Nevada, hosting the renowned city of Las Vegas, is known for glamour, entertainment, several tourist destinations, and even same-day weddings. From lenient state laws for getting married — with no notice time or minimal residency requirements — to several casinos, churches, and even drive-thru establishments offering quick marriage packages, Las Vegas is a top destination for couples wanting to tie the knot.
With great power, as they say, comes great responsibility. Did you know that Nevada had the highest divorce rate of any U.S. state in 2021? Approximately 4.2 divorces out of 1,000 people occurred in the state after cohabiting couples chose to legally end their relationship and go their separate ways. This number is almost two times higher than the 2.5 national average divorce rate in America in the same year.
There are a lot of reasons why couples decide to get a divorce, such as their incompatibility and irreconcilable differences. One more reason for this figure, at least in the state of Nevada, is its lax rules when it comes to divorce, which will be discussed in this article.
Whether you are considering filing for divorce or you and your spouse decide to end your relationship amicably, this comprehensive article can guide you on the steps you need to take to finalize your separation legally.
Divorce vs. Annulment vs. Legal Separation in Nevada
In Nevada, similar to most U.S. states, there are three ways to establish separation from a spouse: divorce, annulment, and legal separation. These procedures are often interchanged, but each serves a different purpose and requires differing conditions.
Having a divorce, or “dissolution of marriage,” means formally terminating a marriage under various grounds. After several processes and the spouses meeting the needed requirements, an assigned judge will grant the divorce. Decisions on custody, visitation, child support, and division of properties will also be made.
Annulment, on the other hand, is a legal form of separation that treats marriage as if it never happened because there exists an element in a couple’s union that invalidates their marriage.
The grounds for annulment in Nevada include the following:
If the spouses are close blood relatives (at least second cousins or cousins of the half-blood);
If one spouse is already or is still legally married at the time of the supposed wedding;
If one or both partners are minors (17 and below) and there is no parental consent for the marriage;
However, this ground will be void if: a) the person is willingly living with their spouse after turning 18; b) an annulment case under this ground is not filed within one year of the minor turning 18;
If one of the spouses claims that they did not know what they were doing at the time of the marriage or if one of them was considered “insane” and has now regained sanity;
If one of them intentionally lied or kept essential information to force the other into marriage.
Legal separation, also known as separate maintenance, is for couples that want to lead different lives but remain legally married on paper. Some of the reasons that couples choose to do this include religious reasons, medical benefits, or simply because they do not want to go through the hassle of divorce just yet. Going through a legal separation does not prevent spouses from filing for divorce in the future, but that would be a separate case to be pursued altogether.
Is Nevada a No-Fault State When It Comes to Divorce?
Yes, Nevada is a “no-fault” state when it comes to filing a divorce. This means that the couple or the spouse filing the divorce does not need to prove that the other party did anything wrong to be able to go through with the separation.
Nevada was one of the first states to implement a no-fault divorce system in the 1930s. Surprisingly, the main driver involves commercial reasons — to encourage visitors from all over the country, particularly Californians, to spend six weeks in the state. Hence, Nevada requires only six weeks of residence from at least one spouse in order to file for divorce.
Here are the grounds or reasons you can cite when filing for divorce in Nevada:
Incompatibility: You and your spouse do not get along anymore;
Lengthy separation: You and your spouse have lived apart or without cohabitation for more than a year;
Insanity: Your spouse is considered “insane” or has had severe mental illness for two years prior to filing for divorce.
Ultimately, you can declare that the relationship is beyond repair and that there is no hope for reconciliation.
How to File for Divorce in Nevada
For the most part, however, the process is pretty straightforward. To help you understand all these state-specific regulations, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to successfully file for divorce in Nevada:
Step 1: Fill Out the Required Forms
If you and your spouse fully agree on the terms of your divorce, such as child custody, child support, property and debt division, alimony, and maiden name decisions, you can file a joint petition. This petition, also known as an uncontested divorce, is the easiest and quickest way to get divorced in Nevada.
If you are filing a joint petition, you are required to submit the following forms:
Cover Sheet: This should include basic information about you, your spouse, and your children, if you have any.
Affidavit of Resident Witness: This document, filled out by a coworker, relative, or friend, serves as proof that at least you or your spouse lived in the state for a minimum of six weeks before starting the divorce procedure. If both you and your spouse are Nevada residents, choose one person and use their name in all the other documents.
Joint Petition for Divorce: This states that both you and your spouse choose to settle and agree on all the terms of the divorce. You must sign this document in front of a notary. Couples with and without children must complete different forms.
If you and your spouse do not agree on the terms of your divorce, or if they are not willing to sign the papers, you can file for divorce on your own.
For a contested divorce, you must complete and submit the following papers:
Cover Sheet: This is the same form as above, which contains all essential information about your family. Note that you will be the plaintiff, while your spouse is the defendant in this case.
Complaint for Divorce: This form allows you to define what you wish to happen in the divorce. You must be thorough in filling out this paperwork so that the judge and your spouse will have a clear picture of what’s going on. There are different forms for spouses with children and without.
Step 2: File the Papers
When all the necessary paperwork has been completed, it must be filed in your county’s district court. The court will then charge you a filing fee, which also varies by county, so you have to check with your local court to see how much yours will be. In Clark County, where Las Vegas is located, there is a $299 fee as of 2022. Should you be unable to pay the entire amount, Nevada has a program that allows eligible filers to waive the fee.
Step 3: Submit the Decree to the Judge
If you and your spouse are filing a joint petition, you also have to make the necessary number of copies of your papers and submit them to the judge assigned to your case:
One copy of all your filed and required documents;
The original Decree of Divorce plus a copy of the processed joint petition, which should also have a case number and filing date on the first page;
Two copies of the Decree of Divorce, each with a copy of the processed joint petition attached.
You can submit the documents to the judge in person, by mail (which may take four to six weeks), or via email.
Step 4: Serve the Papers to the Other Party
If you are filing for divorce on your own, you have to make sure that the papers are served to your spouse because the court will not do this for you. Take note that if the defendant is not served with the required papers, there is a chance that your case will be dismissed, and this will be an unnecessary inconvenience for you.
Have copies of all your filed documents, and always keep the original with you because you might need to return them to the court later. Serve your spouse with a copy of both the Complaint for Divorce and Summons, along with the other documents, within 120 days of you filing the complaint. Take note that if the papers are not served during this period, and the judge does not grant you an extension, the case will likely be dismissed.
You can serve the documents yourself if your spouse agrees to sign the Waiver of Service Summon, which must also be filed in court.
If, however, you need someone else to do it for you, the papers must be hand-delivered and served personally to the defendant. To avoid raising concerns about conflicts of interest or bias, the papers must be served by a “neutral person,” who must be at least 18 years old. For a fee, you can also hire a third party, such as a sheriff, constable, or private process service provider.
An Affidavit of Service must be completed and filed in court to show that your spouse has been properly served. If you used a third-party service, they may have their own proof-of-service form to fill out.
Step 5: Attend a Mandatory Parenting Class
If you reside in Clark County and have a minor child, you must go to the required COPE class. This course aims to help parents support their children by finding ways for both spouses to successfully co-parent their children moving forward.
Step 6: Receive the Final Divorce Decree
For couples filing a joint petition, whoever gets the signed Divorce Decree is responsible for filing the paper at the clerk’s office and mailing a copy to their spouse.
For a contested petition, the divorce can be concluded in various ways, including:
By default: If the defendant does not respond within 21 days, the plaintiff can ask for a default judgment, which finalizes the divorce. In the counties of Churchill, Lander, Mineral, and Pershing, a final notice must be sent to the defendant before requesting a default judgment.
By agreement: If both parties agree on all the terms of the divorce, they can prepare the final Divorce Decree by signing the paper and including their full agreement. This usually ends with no hearing or trial.
By court trial: If either or both parties still have disagreements, the judge will resolve them by issuing court orders to finalize the divorce.
Note that the divorce is not final until the judge signs the final Decree of Divorce.
How Property is Divided in a Nevada Divorce
Nevada is one of nine states in the U.S. that adheres to some form of community property law. According to this law, if a couple decides to eventually separate, every asset acquired by either spouse during the marriage will be divided equally.
The only properties that will not be divided equally under this rule are those considered separate properties. These include assets covered by a prenuptial or settlement agreement, as well as gifts and inherited properties.
A similar approach applies to handling debts: pre-marital debts are treated as individual responsibilities, with the debtor solely accountable for repayment. At the same time, both spouses are equally responsible for paying off debts incurred during their marriage in case they decide to separate.
Nevertheless, separate property can sometimes turn into community property, also referred to as commingling property. This happens when community funds are used to purchase a separate property or a separate fund is used to support a joint property. Cases like this sometimes make it difficult for a court to judge which assets belong to whom, which can ultimately lead to declaring certain assets as community property and dividing them equally.
If you are going through a divorce and want to have a clear idea of how your properties will be divided, consult an experienced divorce attorney in your area who can guide you.
Nevada Divorce FAQs
This section compiles and answers some of the most frequently asked divorce questions in Nevada. If you are planning to file or have been served with divorce papers, this can provide you with a useful overview of the situation.
Legal Resources for Getting a Divorce in Nevada
If you have decided to file a divorce or if you have been served divorce papers and want to look for organizations that can help decide your next steps, here are a few institutions that you can reach out to.
This is a group of collaborative divorce professionals affiliated with the Nevada Dispute Resolution Coalition. Collaborative divorce can reduce the costs associated with the process by helping spouses reach a peaceful arrangement without going to court. You may contact the group at 775.525.6237 (NCDP) or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nevada Legal Services is a nonprofit organization that provides free legal help for low-income Nevadans. It mostly offers services related to civil legal issues, and it is a great resource for cases concerning family law matters, including divorce, annulment, child custody, child support, and guardianship. You can contact the group by calling 702-386-0404, filling out the online intake form, or sending an email to email@example.com.
Crisis Support Services of Nevada compiled a list of domestic abuse shelters in the areas of Las Vegas, Reno, and other counties in Nevada. If you are a victim of domestic violence and need temporary shelter while deciding what to do next, you can reach out to the one nearest you using the contact details provided on the website.
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