Along with the emotional and practical issues involved in ending a marriage, the divorce process itself requires navigating the legal system in Nevada. While that might seem overwhelming, it doesn't have to be all that difficult, particularly if you and your soon-to-be ex can cooperate. Here's what you need to know to get started with a Nevada divorce.
Before you begin the process of filing for divorce in Nevada, you should figure out the answers to a few preliminary questions.
Nevada has one of the most lenient residency requirements in the country. You only need to reside in the state for six weeks prior to filing for divorce. Not only that, but the Nevada Supreme Court has held this means only that you've been physically present in the state for those weeks. You don't have to plan to stay, and you could have your permanent home elsewhere. (Nev. Rev. Stat. § 125.020(2) (2022); Senjab v. Alhulaibi, 497 P.3d 618 (Nev. Sup. Ct. 2021).)
Also, you may get divorced in Nevada even if neither you nor your spouse currently resides there, as long as the cause of your divorce (more on that below) arose in the state while the two of were "domiciled" there—meaning that you had a Nevada home where you intended to stay indefinitely. (Nev. Rev. Stat. § 125.020(2) (2022)
As in all states, you need a legally accepted reason (or "ground") for divorce in Nevada. Many states allow divorce based on both "fault" grounds and "no-fault" grounds. Fault-based divorces allege spousal misconduct (like adultery, desertion, or cruelty). With no-fault grounds, neither spouse is accusing the other of wrongdoing.
Nevada has followed a growing trend among the states by eliminating fault as a basis for divorce. Any one of the following grounds for divorce is acceptable in Nevada:
(Nev. Rev. Stat. § 125.010 (2022).)
If you can file for an "uncontested" divorce in Nevada, the entire process will be much easier, quicker, and less expensive than a traditional contested divorce. But for a divorce to be truly uncontested, you and your spouse will have had to settle all your marital issues, including:
Once those issues are resolved, it's typical to incorporate the settlement terms in a marital settlement agreement. The agreement can then become a part of your divorce judgment.
If there are any issues you can't agree on by the time you file your divorce papers, your divorce will at least start out as a contested case. But once your case is in the courts, the judge may order you to participate in mediation of any disputed custody and visitation issues. In counties with a population of 100,000 or more, this custody mediation is mandatory, unless the judge finds a good reason (such as domestic violence) not to require it. (Nev. Rev. Stat. §§ 3.475, 3.500 (2022).)
If you have a settlement agreement and a relatively uncomplicated case, you should be able to handle filing for divorce yourself. A do-it-yourself (DIY) divorce will be the cheapest route to ending your marriage. But you will have to spend some time and pay attention to the details, in order to make sure you have all the right forms, have filled them out correctly, and have followed all of the steps and requirements for divorce in Nevada.
Short of having an attorney represent you in the divorce, there are other ways of getting help with the process. For example, you could do one or a combination of the following:
Without an agreement, you'll follow a traditional contested divorce route. Because that will almost certainly require hiring a lawyer—who will take care of the forms, filing, and all other legal matters during the divorce—the information outlined below is mainly focused on the filing process for people who are handling their own divorce.
Both the Nevada Courts website and the Family Law Self-Help Center provide instructions and downloadable versions of the forms you'll need to file for divorce. Unless you're filing a joint petition with your spouse (more on that below), the spouse who's starting the process will fill out the forms as the "plaintiff." The other spouse will be the "defendant." There are separate forms for marriages without children and with children. If you live in Clark County, you can also use an interactive questionnaire that will help complete the forms for you.
There are several forms you'll need when starting a divorce, including
Because some counties have their own forms, it's a good idea to check with the local district court where you'll file the paperwork (more on that below) to make sure you're using the appropriate forms.
If your case is uncontested, you can save steps and time by filing a "Joint Petition for Divorce." There are special forms needed to take this route. You'll file the initial papers and the forms needed to finalize your divorce at the same time. In addition to the petition, these forms will include:
Be aware that by filing a joint petition, you're giving up your right to appeal any provision in your settlement, or to request a new trial. That's why it's always a good idea to have an attorney prepare your written agreement—or at least review it—so you know exactly what your legal rights and liabilities are under the agreement's terms.
To begin the divorce process, you'll file the papers with the district court clerk's office. Generally, that will be in the county where:
(Nev. Rev. Stat. § 125.020(1) (2022).)
You may file the divorce papers in person, by mail, or through Nevada's electronic filing system. The court charges fees for filing the divorce papers. The filing fees vary from county to county. In Clark County, the fees for filing a complaint or joint petition for divorce were $299 as of 2022 (plus an additional small fee for e-filing). Check with the court clerk's office or website to find out the the current fee in the county where you'll be filing. Remember that if you're filing a joint petition, you and your spouse can split the fee. But if you can't afford to pay at all, you may ask the court to waive the fees by filing an "Application to Proceed in Forma Pauperis."
Unless you've filed a joint divorce petition, you'll need to take additional steps to move your case along.
If you've filed a divorce complaint on your own (rather than a filing a joint petition), you'll need to "serve" your spouse with the paperwork. The easiest way to do this is to get your spouse to agree to sign and return a "Waiver of Service" after receiving the complaint and other documents by mail. If your spouse refuses to do this without a good reason, the court will require your spouse to pay the expenses of hiring a process server to deliver the documents. (Nev. Rules Civ. Proc., rule 4.1 (2022).)
Nevada's court rules technically allow anyone over 18 (who isn't involved with the case) to serve the papers by hand-delivering them to your spouse. But some judges apparently want this to be done by a professional process server (including the sheriff's office in the county where your spouse lives or works). So if your spouse won't sign a waiver of service, check with the local court clerk on how best to serve the papers formally. You must complete service within 120 days after filing the divorce complaint, unless the court grants you an extension. If you miss that deadline, the judge may dismiss your case. (Nev. Rules Civ. Proc., rule 4 (2022).)
If you can't find your spouse, ask the court clerk about alternative methods of service, such as by publishing a notice in a newspaper.
After you've filed and served a regular divorce complaint (not a joint petition), your spouse will have a certain amount of time to file an "Answer" that either agrees or disagrees with what you've stated or requested in the complaint. (Nev. Rules Civ. Proc., rule 4 (2022).)
If your spouse doesn't file an answer, the judge may enter a divorce judgment that includes anything you've requested in the complaint. Be aware, however, that there are some dangers with a default divorce.
Nevada law ordinarily requires spouses in a divorce to submit financial disclosures. (Nev. Rules Civ. Proc., rule 16.2 (2022).) You'll have to provide a great deal of information about your income, other assets, expenses, and debts. It's a good idea to gather as much of this information in advance as you can, because it's important for you to be as thorough as possible in completing this form. You must be completely honest, because a spouse who fails to disclose all the requested information could face penalties, such as fines and possibly jail time.
Clark County court rules require that in all divorces involving child custody, parents must attend a court-approved parenting seminar, known as a "COPE" class. If you're planning on filing a joint divorce petition, you should do this ahead of time so that you can file your completion certificate with your initial paperwork.
If you're not filing in Clark County, check with your district court clerk to see if your county requires attendance at a parenting seminar.
The amount of time it will take to get your final divorce will depend largely on whether your case is contested or uncontested (and if so, whether you filed a joint petition).
There's no waiting period for a final divorce in Nevada. So if your case is uncontested, you can get your divorce judgment fairly quickly. And if you filed a joint petition, you may not even have to appear in court to get your final divorce. You'll only have to wait until a judge is available to review your paperwork and, if everything is in order, sign the divorce judgment.
If you didn't file a joint petition, you'll at least need to wait until the time for filing an answer to the complaint has expired before you may file the final paperwork and request a hearing. At that point, the amount of time it will take to get a hearing will depend on the divorce caseload in the court district where you filed. You can contact the district court clerk's office to get a better idea of waiting times.
If your case is contested, and you aren't able to settle all your issues at some point during the process, you'll have a trial. After hearing testimony, a judge will make a decision on those issues that remain unresolved. This is by far the longest and costliest (think legal fees) route to obtaining your divorce judgment. It can take up to a year or more, depending on how complex your case is.