. “Showing all your cards” at this early point in your divorce is a critical error. Knowledgeable divorce lawyers state a request for relief on these issues, but never list specific amounts or terms.
Divorce Case Summons
The family court notifies the Defendant that they are being sued for divorce with a Summons. This notification tells the Defendant that they have 20 days to file a response. The time period begins once the defendant is served with the Complaint for Divorce.
Joint Preliminary Injunction
A Joint Preliminary Injunction or JPI for short, is a legal document notifying both parties that they cannot substantially change their financial position during the divorce proceedings. Regular living expenses are not part of a JPI and you can continue your normal bill paying routine. However, neither party can make large purchases or change their marital financial holdings.
Service of Process
Here’s another way to determine whether your lawyer knows what they’re doing. There is no benefit to you to further animosity in your divorce proceedings. Surprising your spouse with a process server at their workplace or some other public setting only fuels the emotional flames of divorce. Therefore, your spouse should be served with the Complaint, Summons, and JPI in a private setting whenever possible. If your spouse already has their own divorce lawyer, their lawyer can be served with the documents in lieu of personal service to your spouse.
Affidavit of Service
A process server personally delivers the initial divorce documents to your spouse or their divorce lawyer. Once this is done, the process server files an Affidavit of Service with the court. This document swears that the process server executed their duties appropriately and proper process of service occurred.
Answer to Complaint for Divorce
Once the Complaint for Divorce is served to your spouse, they have a the opportunity to respond to the Complaint. This is known as an Answer to Complaint for Divorce. Their Answer is straightforward and either admits or denies each item in the Complaint for Divorce.
Counterclaim for Divorce
The Defendant also has the right to assert opposing claims. This is known as a Counterclaim for Divorce. Your spouse may file a general or very specific Counterclaim. This is another reason why the Complaint for Divorce should ask for relief, but not list the specific relief requested.
Reply to Counterclaim
If your spouse has a Counterclaim, you have the right to respond to it. Your response is known as a Reply to Counterclaim. This document allows you to address the issues in your spouse’s Counterclaim and gives you an opportunity to “speak again.” This is another example of why being the Plaintiff is to your advantage.
Financial Disclosure Form
Both parties in divorce proceedings must complete a document listing their assets and debts and their income and regular living expenses. This document is known as a Financial Disclosure Form, or FDF for short. Each parties FDF is filed with the court. This gives the judge in your divorce the ability to base their rulings on each spouse’s financial position. These rulings often include financial items like division of assets and debts, temporary spousal support, alimony, and child support.
Las Vegas divorce lawyer Jennifer V. Abrams personally designed and re-wrote the FDF currently used in every divorce case in Nevada. She was honored by the Supreme Court of Nevada for her work on this important issue. There are two forms of FDFs: General and Detailed. The Detailed FDF is used in high asset cases, the General FDF is used in all others.
Motion for Temporary Orders
Getting secure footing on living and financial arrangements, and child custody / support issues is a big step in achieving peace of mind. Typically one of the first court hearings in divorce cases will be a Motion for Temporary Orders. These motions temporarily resolve financial, housing, and child issues while the divorce case proceeds. Like the name implies, temporary orders terminate once the divorce matter resolves. But they are replaced with the terms of the Decree of Divorce. While either party can file a Motion for Temporary Orders, most often this is done by the Plaintiff’s Las Vegas divorce attorney.
Case Management Conference
After a Motion for Temporary Orders, one of the first court hearings in divorce cases is known as a Case Management Conference (CMC). This typically occurs within 90 days of the filing of the Defendant’s Answer to the Complaint for Divorce. A family court judge presides over this hearing. The purpose of the CMC is for both Las Vegas divorce attorneys to present to the court which divorce issues are agreeable to both parties and which are not.
Requirements for Parents with Minor Children
These next two aspects of the divorce proceedings only applies to those divorcing spouses with minor children. The family courts always want to limit the impact divorce has on minor children. Therefore, the courts require both parents attend FMC and COPE classes.
Family Mediation Center (FMC)
This step is an attempt to agree on child custody and child support matters. Attending a mediation conference at FMC is not optional. Both parents must participate, but the mediator does not have the authority to force either party into child custody or child support terms they disagree with. Equally important, this is not the final opportunity to resolve child related issues. However, if both parents cannot agree during the divorce proceedings, the judge will ultimately make a decision.
Nevada requires divorcing parents to attend a seminar to assist children in coping with their parents’ divorce. The seminar addresses the needs of your children, lowering their stress, and co-parenting for their benefit. Unlike FMC where both parents must personally attend, COPE classes can be taken online. Both parents must provide the family court with a certificate of completion from a court approved COPE class provider before the judge will sign the final Decree of Divorce. Your divorce lawyer will provide you with a list of court approved COPE class providers in the Las Vegas area.
Each party in a divorce matter has the right to all pertinent information in the case. This phase is known as Discovery. The information can come from your spouse or from third party entities such as banks, brokerage firms, investment houses, CPA’s, business valuators, etc. The purpose of Discovery is to facilitate a settlement or, in its absence, to be used as evidence at trial.
The Discovery phase can be relatively quick and straightforward if both parties cooperate fully. However, this is not always the way it goes. Discovery is often long, complicated, and costly when your spouse attempts to not comply. Fortunately the law provides numerous ways for your Las Vegas divorce attorney to obtain the information. These methods include Requests for Admissions, Interrogatories, Requests for Production of Documents, Subpoenas, and Depositions.
Requests for Admissions
These are questions that your Las Vegas divorce lawyer prepares that can only have a yes or no answer. Often these Requests for Admissions are worded in a way not favoring the respondent. Like Interrogatories, the answers can affect settlement negotiations or as evidence at trial.
Interrogatories are written questions that your divorce lawyer prepares for your spouse to answer. They are open ended questions that cannot simply be answered yes or no. Answering interrogatories is mandatory. Question topics can include financial and child issues. The answers your spouse provides can be used in other steps in the divorce proceedings such as depositions, or evidence at trial.
Requests for Production of Documents (RFPDs)
You are entitled to all documents that can affect the outcome of your case. The legal terms for asking your spouse for these is known as a Request for Production of Documents. These documents are often financial in nature such as bank, brokerage, and credit card statements, business financials, investment account statements, personal and business tax returns, to name just a few. They can also include medical records in certain instances such as for issues involving minor children. Producing the documents is mandatory and noncompliance only results in a longer Discovery time frame and more legal costs. That’s because if your spouse will not comply, your Las Vegas divorce lawyer will get the documents via subpoena.
Subpoenas are often used when your spouse will not comply with a RFPD. Nevada law allows your divorce lawyer to get the documents directly from a third party source such as banks, other financial institutions, or doctors’ offices. Domestic third parties within the United States and its territories are legally bound by Subpoenas. They must produce the requested documents. Getting documents from international organizations is far more complicated and requires the expertise of a divorce lawyer with international law experience.
Depositions are “under oath” interviews conducted by the divorce attorneys for both parties. Depositions are often video recorded or a court reporter is present to record the questions and answers. Your divorce lawyer will always prepare you for your deposition. They also prepare the questions to ask your spouse. In highly contested and/or complex divorce cases, there may be more than one deposition. It’s important to answer every question truthfully when you are being deposed. Failure to do so will only hurt your case.
Final Calendar Call
If settlement has not been reached after all these steps are completed, the final step before trial is known as a Calendar Call. During this court hearing, the judge will probe each party’s attorney as to what issues have been settled and which are still in dispute. The judge wants to avoid trial and will often ask the Las Vegas divorce lawyers for both spouses to trial and settle the outstanding issues. If, after this eleventh-hour attempt at settlement fails, your divorce case will go to trial.
Divorce trials in Las Vegas are non-jury. In other words, the judge in your divorce case, not a jury, will make all the final rulings on issues that haven’t yet settled. Trials by their nature are complex and expensive legal proceedings. Preparing for trial is a considerable task and typically requires weeks of preparatory work. At trial, your divorce lawyer will present evidence and testimony to support your case.
Reciprocally, your spouse’s divorce lawyer has the right to cross-examine all testimony and present evidence supporting your spouse’s positions. A divorce trial can take one day or many days. The amount of time is directly proportional to the degree of complexity and the number of issues that require a judge’s decision. You have the right to appeal the judge’s trial decisions, but not a settlement you agreed to, unless you can prove fraud.
Decree of Divorce
Once the case concludes, one of the divorce lawyers drafts a Decree of Divorce. The decree is then sent to the other party’s divorce lawyer for verification. Often the divorce attorneys go back and forth to make sure the Decree of Divorce comports with what has been agreed to in settlement, or the judge’s decision at trial. Once both divorce attorneys agree on the wording, the Decree of Divorce is signed by the judge and officially recorded.
Las Vegas Area Divorce Lawyers Available to You
Our Las Vegas divorce attorneys are highly credentialed professionals who focus solely on divorce and divorce related matters. They often handle financially sophisticated and contested child custody divorce cases. Each attorney offers courtesy phone consultations at no charge. Call our office at 702-222-4021 to gain some peace of mind today.