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Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada
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Frequently Asked Questions
This page includes the most frequently asked questions at family court. It is important to remember that many family law matters involve complex and valuable legal rights that cannot adequately be protected without the assistance of an attorney. The information provided here is basic, general information that does not fit all situations. It is your duty to know the law and the rules of court that apply to your individual case.
To find an attorney who can help you with your particular legal matter, please visit Lawyers and Legal Help.
Questions About Serving Legal Papers
Questions About Divorce
Questions About Annulment
Questions About Custody & Paternity
Questions About Child Support
Questions About Name Changes
Questions About Guardianship
What will it cost to file my case at family court?
There are different filing fees depending on the type of case and the type of document you are filing. The current filing fees are available to download at the Clerk of Court's website.
What if I can't afford to pay the filing fee?
If you cannot afford the filing fee, you can apply to the court to waive the fee. More information about this is available on the Filing Fees & Waivers page.
Do I need an attorney to file my case?
An attorney is always recommended to ensure that your legal rights are protected. However, you do not need an attorney to file your case at family court. The forms and information on this website are designed for litigants who choose to represent themselves at family court.
How can I get a free attorney?
Free attorneys are pretty hard to find! There are a number of organizations that do provide free legal help in certain situations, but there is a very high demand for their services and no guarantee that an attorney will be provided. Organizations may be able to provide attorneys depending on the legal issue, client income, citizenship, etc. You can find links to their pages on the Free & Low Cost Legal Help page.
Where can I learn more about the law that applies to my case?
There are a number of law libraries where you can go to research your legal issue. You can find a list of resources on the Law Libraries page.
How long will it take my case to finish?
There is no easy answer to that question since all cases are different. If you and the other party can agree on some or most of the issues, the case may finish fairly quickly. But if you cannot reach an agreement, you may need to go to court several times before the judge makes a final decision.
How can I talk to the judge?
Judges are not allowed to talk to either party separately - all communication with the judge takes place in the courtroom. Judges are responsible for making sure that all legal proceedings are fair to both sides. To ensure fairness, judges are not allowed to engage in "ex parte communication," meaning, communicating with only one party without the other party being present. Just as you would not want the judge talking to the other party without you being present, the judge cannot talk to you without the other party being present.
How can I get a new judge assigned to hear my case?
Before a judge has done anything on a case, each party can file one "peremptory challenge" to have a new judge assigned. It costs $450 to file a peremptory challenge. You do not get to pick the new judge that will be assigned; another judge is randomly assigned to your case.
There are very strict timing requirements for filing a peremptory challenge! Consider very carefully whether you are still able to file a peremptory challenge, since any money you spend on a challenge is not refunded if it turns out you were wrong. The most important thing to know is that once your judge has held a hearing or ruled on a matter, it is too late to change judges.
Where can I get a copy of my divorce decree or other documents filed in my case?
You can look up your case online to see what documents have been filed in your case. You cannot view the documents online, but you can order copies of the documents either by mail or in person. Please visit Look Up My Case for information on how to access your case and obtain copies of your court documents.
How do I change a court date?
Typically, the only way to change a court date is by talking to the other party and getting their agreement to move the hearing. If the other party is willing to move the hearing date, you can both sign a Stipulation and Order to Continue the Hearing (this form is on the Miscellaneous Forms page). The judge will set a new date after receiving the Stipulation and Order signed by both of you.
If you cannot attend a hearing in person, you may be able to appear by telephone instead. File a Request to Appear By Telephone (on the Miscellaneous Forms page) before the hearing, and include the phone number where you can be reached at the time of the hearing.
My case was dismissed. Can I get the case opened up again?
The court dismisses cases when there is no activity in the case for a certain amount of time. Under some circumstances, you can have your case reinstated if you make the request within 30 days of the dismissal. You can find the Request and Order for Reinstatement on the Miscellaneous Forms page. File the request, and submit the order to your judge for approval. If the judge does not grant the reinstatement, you will have to open a brand new case and start all over.
What areas does the Family Law Self-Help Center not cover?
The Family Law Self-Help Center does not have forms or information available in the following areas:
- Child Protective Service ("CPS") Matters (limited information is on the Child Protection page)
- Gender Changes. Individuals born in Nevada can change their gender on their birth certificate by completing an Affidavit for Correction of Record and a Supplemental Affidavit through the Nevada Office of Vital Statistics. For more information, call Vital Statistics at (775) 684-4242.
- Probate / Wills / Trusts / Power of Attorney. Please visit the Civil Law Self-Help Center Probate page for information and forms.
Does the court serve the legal papers on the other person?
No. You are responsible for making sure the other party is served with any papers you file.
How do I serve the legal papers on the other person?
The way you serve the documents depends on the kind of documents you are filing.
If you are filing papers to open up a case (a summons and complaint), the other party must be personally served with the papers. However, you cannot serve the other party. Someone over 18 who is not a party to the case and not interested in the outcome of the case must personally serve the papers and fill out an Affidavit of Service stating when, where, and what was served. Some judges require a licensed, professional process server to serve the documents. Find out from the department assigned to your case if the judge requires this. You can find a list of phone numbers to each judge's department by clicking here.
Generally speaking, all papers filed after that can be sent to the other party by regular mail (there are exceptions). You are allowed to mail the papers yourself.
How do I serve the summons and complaint if I don't know where the other party lives?
The Defendant must be personally served with a copy of the summons and complaint. The Defendant can be served anywhere, so if you know where the person works, visits, etc., give that information to your process server so they can find the Defendant.
If you do not know anything about where the Defendant can be found, you must do a good faith search to try and find the person. This means checking with friends, family members, looking online, etc., to try and find the person. If you still cannot find the person after doing the search, you can ask the judge for permission to serve the Defendant by mailing a copy of the summons and complaint to the last known address and also publishing the summons in a newspaper. For more information about this, please see Serving the Papers by Publication.
I am filing a motion to re-open an old case, but the other party moved and I don't know where she lives. Where do I serve her?
Whenever you move, you are required to update your address with the court by filing a Change of Address form (this can be found on the Miscellaneous Forms page). If the other party moved and did not update their address with the court, the court expects you to serve the other party at the address that the court has on record for the party, PLUS any other addresses where you think the person can be found.
Is there a waiting period to get a divorce in Nevada?
No. There is no waiting period.
Who can get divorced in Nevada?
One of the spouses must have been a Nevada resident for 6 weeks before filing for divorce. It does not matter where you married, as long as at least one spouse is a true Nevada resident.
I heard people can come to Nevada for a "quickie divorce." How do I do this?
This is a false rumor! To get divorced in Nevada, one spouse must be a bona fide Nevada resident with the intent to continue living in Nevada indefinitely. The court requires proof of Nevada residency prior to granting a divorce. Married people who live in other states cannot get divorced in Nevada.
My spouse cheated on me / spent all our money / went to jail / has a drug problem. It should be easy to win my case since my spouse did so many terrible things, right?
Nevada is a "no-fault" divorce state. This means that no one has to prove that either spouse did anything wrong to cause the divorce. All that has to be proved to the judge is that you are now incompatible (meaning you just don't get along) and that there is no chance for reconciliation. The reasons that led up to the divorce are usually not important to the judge, though they may be factors in deciding child custody if the issues affect the child.
I want a divorce but my spouse says he will never sign the paperwork. What do I do?
Nevada does not require both spouses to agree to the divorce. Although a divorce can be done quicker and easier when the spouses agree, one spouse can file for divorce on their own if the spouses do not agree. See Filing For Divorce On Your Own for more information about how to do this.
Can the judge just give me custody and child support orders? I am married but I don't want a divorce.
When people are married, judges do not get involved in child custody issues unless it is part of a divorce, annulment, or separate maintenance case. A divorce and an annulment will end the marriage, while a separation does not.
The house, the car, the bank accounts, etc., are all in one spouse's name. Does that mean that spouse gets to keep everything in the divorce?
Nevada is a "community property" state. This means that just about all property (and debt!) acquired during the marriage by either spouse belongs equally to both spouses, no matter whose name the property is titled under. During a divorce, the property and debts are equally divided. Spouses may be ordered to transfer titles or refinance property so that it is listed solely under that person's name after the divorce. There are exceptions to this general rule. Legal advice is strongly recommended if you are unsure whether property is considered community property or not.
How are the retirement accounts and pensions handled in a divorce?
Typically, any retirement funds that are built up during the marriage are divided evenly between the spouses. But, retirement funds that existed before the marriage and retirement funds contributed after the divorce belong only to the spouse who owns the retirement plan. The rules and calculations for retirement funds are tricky, and any division of retirement accounts typically requires additional court orders that are not included on this website. You are encouraged to seek legal advice before the divorce if you have questions or concerns about your rights to any retirement funds.
How long do I have to be married to get alimony (spousal support)? How much can I get?
There is no magic number of "years married" to get an alimony award. The judge considers many factors, including how long the marriage lasted, the lifestyle of the parties during the marriage, and each spouse's age, health, career, and earning capacity.
Similarly, there is no specific alimony calculation to determine how much one will receive. Alimony is decided on a case-by-case basis.
Can I change my name?
Yes, either spouse can ask to return to their former name as part of the divorce. The divorce decree will include the official order changing the name. Most businesses and agencies want to see a "certified copy" of the divorce decree in order to change the name on any accounts or identification. You can get a certified copy of the decree from the Clerk of Court at the family courthouse for a $3 fee.
My ex will not follow the terms of our Decree of Divorce. What do I do?
There are different options depending on the kind of order not being followed. There may be an agency to help you enforce the decree of divorce, or you may need to come back to court so the judge can find out what's happening. To learn about your options, please visit the Enforcing the Order page.
How long after the marriage can a marriage be annulled?
There is no time limit on when a marriage can be annulled. Instead, a person asking for an annulment must prove one of the legal grounds showing that the marriage should be annulled.
What are the grounds for an annulment?
There are several reasons a marriage can be annulled, including:
- The spouses are closely related;
- One person was already married to someone else at the time the parties tried to marry;
- One of the spouses was under the age of 18 at the time of the marriage and did not obtain to proper consent (from a parent and/or a judge);
- One of the spouses was unable to consent to the marriage and did not understand the actions they were taking at the time;
- One of the spouses was insane at the time of the marriage and has now regained sanity;
- One of the spouses committed a fraud on the other to get them to agree to the marriage.
These reasons are discussed more on the Grounds for Annulment page.
I got married in Nevada on the spur of the moment while I was on vacation there. Now I've changed my mind. Can I get the marriage annulled?
A person who gets married in Nevada or who lives in Nevada can ask the court for an annulment. One of the grounds for annulment (above) must be proved before an annulment can be granted.
What is the difference between "legal custody" and "physical custody?"
These are two different types of custody that are awarded in every custody case. "Legal custody" refers to the power to make major decisions affecting the child, such as healthcare decisions, schooling decisions, and religious training. "Physical custody" refers to the amount of time the children spend with each parent. You can learn more about these types of custody and the variations of each on the Overview of Custody page.
How do I establish "father's rights?"
There are two common ways to establish a man as the father of the child. The first is by signing a "Voluntary Declaration of Paternity," which is often done at the hospital right after the child's birth. If it wasn't signed at the hospital, both parents can sign the form later in person at the Office of Vital Records or at the Southern Nevada Health District. A new birth certificate can then be issued with the father's name listed.
If that is not an option, either parent can File a Complaint for Paternity and ask a court to declare a man as the father of a child.
I have a DNA test that proves I am not the father. How do I get my name off of the birth certificate and/or stop child support?
Once paternity has been established, either by a court order or through the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity, it is not so easy to remove a man as a child's legal father, even with a DNA test. Typically, the man must prove to a judge that the other person fraudulently led the man to believe that he was the father.
Either parent can File a Complaint for Paternity and ask the court to "undo" paternity if appropriate.
The mother and father were never married. Doesn't this mean the mother has sole custody and the father has no rights?
No. Parents have equal rights to a child whether or not they are married. The law automatically gives both parents joint legal custody and joint physical custody of a child unless otherwise ordered by a court.
The mother and father live in different states. Where do I file for custody?
Custody and visitation matters are typically decided in the state where the child has lived for the past 6 months, or since birth if the child is younger than 6 months. There are some exceptions to this general rule. If you are not sure what state you should file in, you are encouraged to consult with an attorney. You can find information on where to find an attorney at Lawyers & Legal Help.
How does the judge decide who will get custody of the children?
There is a legal preference to award parents joint physical custody unless certain exceptions exist.
The judge decides custody based on the "best interest of the child." There are many factors listed in NRS 125C.0035 that a judge must consider when determining the best interest of the child. If the parents cannot agree on custody, the judge will hold a trial where both parents can present witnesses and evidence that relate to these factors. The judge will then weigh all of the evidence and decide what custody arrangement would be in the child's best interest.
Does the child get to decide which parent to live with?
No. Judges may consider the wishes of children who are old enough and mature enough to express a preference. But ultimately, the judge decides custody issues when the parents cannot agree.
My child wants to talk to the judge. Can I bring the child to court? Can the child write a letter to the judge?
No. Court rules specifically prohibit children from attending court. Court rules also prohibit parties, witnesses, and lawyers from discussing the litigation with the children, allowing children to read any of the legal papers or other court records, and leaving legal papers and records in a place where it is likely the child may find them. The judge can impose sanctions on any parent who willfully violates these requirements.
The judge can, however, have a child interviewed by a trained professional (outside of court) if the judge wants to hear from the child. If ordered, this would be done on a different day from the court hearing. Do not bring the child to court.
I want to move away with the child. What do I need to do?
A parent needs permission to move with the children either out of Nevada or to a place inside Nevada that is so far away it would seriously harm the other parent's ability to maintain a relationship with the child. The moving parent must first talk to the other parent and see if he or she will agree to the move in writing. If so, the parents can sign a Stipulation & Order allowing the move.
If the other parent will not agree to the move, the parent can file a motion in the divorce or custody case asking the judge for permission to move with the children. The parents will have to go to court and let the judge decide whether to allow the parent to move with the child. You can find the forms and information for this process on the File a Motion to Go Back to Court page.
The court issued a custody order but my ex will not follow the visitation schedule. What can I do to see my child?
There are several options available if the other parent will not follow the custody schedule. You will typically have to file a motion to re-open your divorce or custody case and go back to court so the judge can hear from both of you. There are two motions available through the Self-Help Center to address this kind of issue: a motion to enforce custody and visitation (when you want the existing order followed) and a motion for an order to show cause regarding contempt.
If there is an emergency and you need the child turned over to you immediately, you can ask the judge to grant you a "pickup order." If granted, the order would allow you to pick up the child right away without having to go to court first.
You can find information about all of these options on the File a Motion to Enforce page.
How do I change the custody or visitation order?
If the current custody and visitation schedule needs to be re-worked, there are several options available. If you and the other parent agree to the changes you would like to make, you can sign a Stipulation & Order outlining the new custody and visitation agreement.
If you cannot agree on changes to the custody and visitation schedule, you can request a referral to the Family Mediation Center where a trained mediator meets with both of you to see if you can reach an agreement.
Another option is that one parent can re-open a divorce or custody case and file a motion to change custody. This requires both parents to go back to court, explain to the judge what changes you would like to make, and then a judge will decide what changes, if any, to make. Judges do not change custody orders lightly; there are specific legal requirements you will have to show before a judge will change the custody order. You can find the forms and information about this process on the File a Motion to Go Back to Court page.
Who gets to claim the child as a dependent on their taxes?
The judge can determine which parent will claim the child on their taxes each year. Check your custody order to see if the order says who will claim the child each year. If the order does not say, then the IRS regulations apply. Check with a tax professional to find out which parent is allowed to claim the child under the IRS regulations.
How is child support set?
Child support is set based on two things: the physical custody order and the parents' income.
When one parent has primary or sole physical custody of a child, child support is set as a percentage of a noncustodial parent's income. A noncustodial parent typically pays 18% of his or her gross monthly income for 1 child, 25% of income for 2 children, 29% of income for 3 children, and an additional 2% of monthly income for each additional child.
When parents share joint physical custody of their children, the court calculates the child support each parent would pay according to the percentages above. Then the court subtracts the lower earning parent's amount from the higher earning parent's amount, and the higher earning parent pays the difference.
The judge can order an amount larger or smaller than these percentages under some circumstances. For a more complete discussion of child support, please see Overview of Custody, Paternity, and Child Support.
If I have joint custody, doesn't that mean I won't have to pay child support?
Not necessarily. The judge will calculate child support based on both parent's incomes, and usually the higher earning parent will pay some child support to the lower earning parent (see the question above for the calculation).
I don't know how much my ex earns each month. How do I know how much child support to ask for?
Since child support is set based on the parent's monthly income, it is helpful to know roughly how much the other parent earns every month. You can estimate if you do not know, but ultimately, the judge will have to determine how much money both parents earn in order to properly set child support. Both parents are required to file Financial Disclosure Forms that include information about their employment, income, and expenses, and they must attach their last three paystubs as proof. This helps the judge figure out each person's true monthly income so child support can be calculated.
My ex is lying about how much money she makes! How do I prove this to the judge?
If you think the other person is not being truthful about their monthly earnings, let the judge know. The judge has the power to order either party to provide additional financial records, including the last three years' worth of tax returns.
Can the judge award me back child support?
A judge may award up to 4 years of back child support. This is not automatic; a judge will decide if back child support is appropriate in each individual case.
I just bought the child clothes, toys, and a new computer. Can I deduct those costs from my child support payment to the other parent?
No. Any purchases and gifts for a child do not offset against court-ordered child support.
I pay the health insurance premiums for the children's insurance at work. Can I deduct the premium costs from my child support payment?
The cost of health insurance coverage is one of the factors a judge can take into consideration when setting child support. Make sure to let the judge know how much you spend every month for the children's insurance costs. The judge can reduce the amount of child support ordered to take this into account (but if the judge didn't order it, pay the court-ordered amount!).
My ex won't pay child support. How do I collect?
The District Attorney Family Support Division exists to help parents establish and collect child support. You can learn more about their services by visiting the District Attorney Family Support page.
What do I do if I can't afford to pay the amount of child support ordered?
If financial circumstances change, it is important to ask the other parent and the court to change child support. You are legally responsible to pay the court-ordered child support until the order changes, and non-payment could result in thousands of dollars of arrears accruing against you!
First, talk to the other parent about changing child support, even if only temporarily. If the other parent agrees, the two of you can sign a Stipulation & Order agreeing to the change.
If the other parent does not want to change child support, you can re-open a divorce or custody case and file a motion to change child support. You will usually have to prove that you have had a 20% or more change in income for the judge to consider changing child support, and you will have to file a Financial Disclosure Form detailing your employment, income, and expenses. You can find the forms and information on how to do this on the File a Motion to Modify page.
How long does child support last?
Child support lasts until a child turns 18, or, if the child is still enrolled in high school, until the child turns 19 or finishes high school (whichever happens first).
Do both parents have to pay the child's college expenses?
No. The court cannot require the parents to contribute to college costs. However, if you and the other parent agree to be equally responsible for future college costs, that agreement should be part of a court order so that it is enforceable in the future if needed.
What is required to change my name?
Any resident of Clark County can ask the court for a name change. The person must file a petition with the court listing the current name, the new name desired, and the reason the name change is requested. If you have been convicted of a felony, you must disclose this in the forms and you must submit a set of fingerprints to the Court with the name change forms. Most proposed name changes must be published one time in a newspaper in Clark County before the court can approve a name change.
Do I really have to put a notice in a newspaper?
Usually. Publication of your new proposed name is generally required for all name changes.
If you are changing your name to match your gender identity, you do not need to publish a notice. In other very rare cases, a judge may waive the publication requirement if doing so would put your safety at risk.
What if I have been convicted of a felony?
You must provide details of any felony convictions in your paperwork. You will also have to get fingerprinted and submit a set of your fingerprints to the Court. If a name change is granted, the court will send a copy of the name change order to the Central Repository for Nevada Records of Criminal History so the new name is included in your criminal record.
How do I change my child's name?
Typically, both parents must agree to change a child's name. Only one parent's consent may be required if the other parent is deceased or if the other parent has no legal rights to the child. Please visit Name Changes for Children for more information.
What if the other parent will not agree to change my child's name?
One parent can file for a child's name change, but the other parent must be served with the court papers so the other parent is aware of the proceedings. A judge may or may not grant a name change for a child without the other parent's consent depending on the circumstances. Please visit Name Changes When Parents Do Not Agree for information on what to do if the other parent will not agree.
How do I get guardianship over someone?
Usually, a person must apply to the court to become a guardian over someone else. This requires filing a petition explaining why a guardianship is needed, setting a court hearing, and notifying all of the person’s relatives. A doctor’s certification is also required if the subject of the guardianship is an adult. For more information on how to apply to be a guardian, please see Guardianships Over Adults or Guardianships Over Children.
Why do I have to notify the relatives?
The law requires you to serve a copy of the guardianship papers on anyone age 14 or older who is related to the subject of the guardianship within 2 levels of blood relation. This typically includes parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, spouses, and siblings. The family must be notified so they have a chance to tell the court whether they agree or disagree with the proposed guardianship.
But the relatives have not been involved in our lives for years. Do I really have to serve them? What if I don't know where they are?
Yes. Even if family members have been absent or uninvolved, they are entitled to know about any proposed guardianship. If you don’t know where some relatives are, you must do everything you can to find them so they can be served. If you truly cannot find some people, you can ask the judge for permission to serve them by publication, meaning, putting a notice in a newspaper and mailing documents to their last known address.
If you do not properly notify all of the relatives, the court cannot appoint you the guardian and the court proceedings will be delayed!
I do not live in Nevada. Can I apply to be a guardian?
Yes. The law changed on July 1, 2015, and now allows anyone to apply to be a guardian. There may be extra requirements for non-resident guardians to ensure the safety of the ward.
I was appointed the guardian, but now I want someone else to take over (or be a co-guardian with me). What do I do?
You can ask the judge to change guardians or add a second co-guardian. If you no longer want to be the guardian, someone else must ask to have you removed and be willing to take over as the new guardian going forward. Please see Changing Guardians for more information.
If you want to continue to be the guardian but you want someone else to share the responsibilities with you, another person can ask the court to be appointed a co-guardian. The co-guardian must file a petition to be appointed the co-guardian, set a court date, and serve all of the relatives (just like you did when you were appointed). The person should fill out all of the required documents and follow all of the steps outlined in Guardianships Over Adults or Guardianships Over Children. The documents should be filed under the same case number as your existing guardianship case.
Family Courts and Services Center
601 N. Pecos
Las Vegas, NV 89155
This website was designed and is maintained by Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, Inc., a private, nonprofit, 501(c) (3) organization that operates the Family Law Self-Help Center through a contract with Clark County, Nevada. This website is intended to provide general information, forms, and resources for people who are representing themselves in a Clark County court without a lawyer. The information on this website is NOT a substitute for legal advice. Talk with a lawyer licensed in Nevada to get legal advice on your situation.
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