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What if my Spouse Won’t Sign the Papers?

This is a question we get asked so often from both annulment and divorce clients that we decided to address it in more depth here.

First off, whether you are filing an annulment or a divorce, it is always less expensive and faster  to have it granted if your spouse signs the papers. This is because, if your spouse won’t sign, Nevada law requires that your spouse be served with the Complaint for Divorce (or Complaint for Annulment), and then be given 21 days after the date of service (consecutive calendar days and not business days) to respond to the complaint.

Please note, that if you are in a domestic violence situation, it would be far better to have the Defendant served rather than face a violent situation when you ask your spouse to sign the papers.

If you have no idea where your spouse resides and a skip-trace does not turn up a current address for him or her, then permission from the judge may be obtained to publish the Summons as a way to notify the Defendant of the annulment or divorce action.   Publication of the Summons takes place once a week for five weeks (when filed in Nevada).  And just as in when the Defendant is served personally, there is a 21-day waiting period after the last date of publication to give the Defendant an opportunity to respond.

If the Defendant does not respond, we can now submit a Default to the court.  A Default essentially means that the Defendant does not object to the divorce or annulment because he or she did not respond.  A Default is granted by the court with proof of service, either personal or by publication.

To properly respond to a Complaint for Divorce (or Complaint for Annulment) the Defendant must file an Answer and CounterClaim with the Family Court where the case was filed, and must do so no later than 21 days after he or she was served with the Complaint.

Should your spouse actually file an Answer and CounterClaim after he or she has been served, your divorce or annulment is now considered a contested matter.

If your spouse contests, the first thing the court does is set a Case Management Conference, which is essentially forced mediation. We are strong advocates of mediation as it avoids much anxiety for the parties as well as save them a lot of money. Our philosophy is,  if you can’t come to an agreement on your own,  why not enter into mediation before filing and therefore avoid high attorney fees for both sides (minimum of $2500-$5000 for each party in most cases) just to end up in mediation anyway?

The actual Case Management Conference takes place at court. Both Plaintiff and Defendant and their attorneys are expected to appear. The goal of the Case Management Conference is to come up with an agreement that will avoid a costly trial.  If no agreement can be arrived at, the court will set a date for trial and the judge will decide on the matters of property and, or, debt, division as well as on the matters of child support, custody and visitation if you have children.

If you need help with your Nevada divorce, click here.
We can answer questions and help you with a  contested Nevada divorce.

 

5 Tips on How to Cope with Divorce During the Holidays

5 Tips on How to Cope with Divorce During the Holidays

divorce during the holiday

Holiday Time and Divorce

In our busy law office, clients who come to us in December always seem a bit more distressed or upset than at other times of the year. We understand. They are going through one of the most difficult and stressful period of their lives at a time of year where everyone is expected to give more, love more, and forgive more. They feel confused and wonder how to find it within themselves to do all of that in the face of a divorce during the holidays. If children are involved, this time period becomes even more difficult and emotional to navigate.

No doubt you need a plan.

One thing to remember is that oftentimes, our emotional state is attached to familiar actions and surroundings. So, the very first thing to do is to change those. 

1.  If possible, take yourself out of your usual holiday surroundings. Visit out-of-state family, for instance. If this is not possible…

2.  Start a new tradition, on your own or with your children if you have them, rather than continue with the ones you followed with your spouse. This will keep you focused on the positive and new rather than distressing over going through a divorce during the holidays. For the kids, it could be fun and take their minds off what’s now different, namely, that for the first time in their lives, they are only with one parent at a time for this year’s holiday.

Tom had always wanted to take the kids ice-skating around the holidays, but his  soon-to-be ex-wife didn’t like it at all, so they never went. He decided to now make it a holiday tradition to spend an afternoon at the ice skating rink with the kids and then take them out for hot chocolate after. It turned out to be a hit with them and gave everyone hope that the holidays could still be a happy time for them despite the divorce.

  1. If you are single, or if your children will be with your ex on the holiday itself, plan ahead of time to do something to help others. It’s a well-known fact that helping others lifts us in turn. Volunteering your time to a shelter on that day, for instance, would take your mind off your own suffering and warm your heart as you help others even less fortunate than you. Or find other single parents whose children will be with their other parent that day and celebrate together, doing something none of you usually does on that day.

Karin reached out to two other friends whose children were going to be with their other parent for the last day of Hanukkah. She arranged ahead of time for them to visit residents of a nursing home who didn’t get visitors or whose families were out of state. They bought several low-cost gifts and wrapped them brightly and delivered them to these residents with good wishes, bringing tears of joy to the eyes of some of them. This made the women feel very happy inside and thankful for the happiness they still had in their own lives. They followed this up with a special dinner at a restaurant  none of them had ever visited.  They vowed to do it again the next time their children were with their other parent for a holiday.

  1. No matter what, make sure that your children feel  loved by both parents during this time.  Make sure they don’t feel pulled between you and made to feel guilty for being with one or the other parent on any given special day. If you are still working out the holiday visitation schedule, be sure that the children have ample time with each parent and vary it up, from year to year if the children have to travel some distance between you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse.

If a certain holiday is very important to both you and your spouse, make it so that you both get the children for a portion of that, but be sure and do it in a way that is enjoyable to the children too. If you live far apart, it would most likely be best to agree to an alternate-year holiday visitation schedule.

Robert and Diane, who live 500 miles apart, agreed that their two children should spend all of the holidays with one another at least until their late teens, and made it so that the children spent the Christmas holiday with Diane during odd years and with Robert during even years.

Having to fly or take a bus to get from one parent to another on a holiday to meet a visitation schedule would most likely make your child dread that holiday rather than look forward to it.

  1. Lastly, but most importantly is, do NOT become a recluse. Even if you’d rather  pull a double shift at work, or stick your hand in fire,  force yourself to go out and mingle with good friends or family (stay away from those who constantly bring up negative things about your ex or ask them to stop). Your spirits will lift from your new activities! We are social creatures and even when feeling low, we derive happiness and comfort from being around others.

If you would like to hire a Las Vegas divorce attorney firm that will make divorce easier on you, please visit our website.  We won’t empty your bank account either.

Here are some books that will help you create new holiday traditions and give you ideas on how to make the season filled with cheer despite this trying time. And some are simply packed with great ideas on how to move beyond and rebuild a successful life post-divorce.

 

      

Author: Attorney James E. Smith — http://nevadadivorce.org/about_nevada_divorce.htm

What do Facebook and Twitter have in Common with your Divorce?

What do Facebook and Twitter have in Common with your Divorce?

wife catches husband's compromising facebook postsYes. It’s come to that. Postings on social media have found their way into divorce court. For instance, in 2011, according to a survey conducted by divorce-online, the word “Facebook” was found in one-third of divorce filings in 2011. One-third!

In our own attorney office, clients often mention that they discovered misrepresentation on the part of their spouse, or discovered that their spouse was cheating, by scrolling Facebook posts. We have used such postings as evidence in annulment filings with much success to disprove a Defendant.

Facebook has also been used to disprove a spouse who files a change in circumstances in an attempt to lower alimony or child support payments. Jeff (not his real name) tried to reduce his alimony and child support payments by filing a change in circumstance but Jane (his wife) found photos of him on a recent vacation in Hawai’i with his new love interest, along with posts talking about all the great places they visited and the great restaurants they ate at while in Hawai’i . It was difficult for Jeff to support his claim of new poverty when the photos and posts were disclosed to the court. In fact, impossible. He lost.

It’s definitely something to pay attention to: according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, more than 80 percent of U.S. divorce attorneys say social networking in divorce proceedings is on the rise.

Are you in, or about to embark upon, a potentially contested divorce or annulment? Do the following:

  • Delete any compromising posts on Facebook. A photo of you at a once-a-year office party holding a cocktail and looking a little tipsy, and with a long list of “funny” comments from friends just below it, could turn into “s/he gets drunk all the time.”
  • Have you been sending flirty texts, even just in fun to friends of the opposite sex? Delete!
  • What have you been tweeting?
  • Go through all and any photo albums you have online and delete any compromising-looking photos. Are you hugging so-and-so real tight? You might think, oh that’s just my platonic friend Paul/a, that one’s okay. No, not okay. Delete
  • Go through all Facebook albums, photobucket, Instagram, just anywhere at all you have posted photos of yourself and look at them as if you were a judge in a divorce trial looking at the photos. What would you think?
  • Go through your friends’ timelines too and ask them to delete any compromising posts about you.
  • Go through your phone, and delete, delete, delete, any conversations except the most innocuous ones. Clients tell us every day how they got into their spouse’s phone and printed compromising texts…which we have used as evidence.

So, to reiterate, just go through each and every place you’ve ever posted anything online, go through your Facebook friends’ timelines. Bottom line is, DELETE anything and everything that could possibly be misconstrued. Sure, you could possibly discredit it later, but at what financial and emotional cost? One of the first things we tell a client about to embark upon a possibly contested divorce or annulment is, delete, delete, and delete, anything and everything with even just the slightest chance of being considered controversial. Did I mention DELETE?

If you want more divorce advice, or help getting a low cost divorce in Las Vegas, Nevada with quality legal representation, go to our Nevada divorce website.

Author: Attorney James E. Smith — http://nevadadivorce.org/about_nevada_divorce.htm

 

5 Reasons Why you Might Want to Reconsider Filing your Own Divorce

5 Reasons Why you Might Want to Reconsider Filing your Own Divorce

As you know, you have every right to represent yourself in any court of law, including Family Court, where divorces are typically filed. What some forget or don’t even realize at the outset, however, is that if you choose to represent yourself, the Court expects you to follow the same court rules and procedures that an attorney follows.  In other words, the court expects you to know what you’re doing. The court clerk will not tell you what must be filed and when. You’re on your own.

filing a divorce

Should you handle your own divorce?

It’s a question that plagues many potential pro se (filing a legal matter on one’s own behalf) divorce litigants – should I file my own divorce? It sounds enticing and sounds like you could save money. After all, divorce forms can be obtained from the court and the Internet has many offers from typing services who type up divorce documents for a fee. And they make it sound easy.

As you contemplate handling your own divorce, keep the following in mind:

1)     If you are contemplating filing your own divorce, it’s most likely because you think you will save money. In fact, what often occurs instead, is expensive post-divorce litigation and motions which end up costing you more money than if you had retained an attorney in the first place. It is a known fact that because of bad drafting of the language in the final decree of divorce, many people end up coming back to court to fix things.

2)     You might decide to file on your own and then retain an attorney only if you run into problems. This never saves you money. In fact, attorneys typically charge either the same to take over an in-progress case as if handling the case from the beginning, or charge more because it’s often more work to review everything and fix what’s wrong than to do it right from the beginning.

3)     You are only doing your divorce once whereas an experienced attorney has done divorces hundreds of times.  Understanding “legalese” language, anticipating problems and taking care of them before they occur as well as making sure your rights and obligations are safeguarded can better be done by an objective professional than by you caught in the midst of an emotionally-charged situation.

4)     Understanding civil procedure, local rules of the court, and rules of evidence are difficult and the Judges are not allowed to give any slack to people representing themselves.  Also, the law clerks and court clerks are prohibited from giving legal advice which makes it difficult for someone representing themselves, not trained in the law, to process a case from start to finish without encountering obstacles along the way.

5)     You can buy your divorce forms online, however, because those are generally prepared by document-typing companies who don’t keep up with local laws that closely, they are often rejected by the court. Once you finally have the completed documents in hand, there is still the court process to contend with. If the documents were improperly prepared, the court will reject them and mail them back to you. You could be going along thinking that all is fine and weeks later get a fat envelope from the court containing all of your rejected documents. And you have to start all over. Sure, the company will fix the documents if they are rejected, but you are the one who has to handle all the logistics of that and the one who has to return to court to file them again, the one who has to wait again to see if the new documents will be accepted or rejected.

Do you have the kind of time and patience to deal with the above when filing your own divorce? Are you able to take the time off work to deal with it properly?  If you answered “no,” to even just one of these questions, you really need to re-consider whether filing on your own is the right solution for you.

  • How much time do you estimate filing your own divorce will take you?
  • How much do you make per hour now?

If you have never filed a divorce before, have never dealt with Family Court and know nothing about it, it is estimated that you will spend  approximately 40 hours handling the entire process, provided there are no errors made and you only need to go to the courthouse once to file your documents. If you have to go back to court because of errors in the final Decree of Divorce, there is no telling how much more time you will have to spend on fixing these errors.

Only you can answer the question “is it worth filing my divorce on my own?”

If you have questions about obtaining a Nevada divorce you can contact us.

 

 

   

Author: Attorney James E. Smith — http://nevadadivorce.org/about

9 Key Questions to Ask When Hiring A Nevada Divorce Attorney

There is no substitute for experience when it comes to your Nevada divorce attorney. However, retaining an attorney is a very personal thing. This individual could questions_asking_divorce_attorneyend up knowing the most private things about you, so you want someone with lots of integrity and experience, but also with other attributes.  Ask the attorney or the attorney’s staff the following questions:

1. How many cases of my type has the attorney handled?
You want an attorney who has represented clients in many cases exactly like, or very similar to, your own. In other words, you don’t really want your attorney to be learning as he or she handles your case. If you are paying by the hour, for one, it would end up cost you more, and for another, a non-experienced Nevada divorce attorney could miss things that a more experienced one will spot.

2. How well does your attorney and the attorney’s staff communicate with you?
A good Nevada divorce lawyer knows how to communicate.  Does the attorney and his staff write well? Are you easily able to understand what they say in emails or other written communication with you? Chances are that this same style will be used in documents filed with the Nevada Divorce Court so pay attention to this.

3. Are you comfortable in your dealings with the attorney and his or her staff?
A good Nevada divorce attorney for you is one with whom you are comfortable. Does the attorney or the attorney’s staff, make you feel ill at ease? Do you feel like you’re not much of a priority when you interact with them? With the next chapter of your life at stake, you don’t have time to deal with additional emotional clutter brought on by feelings of lack of trust or insecurity when you deal with the attorney and the legal staff.

4. Can you ask and get a flat fee if your case is uncontested?
Some lawyers will charge a flat fee, based on certain tasks and court filings typically expected for an uncontested divorce. You should ask for this if your spouse is not contesting your divorce. If you have a contested matter, ask how much the retainer is, but also ask if there is a difference between the hourly fee charged against the retainer when the attorney is working on your case outside court,  and when the attorney is in court on your behalf. Ask for an estimated fee for the whole case, based on similar previous cases. Are there any refunds ever? Is there a payment plan available? How are payments broken down?

5. Does the attorney have personal experience with the family law arena?
Has the attorney been married and, or, divorced?  Does the attorney have children?  Lawyers are human beings too, breathing and bleeding like everyone else.  A divorce lawyer with personal experience in the family law arena is likely to have more empathy for you than an attorney who has never experienced a divorce.

6. Should you retain a male or female lawyer?
A man or a woman lawyer does not make a difference.  A good lawyer can represent either gender.  Men’s attorneys or women’s attorneys tend to use this as a marketing gimmick more than actually doing a more effective job for their male or female clients. Ask whether the  attorney is comfortable representing a man (or woman)?  Ask if he or she can refer you to a good lawyer who is a man (woman)?

7. In a contested divorce, you should ask if the attorney is friends with your spouse’s attorney.
This isn’t supposed to matter, but you will most likely feel more comfortable knowing that your attorney and your spouse’s attorney don’t hang out together socially. In all likelihood, it wouldn’t affect your case, as attorneys are bound to represent you to the best of their ability and besides, the competitive instinct is sure to kick in when faced with an attorney friend in the courtroom, however, you might always wonder if the friendship had something to do with it if things don’t go your way completely.  Yet one more additional thing you do not need on your emotional plate during your divorce.

 8. Can your Nevada divorce attorney ethically represent both you and your spouse?
An attorney can represent both parties in a joint petition divorce. Should something happen along the way and one or the other of you decide to no longer pursue a joint petition divorce, the attorney cannot ethically continue to represent either of you in a one-signature divorce if he or she has had direct contact with both spouses. If the attorney and the staff have only been in contact with you alone, then in certain cases, this same attorney can continue to represent you only in a one-signature divorce.

9. How aggressive is the attorney?
A skilled Nevada divorce attorney, one who knows how to negotiate and mediate is often better than an aggressive trial lawyer. So, ask the attorney if he or she tries the negotiation route before aggressively attacking the other side, which only makes them want to become much more aggressive in return. Also, when you mediate, you come out of the divorce feeling less acrimonious towards your spouse and usually with more money left in your pocket.

All in all, just ask as many questions as come to mind and do follow your instincts. Don’t hire an attorney who makes you feel uncomfortable just because you heard that he or she is a really good attorney. You want experience and talent, yes, but if you feel uncomfortable sharing your situation with the attorney, it will make an unpleasant situation (getting a divorce) worse; at the least, you should feel better having the attorney you retain on your side.

Author: Attorney James E. Smith — http://nevadadivorce.org/about_nevada_divorce.htm

Getting a Divorce? Why a Divorce in Vegas Could Be Your Best and Easiest Option

wall and opened to sky door on a white backgroundYou’ll find about as many myths about obtaining a divorce in Vegas as you’ll find about the famous people who divorced in Vegas. Still, it’s not a myth that, once you get past establishing residency in Nevada (we’ll discuss that here too), it actually DOES happen to be one of the best and easiest options for filing a divorce in the U.S.

You see, once you become a resident, a divorce in Vegas takes just WEEKS to finalize, usually one to two weeks, rarely more than three, when both you and your spouse sign the divorce documents.

Compare this to California, for instance, where it takes a minimum of six months after filing a divorce to get a final Decree of Divorce: even when both parties sign! Or North Carolina, where it takes a minimum of three months after filing the divorce to get a final decree but only after the parties have been separated for a minimum of one year, another requirement in that state. You’re now talking a minimum of 15 months to get a simple divorce!

Most states require parties to live in the state for a minimum of six months to be considered a resident of that state, adding to the length of the divorce if the parties who wish to file the divorce have only recently moved to that state. Not Nevada where it only takes six weeks of living in the state to be considered a resident.
Comparatively speaking then, a divorce in Vegas takes no time at all, even taking into consideration having to establish residency if you don’t already live in Vegas (or somewhere else in Nevada).

Another factor that simplifies a divorce in Vegas is the fact that Nevada is a no-fault state for divorce, meaning that incompatibility is accepted as a valid reason for filing a divorce in Nevada, which allows a couple to divorce without being forced to wash their dirty laundry publicly, so to speak. Speaking of which, some Nevada family court judges do agree that divorce files can be sealed, another plus, since divorce filings are considered public records. Many states do not allow this at all.

Also, when both parties agree to all the terms of the divorce and both are willing to sign, a Joint Petition for Divorce can be filed, another factor that makes a divorce in Vegas faster and less expensive.

Once a final Decree of Divorce has been issued, either party is free to re-marry as early as the next day! Unlike many other states, there is NO waiting period in Nevada, another factor that attracts divorce candidates to file a divorce in Vegas.

So, with the really short residency requirement period, the no-fault divorce, the Joint Petition, and the really quick-to-obtain final decree, no wonder folks looking for a simple, amicable parting of the ways flock to Vegas (or Reno) to divorce.

If only one party signs the divorce documents because the other party just refuses to sign (but will not contest), your uncontested divorce in Vegas will take anywhere from six weeks to 24 weeks, depending on where in the world the Defendant lives and how easy or difficult it is to serve the Defendant with the divorce documents. This is still a much shorter period than in most other states.

Be sure to properly establish residency if you’re going to file a divorce in Vegas. Normally, if both parties sign, the court does not question properly done divorce documents. Neither does the court normally question your residency so long as you file a Resident Witness Affidavit along with your divorce documents.

The Resident Witness Affidavit is how you prove your residency for a divorce in Vegas. You’ll need to find another Nevada resident to sign the affidavit in front of a Nevada notary. This individual can be a neighbor, friend, relative, or even your landlord who knows you to have lived in Nevada for a minimum of six weeks before filing your divorce.

Lastly, note that the ease of getting a divorce in Vegas has attracted some unsavory operators hoping to make money from those desperate for that quick divorce. So, if you’re going to divorce in Vegas, be sure you deal with a reputable Nevada attorney, one you can look up with the State Bar of Nevada and with the Better Business Bureau. There have been incidents of clients dealing with typing services and so-called paralegal services, and even attorneys, a shame to say, who took clients’ money and never bothered to file their cases. So, first, be sure you are dealing with a real attorney and not just a paralegal or typing service “supervised by attorney” and be sure to check out your attorney’s credentials.

We do our best to make getting a divorce in Nevada as easy and quick as possible. You’ll have a well-respected lawyer representing you.

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