Family Law, Divorce and Child Custody

The following discusses the laws and rules relating to family law and divorce in Nevada.  The same laws apply to registered domestic partners in Nevada, except for domestic partners who qualify for a simplified termination proceeding.

Grounds for Divorce

Nevada is a no-fault state, meaning that you may file for divorce based on incompatibility and “irreconcilable differences,” a simple statement saying that you and your spouse do not believe you will be able to reconcile.  Since there are no fault grounds for divorce in Nevada, things like infidelity are no longer a factor in whether a divorce may be granted.  In addition, the court can also grant a divorce if you have lived apart for at least one year and either spouse requests a divorce.

However, just because Nevada is a “no-fault” state, doesn’t mean that divorces are easy.  Divorces can be broken down into two types, contested and uncontested.  Contested divorce proceedings require a skilled divorce attorney.  A divorce is contested when the parties are unable to agree on all of the terms of their divorce. The complexity of a contested divorce varies from case to case and typically involves arguments over child custody and visitation, relocating to another city or state, or a simple division of assets like homes, bank accounts, retirement accounts, and alimony.  The court must also address an equitable division of the parties’ debts.  The more you can agree on, the better it is for the family, especially since contested proceedings generally cost far more than uncontested ones and often end up in trial. All it takes is disagreement over one issue and the case moves from uncontested to contested.

Unlike a contested divorce, an uncontested divorce is one where the parties completely agree on every term in the divorce.  Even then, many people still wish to be represented by a skilled lawyer either to make sure the agreement is fair or the process is handled properly.  Uncontested divorces will normally move along faster than contested cases, and are far less expensive.  However, there are several factors that can affect the overall time frame of an uncontested divorce matter, especially when the clients believe they are going into an amicable and uncontested divorce only to find they haven’t considered all of the issues and end up not being in agreement on everything, often turning an uncontested matter into a hotly contested divorce or child custody dispute.

Whether an agreement is fair, whether it adheres to the law, and whether you and your spouse have given proper consideration to all issues, are all important matters.  If you have doubts about any of these, schedule a meeting with an attorney at Owen & LoBello Law Firm.

Residency Requirement and Waiting Period

Either spouse must live in Nevada for at least six weeks before he or she can file a divorce petition. You may file in the district court in the county where either spouse lives.  There is no waiting period in Nevada; the judge may enter a final judgment of divorce as soon as the court is available.  Are you looking to file a divorce petition? Get more information about the divorce filing process from Owen & LoBello Law Firm.

Property Division

Nevada is a community property state which means that, with certain limited exceptions, property acquired by either spouse during the marriage, including your home, income, and personal property, is considered community property and will be divided equally by the court.  The court will also divide equally any debts acquired during the marriage.  However, if you and your spouse agree on how to divide your property (and you don’t have to divide it exactly equally if you believe a different division is fair), you can submit your proposal to the court and avoid leaving it to the judge to decide.  Any property that was acquired before marriage, after the date of separation, or by bequest or inheritance during marriage will remain the separate property of the spouse who acquired it.

Alimony

There is no magic formula for determining alimony.  Rather, Nevada’s alimony statute simply provides guidelines that the Court should consider in making determinations on alimony, also known as spousal support.  One spouse may be required to provide alimony to the other after a divorce. The judge will review several factors to determine the amount of an alimony order, such as whether either spouse contributed to the education or job training of the other, whether an alimony award is just and equitable, and whether one spouse needs additional training or education for job purposes. The alimony amount can be modified if the paying spouse’s income changes by 20 percent or more. Alimony ends if the receiving spouse remarries or if either spouse dies, unless the court orders otherwise.

Child Support

Child support is a major concern for both parties in any divorce proceeding. Even post-separation, sometimes it is the desire for one party to request a modification of child support.  Needless to say, these matters are usually contested.  Nevada uses statutory guidelines based on the non-custodial parent’s income to determine the monthly child support obligation.  In addition to income, the court will look at factors such as health insurance, childcare, educational and medical costs, and may adjust the amount to account for these expenses.  The minimum child support amount is $100 per month per child.  The Nevada Division of Welfare and Supportive Services enforces child support obligations in the state and can assist parents with opening a new child support case.

Child Custody

Child custody disputes comprise the majority of family law matters and retaining an experienced child custody lawyer often becomes necessary. Many people have the mistaken impression that financial disputes comprise the majority of family law matters.  This is not true.  In many cases people will leave money on the table before they will concede issues of child custody.  Child Custody can be a very contentious issue and often times the child is put in the middle of a dispute that is between the parents. It is important to note that in many circumstances mediation is a more effective way to work out a child custody dispute.  Whether in mediation or in court, the best interest of the child is the sole consideration when making child custody determinations.  The mediator will consider factors such as the wishes of the parents and child, the parents’ ability to cooperate and parent together, the child’s physical, developmental, and emotional needs, and the child’s relationship with each parent. He or she may also consider how the child has adjusted to home, school, and community since the parents divorced and which parent is more likely to allow frequent contact with the non-custodial parent.

It is always important to remember that the needs of the children come first, and an independent party (the mediator) works with the parties to come to an agreement that both sides can live with. Nearly all contested child custody matters are initially referred to the Family Mediation Center by the Court to encourage settlement.  Not all child custody matters can be settled in mediation, however.  Sometimes the gap between the parties simply cannot be bridged.  If settlement through mediation is not possible, the issue will go to the family court judge who will render his or her decision after reviewing many or all of the same factors presented to the mediator.

Settling child custody disputes out of court is always best. The parties are more likely to have a better co-parenting relationship after the matter is closed if they have mutually agreed upon the terms of the settlement as opposed to putting this very important issue into the hands of the judge, to make an order for either joint custody to both parents or sole custody to one parent.  This is especially true since seeking to modify a custody order once one has been issued is not easy and the parent seeking the modification must show a significant change in circumstances.  Always consult with a competent family law attorney when confronted with these very important matters.

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