How Courts Work
Learn about the courts that hear family law matters in Clark County and how family court cases move through the courts.
The court you will appear in most often as part of your family law matter is the district court. The Family Division of the Eighth Judicial District Court is where family matters are initially heard and resolved in Clark County. There are 20 family court judges in Clark County who are randomly assigned to hear every family court matter. Visit the District Court page to learn more.
FYI!Local court rules require all family court matters between the same parties to be assigned to the same judge. This is known as the “one judge, one family” rule. All child support cases, protection order cases, divorce and custody matters, etc. involving the same parties are assigned to the same judge to oversee. A hearing master or commissioner may hear some matters, but ultimately, all cases are overseen by the same district court judge to provide consistency.
If a party wants to challenge an order issued by the district court, an appeal can be made to the Nevada Supreme Court. The Nevada Supreme Court is the state's highest court, and has the power to hear the case or assign the case to the Nevada Court of Appeal. The appellate court does not re-try the case, but instead determines if legal errors were made by the District Court. Visit the Nevada Supreme Court page to learn more.
FYI!This site only discusses the courts involved in family law issues in Nevada. Many other courts exist for other purposes. For a more complete discussion, please visit the Civil Law Self-Help Center’s website.
Most family law cases can be divided into the following steps:
- Opening a Case. One person (the “Plaintiff”) files legal papers to start the court action (the "complaint"), and has the other party served.
- Responding to the Case. The other person (the “Defendant”) files legal papers to respond to the case (the “answer and counterclaim”).
- Case Management Conference. In most family court cases, the judge sets this hearing within 90 days of when Defendant filed the answer and counterclaim. The parties will appear in court to discuss the issues.
- Mediation/Settlement. Family court judges encourage the parties to resolve their issues out of court whenever possible. Judges may refer the parties to the Family Mediation Center to see if an agreement can be reached on child custody and visitation issues. Judges may refer the parties to other settlement programs so the parties can try to settle their issues with the help of a neutral person.
- Motion Practice. It may take a while to get a final order from the court, due to the steps above. Parties sometimes need the judge to issue temporary orders to guide the parties while the case is going on. Parties can file motions to ask the judge for temporary orders.
- Discovery. Discovery is ongoing as a family case is moving through the court. Discovery allows both sides to exchange information and learn about the strengths and weaknesses of the other side's case.
- Trial. If the parties cannot reach a full agreement on the issues, the judge will set a trial where the issues are decided by the judge. At trial, each party presents witnesses and evidence, and the judge decides the issues.
- Post-trial. After trial, one or both of the parties might appeal the judge’s decision.
- Changing the Order Later. Things may change in the future that make the court order no longer practical (such as child custody/visitation, or child support issues). When parties want to change anything about the court order, they can either stipulate to the changes or they can file motions to have the judge consider new orders.