In this post, I will talk about what (actually) happens in Nevada after you file a complaint for divorce and then proceed to trial.
The “best case” is when your partner does not respond to your complaint within 20 days. You can then request a Default from the filing clerk. Once you have a default you can move to a”Summary Disposition” which means you submit your complaint and default to the judge to sign a Final Decree. After the judge signs (usually with little modification) you are divorced. You may also be required to attend a Prove Up hearing, which means you attend by yourself (and your lawyer) and the Judge will ask questions before signing the final decree. You then send a Notice of Entry of Order to the opposing party and you are done.
If the opposing party files an Answer to your complaint then your case moves to a contested status. Click here to see how a contested divorce case moves through the system. Obviously you want to avoid this if you can.
You have basically two options when you reach this stage:
1) Negotiate a settlement
A settlement can be negotiated at ANY time. Most cases (90%+) end in settlement. If I was to be cynical I would say that the lawyers continue fighting until you run out of money to pay them then they magically reach a settlement. This is why it is so much better to seek private mediation or even agree to binding private arbitration without involving lawyers in litigation. Use lawyers for advice on your rights and settlement terms but avoid litigation. Of course, unscrupulous (i.e. most) lawyers are very skilled at promising you (or your ex) the world. Remember, it only takes one side to want to continue the fight for the whole thing not to settle.
2) Proceed to trial
There are several steps before you can “have your day in court”.
1) If you have children you need to attend a mandatory parenting class (called a COPE class) held in various locations. You also need to have a mandatory mediation session over child custody and visitation (more on custody and child support in a later post). It is important to note that the court rules say that a contested case involving child issues must be settled within 12 months – this provides an incentive to NOT reach a settlement via mediation. I thought my own case was moving along until I agreed to a mediated settlement on child issues – then everything slowed to a snail’s pace. It was only later that I learned about the 12 month rule.
2) The court requires a formal attempt to settle the case. If no settlement is reached then one or both parties must file a “case conference report” outlining the issues you can’t agree on and requesting a trial date.
3) One side (usually the female side) will typically file a motion for temporary support orders (this is worth a post in its own right). This sets child support, custody, and alimony issues until trial (which can take years). Temporary support orders are NOT appealable. You are typically required to file an Affidavit of Financial Condition (an AFC) every time you submit a request to the Court to rule on anything involving money.
4) Once a trial date is set, the Judge will also set a deadline date for “Discovery” to conclude. During the discovery period, both sides must answer 20 questions (called Interrogatories) and hand over any documents in their possession that the other side asks for (called a Request for Production or RFP). Each side may also take “Depositions”, which are basically recorded testimony given under oath, which may be introduced at trial (more on Discovery later).
5) Within ten days of the trial, each side is also required to submit a Pretrial Memorandum outlining the general arguments and the witnesses they intend to produce.
So, as you can see, there are enormous opportunities for lawyers to run up billable hours – mediation sessions, settlement negotiations, discovery (especially depositions), court hearings on temporary support, writing motions, case conference reports, formal replys to motions, and pre-trial memorandums, etc. etc.
Add to this, the ability of lawyers to file for delays (called Continuances) and the tendency for judges to request regular status checks (where the lawyer can charge you $500 to tell the judge no progress has been made) and you can see how the whole thing can start to get pretty expensive.
Avoid litigation – if one side wants to fight you fight.
Lawyers are skilled at encouraging their clients to fight.
There are a huge number of steps involved before getting your case to court.