In Nevada, when you decide to dissolve a marriage relationship, you have two options:
- File a divorce, unless you object to divorce for religious or personal reasons, or you are uncertain if you want to dissolve the marriage.
- If you don’t want to completely sever the marital ties, you have the option to file an action for separate maintenance instead, also commonly known as a legal separation.
Couples who wish to protect themselves from the financial obligations entered into by their spouse after a separation, but either object to divorce or want to take some time before filing for one, usually choose this option.
Another reason for choosing a legal separation over divorce is when one party is on the health insurance of the other and does not want to lose the coverage it offers.
If a divorce is filed later, the terms of the Separate Maintenance are incorporated into the Decree of Divorce.
Essentially, a legal separation addresses all issues normally addressed in a divorce, falling just short of dissolving the marriage.
Issues addressed in both divorce and separate maintenance:
- Spousal and child support.
- Possession and/or division of community property and deb.
- How future income property and debt are to be handled.
- Disclosure and modification provisions.
- Relationship to divorce decree and reconciliation.
- Tax issues.
- Attorney’s fees.
- Estate planning.
Before filing for divorce, which dissolves the marriage completely, especially when you have minor children, it’s wise to consider filing a legal separation first as a way to test if you really do wish to end the marriage.
Below are some circumstances and conditions under which you should consider a legal separation instead of a divorce:
- Older couple where medical insurance and spousal benefits are important.
- Couple with children who want to cause minimal trauma to children during separation.
- Couple who are on the fence about divorce and want to do a trial separation.
- Long marriage where the cost and consequences of unwinding the community property is not worth the attorney’s fees, appraisal costs and expert fees.
Often separate maintenance provisions have a clause that indicates that in the event of a divorce the obligations, duties, rights and responsibilities contained in the decree of separate maintenance will be incorporated by reference into the decree of divorce.
In Nevada, a court filing for a separate maintenance cannot be done as a joint petition, as there is no Nevada Revised Statute allowing for a joint decree of separate maintenance, whereas it is possible to file a joint petition for divorce and obtain a decree of divorce.
The parties are free to include any provisions in their legal separations or divorce pleadings as long as they are in compliance in with the law and not against public policy. For example, in Nevada, parties to a divorce or separate maintenance cannot agree to lump sum child support. The Supreme Court has ruled against that.
Courts always reserve the power to look out for the best interests of the children. The contract is between the parents; the children are the concern of the State.
If the parties reconcile after a legal separation filing, the decree of legal separation will be terminated; if the parties separate again, a new legal separation filing will be required unless the first filing contained a provision that the first decree of legal separation will continue in full force if the parties reconcile then separate anew.
In a divorce, there is a six months period of time during which the parties can ask the court to have the final decree of divorce set aside. After six months has elapsed, the parties’ only option if they wish to reconcile is to get married again.