Overview of Divorce
Filing for divorce can be scary and unsettling. Before taking legal action, it is best to learn and understand your legal rights and the divorce process in general. It is always advisable to consult with an attorney when considering a divorce so you can learn about your legal rights and your options. Hiring an attorney may not be as expensive as most people think, and having an attorney to guide you may save you time and money in the long run. Visit Lawyers and Legal Help for information on how to find a divorce attorney.
This page explains the divorce process, the legal reasons to file for divorce, who can get divorced in Nevada, and what a judge will order as part of your divorce.
TIP!You can attend a divorce class for FREE where you can learn the basics of divorce law and the court procedures you need to know. Classes are available to anyone, regardless of income, and regardless of whether you have an attorney. The classes are presented in both English and Spanish. You'll receive a class manual and some great tips to help you represent yourself. Visit Free Classes for more information.
One spouse (or both) must live in Nevada for at least 6 weeks before filing for divorce, and intend to remain here indefinitely. A friend, family member, or co-worker will have to sign an affidavit stating under penalty of perjury that they know that the spouse is indeed a Nevada resident.
Nevada is a “no fault” divorce state, which means the person asking for a divorce does not have to prove that anybody did anything wrong to cause the divorce. A person asking for divorce only needs to claim that the parties are “incompatible,” meaning you just don’t get along.
There are other grounds for divorce that are not used very often. Usually, claiming that you cannot live together as a married couple and that there is no chance of reconciliation is enough for a judge to grant a divorce.
There are two ways to file for divorce in Nevada. If both spouses agree on everything in their case, they can File For Divorce Together by filing a "joint petition for divorce." These divorces are typically approved quickly, and the parties usually do not have to appear in front of a judge.
If the spouses cannot agree on all the terms of the divorce, one spouse can File For Divorce Separately by filing a "complaint for divorce." The person who files for divorce is the "plaintiff" and the other spouse is the "defendant." The plaintiff's complaint for divorce will say what the plaintiff would like out of the divorce, and the defendant can Respond to the Divorce by filing an "answer and counterclaim" stating what he or she wants out of the divorce. The judge may hold several hearings to sort out the issues, and if the parties do not eventually reach a full agreement to finalize their divorce, the judge will set a trial to decide the matters.
People often wonder how long the divorce process will take. There is no easy answer to that question, since all cases are different. If you and your spouse can agree to most or all of terms of your divorce, a divorce can be finished fairly quickly. If you and your spouse cannot agree on very many things, you may have to go to court several times before the divorce can be finalized. The following chart maps out the steps to a divorce and some different paths that a divorce case may follow.
FYI!In Nevada, divorce cases are public record. This means the divorce records are open to the public. You can ask the court to "seal" your case so that the case files are closed to the public. To do this, you must complete a Request and Order to Seal File (which can be found on the Divorce Forms page). File the request and submit the order to the judge for approval. If granted, the public will not be able to access your case (but you probably also will not be able to look up your case online to check the status!).
Many difficult decisions have to be made before a divorce can be finalized. This includes how to divide the property and debts, whether alimony will be awarded, and, if children are involved, how to handle custody, visitation, and child support. Ideally, you and your spouse will be able to agree on some or all of these things. If you cannot agree, the judge will have to make the decisions for you.
Custody, Visitation, and Child Support
If you and your spouse have children under the age of 18, your divorce will include orders regarding legal custody, physical custody, visitation, child support, and insurance for the children. Child custody issues are always handled first as part of a contested divorce case. For more information about these complicated matters, please visit the Custody Overview page.
Division of Property & Debt
Nevada is a “community property” state. This means that while you are married, all property and debts you and your spouse acquired are presumed to belong equally to both of you. During a divorce, community property and community debt are equally divided.
Property and debts that typically get divided during a divorce are:
- Bank accounts
- Houses and mortgages
- Household items and furniture
- Cars and car loans
- Credit card balances
- Tax debts
- Pensions and retirement accounts
- A business owned by a spouse
Generally, any property or debt a spouse owned before the marriage is that spouse's "separate property" and belongs solely to that spouse. Inheritances, personal injury awards, and gifts are also usually considered separate property and are not divided during a divorce. There are exceptions to these general rules. If you are unsure if something is community or separate property, consult with an attorney.
In some cases, one spouse may receive ongoing financial support from the other after a divorce. There is no exact formula to figure out whether someone should receive alimony or how much money they should get. Alimony is decided on a case by case basis, but is usually only considered in longer term marriages where there is a large difference in income. To decide alimony, the judge will consider many things, including:
- How long the marriage lasted and the lifestyle shared by the parties during the marriage.
- Each spouse’s age, health, education, career, and earning ability.
- One spouse’s need for financial support versus the other spouse’s ability to pay.
A judge may order “rehabilitative alimony” to help a person obtain job-related education or training. This type of alimony is meant to increase a person’s job skills and earning power so they will be able to support themselves after the divorce.
Alimony may last for only a limited amount of time, or it can be awarded permanently. Permanent alimony typically ends when the person receiving alimony remarries or when either of the spouses dies.
If alimony is awarded as part of a divorce, a spouse can ask the court to change the amount of alimony later if circumstances change. See Changing The Order for more information on how to modify alimony.
If either spouse changed their name due to the marriage, they can ask the judge to change their name back.