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What to Expect at Your Case Management Conference at Family Court in Nevada

When a Complaint for Divorce is filed in Family Court in Nevada and the other party responds by filing an Answer and Counterclaim, the first thing Family Court does is set a mandatory Case Management Conference (CMC). This sets the case on either a litigation track, meaning a trial date will be set, or final resolution during the Case Management Conference itself. Both parties are expected to attend.

How judges handle a Case Management Conferencecase management conference

Not every family court judge handles the Case Management Conference the same way. Just know that items #1 through #4 on the list below are things that usually do happen, and that items #5 through #8 are things that might  or might not happen.

Things likely to happen during the conference:

Item #1: By the time of the case management conference the Judge expects that Plaintiff and Defendant will have filed financial disclosure forms on the Court’s form indicating that their respective income, expenses, assets and debts are. This give the Judge a financial picture of the parties which will help the Judge administer the case.

Each side has to attach 3 pay stubs or income statement to the FDF. So this is item number 1 and the Judge could sanction you if you do not have this document completed and filed at the time of the hearing.

Item #2:  Applies only to parties with minor children:
If you have children the Judge is required to send you to mandatory mediation in order to try to formulate a parenting plan with the help of one of the Court’s counselors, therapists or mediators. The Judge will then set a date about 1-2 months from then for you to come back court to ask if either a partial or full parenting plan has been agreed upon between you and your spouse.

NOTE: To speed up your case, you can submit a request for mediation right after an Answer and Counterclaim is filed. This way, perhaps you can have your return from mediation hearing at the same time as your case management conference.

Item # 3: Next comes setting the case down for either trial or a status check. One main reason for the CMC is to move the case along as the Judges want to be able to conclude the case within a year after it has been filed. Therefore, the Judge will want to know how long the parties need for Discovery and when can they, or their lawyers, will be ready for trial.

Item #4: There is a mandatory initial disclosure of witnesses and exchange of documents between the Plaintiff and Defendant. While it is possible that both parties have the same copies of documents, e.g., income tax returns, bank statements, credit card bills, title to cars, 401(k) statements, etc., the Court nevertheless wants an exchange of documents which might be used at trial. The rule is that if you don’t disclose the document up front, you cannot use it later at a hearing.

Also, the names, numbers, addresses, and expected testimony of witnesses must be disclosed. You obviously list your spouse, but also be sure to add teachers, accountants, friends, coaches, and any other individual you might want to later call as a witness.  If you don’t list someone, you cannot later call him or her as a witness.

Things that may or may not occur during a case management conference:

Item #5: Some Judges will, even if no motion has been filed by either party, make temporary orders during the Case Management Conference.

These include orders for temporary custody, visitation, child support, alimony, exclusive possession of the home or car, etc. Be prepared to address these issues.

Item #6: Another discretionary item the judge might address is misbehavior of the parties during the period of time leading up to the case management conference. Whether there has been a violation of the joint preliminary injunction, interference with visitation, refusal to pay bills, overspending, threats or abuse, etc. The judge might address the issues and admonish the parties or provide them with guidance.

Item #7: A third discretionary item judges may address at the Case Management Conference is whether to send the parties to a settlement judge or financial mediator to work out the division of debts and liabilities before the Judge actually sets the case for trial.

The judge might also make referrals to outsourcers, e.g., counselors, psychologists, private mediators, etc. This can be a good thing if it helps in the case, but if it does not,  it could delay your eventual trial date.

Item #8: Finally, the case management conference is used by some judges to try to settle as many issues as possible right then and there. The Judge will sometimes either resolve the entire case during the CMC,  or just set the matter down for a hearing on one or two issues, like the amount of support, or the division of the personal property.

After the Case Management Conference, the Court will prepare an Order setting forth what was discussed and any dates for future hearings including the divorce trial, if applicable.

Feel free to contact us with any questions regarding obtaining a divorce in Nevada. Or call 702-420-7052

 

How to Choose a Divorce Attorney in Las Vegas

How to choose a divorce attorney in Las Vegas

I understand your dilemma when looking for a divorce attorney in Las Vegas. There are a ton of them. Which one should you choose?  Most people only go through a divorce but once or twice in their lives, and have little experience when it comes to dealing with it.

The one thing you want to avoid is hiring the wrong attorney and have to switch as this increases the overall cost of your divorce.divorce attorney in Las Vegas

I aim to give you good general advice and not just get you to choose me as your divorce attorney.  These are guidelines you can follow with any attorney you consider retaining for your divorce.

  1. First know what kind of divorce you are getting into.

Does your spouse agree to a divorce? Does he or she agree to sign the divorce documents? The answer to this question is important and it will affect what type of attorney you should look for to represent you in your divorce.

If you already know that your spouse agrees to sign the divorce papers, you’ll need one kind of divorce attorney, and if your spouse refuses to be reasonable and plans to fight you every step of the way, you’ll need another.

  1. What kind of divorce attorney do you need?

Of course, you need a divorce attorney whether your spouse signs or not, but they come in different flavors too. To determine which type of lawyer is best for you, you need to first know the answer to the question posed above; will your spouse contest the divorce or not?

If your spouse is reasonable and you both agree on all the terms of a divorce on your own, you can file a joint petition divorce.  You can bring all your terms to your attorney and he or she will include them in the divorce pleadings.

That said, if you have been married for a number of years and own property together, have children together, and pensions are involved, and even if you think you agree on all the terms, it would be a good idea to go through mediation just to be sure that you are treated fairly. There are guidelines a divorce mediator can follow to ensure that you are both getting what is fair for your particular situation, finances, and length of marriage.

If your spouse won’t sign the documents, and will contest the divorce once filed, you’ll need a much more aggressive attorney than if your spouse agrees to terms you set together or through divorce mediation.

If your spouse is intent on fighting everything to the end, your best option is to find a divorce attorney who specializes in litigation.

Before you retain your divorce attorney in Las Vegas, be sure that he or she is open to alternatives, rather than choosing a divorce lawyer whose typical strategy is to plan on going to court from the very beginning of the procedure.

Whether children and finances are involved or not, it’s always best to try mediation first before you enter litigation, either through an attorney who offers collaborative divorce as a part of his or her divorce practice, or through a certified and licensed non-attorney divorce mediator.

  1. Find at least three attorneys

This would be a good strategy to follow:

  1. Ask for referrals from friends and acquaintances who got divorced before you
  2. Look at online reviews
  3. Keep looking until you find three attorneys you think you will like
  4. Interview the three attorneys.

Many divorce attorneys in Las Vegas will give an initial consultation at no cost for divorces that are bound to be contested. I do.

If your case is very simple and uncontested, you can simply talk to the attorney or his staff on the phone. In such a case, you just need information on divorce procedure rather than legal advice.

If your case is to be contested, it’s probably best to meet all three potential attorneys in person. You want to see for yourself how these divorce attorneys look and what demeanor they have. This person might end up standing up for you in divorce court. You want to be sure that he or she is a proper reflection of you.

Ask the following questions:

  • What is your experience with (contested or uncontested) divorce?
  • Do you specialize in any particular type of divorce (litigated, collaborative, uncontested)?
  • Do you favor collaborative divorces over litigation whenever possible?
  • Do you offer flat fees for uncontested divorce matters?
  • What is your fee if my divorce becomes contested? Typically, a divorce attorney in Las Vegas charges an hourly fee. Usually, a retainer fee is paid and the hourly fee is charged against it. The attorney is bound to deposit any retainer into a trust account and will then take portions of the retainer out as they are earned.
  • How long have you been practicing divorce law in Las Vegas?
  • How often go you go to family court here?
  • How familiar are you with the judges currently sitting on the bench?
  1. Make your choice.

After interviewing all the lawyers, retain the divorce attorney with whom you feel most comfortable.

Be sure that he or she is highly-experienced divorce attorney in Las Vegas, in other words, he or she is a local attorney, not a lawyer who, say, just moved to Las Vegas from Reno.

Be sure that he or she regards divorce in the same way you do. For instance, if you favor a joint petition divorce, meaning you want to come to an agreement on all the terms of the divorce and you want both you and your spouse to sign the divorce papers before filing, choose an attorney who will do his or her best to promote mediation if you hit a road block, rather than immediately pushing for court.

Of course, if your intent is to go to court to fight for everything you want and you have no intention to compromise, then choose a strong litigator with a good track record for winning tough divorces.

Be sure you know all the fees you will be charged up front and what it could cost down the road.

If you follow this guidance, you should end up with a professional and highly-experienced divorce attorney in Las Vegas, one who cares as much as you do about the outcome of your divorce.

6 Most-asked Questions Regarding Residency for a Nevada Divorce

You’ll find much incorrect information surrounding how to establish residency for a Nevada residency for Nevada divorcedivorce, or a Nevada annulment while browsing online. Not surprisingly, this is one of the most-asked questions we receive. So, in the spirit of setting the record straight, here are the 6 most-asked questions pertaining to what the court looks for as proof of your Nevada residency when it comes to filing a Nevada divorce:

  1. Do both my spouse and I have to be Nevada resident to file a divorce in Nevada?

No. Only one of the parties must have resided in Nevada for a minimum of six-weeks before filing a divorce.  If you are filing for an annulment and you obtained your marriage in Nevada then you need not be a Nevada resident.  The Court has jurisdiction to set aside the marriage.  However, if you want to annul a marriage from another state residency is required.

  1. How do I prove I’m a resident?

The main proof comes in the form of an Affidavit of Resident Witness. The individual who signs this sworn Affidavit in front of a notary must be another Nevada resident who knows you to have lived in Nevada for a minimum of six weeks before the date your divorce is filed.

This can be a friend, relative, co-worker, landlord, employer or employee, just anyone else at all who is a Nevada resident and is willing to sign this affidavit.  If you are moving to Nevada not long before you plan to file a divorce, be sure to make some friends in your neighborhood or at work.  You will need your resident witness to sign an affidavit that states that not only has he or she known you to have lived in Nevada for 6 weeks, but that he or she sees you three to four times per week.  If you have children and they live here with you in Nevada, they must reside here for 6 months before the Court will exercise jurisdiction over their custody and visitation.

  1.  Do I have to change my driver’s license to Nevada before I sign my Nevada divorce documents?

The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) does require that incoming residents trade in their out-of-state driver’s license for a Nevada driver’s license before the first 30-day period of residency has expired. However, we are working for you and not for DMV so if you provide us with sufficient photo identification and evidence that you actually now reside in Nevada we will notarize your signature reminding you that you are under oath.

The Court generally does not ask to see your driver’s license unless you must make a court appearance in your divorce.  If you cannot obtain a driver’s license DMV issues a state identification card which will be sufficient.

If your divorce is uncontested, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll have to appear in court and show as much proof of your residency, though it has occurred in the past.  However, if the divorce is contested and your spouse challenges your residence then you will have to come up with other proof that you moved here for a legitimate reason (work, family, etc.) and have the intent to remain.

Under the above circumstances, it is a good idea to corroborate your Nevada residency in the form of:

  • Nevada driver’s license
  • Voter registration (if you vote)
  • Rental or utility company receipts (if you rent/own a place where the utilities are in your name)
  • Car registration, if you own a vehicle.
  1. Can I just move to Nevada, get my divorce, and leave?

Your divorce documents will state that, at the time you sign your divorce documents you have the intent to remain in Nevada after your divorce.  Your Affidavit will state that it is still your intent to remain in Nevada for an indefinite period of time.  The court has nothing to say on the fact that you might change your mind afterwards.  However, this does not mean that you can come to Nevada, spend 6 weeks here, sign your divorce papers and leave town.  You would be advised to remain in Nevada at least until your uncontested divorce is granted.

  1. I’m getting divorced because of an Immigration issue. Can I just move to Nevada, get a divorce, and leave?

There have been many instances in the recent past where Immigration officer have questioned the validity of Nevada divorces obtained to benefit parties in an Immigration case.  Our office had a case where there was a paralegal company in New York City advertising Nevada divorces and gave out inaccurate information on residence.  When an immigration application for a visa was filed after the Nevada divorce was granted, the immigration officer wanted much more evidence of the applicant’s Nevada residency than just a cousin’s affidavit that he had seen the client in Nevada for 6 weeks.  If immigration suspects fraud by a non-citizen they can abort the immigration application and deport a person or not allow them reentry in to the country.

  1. What constitutes a legal residence?

The term, legal residence, applies to the place a person spends most of his or her time and is the home that is recognized as yours by law. For instance, you have a driver’s license issued by that state, and/or you claim Nevada as your home state on your tax filings, and/or you claim Nevada as your home state on your LES if you are military.

Residency as a legal term has different meanings in different contexts in the law.  Also different jurisdictions define residency in different ways because of different laws.  Some people consider themselves to have two residencies, especially when they have a second home.  A deployed member of the military may be a permanent resident of Nevada even if he or she has been in Iraq for the past two years.  Bankruptcy may require that you live in Nevada 6 months before you file whereas you only have to live in Nevada 6 weeks to file for divorce.  Context is everything when it comes to legal residence.

There’s more here on Nevada residency and divorce

Is a Joint Petition a Good Option for your Las Vegas Divorce?

Las Vegas Divorce Joint PetitionAs you might know, filing a Joint Petition Divorce is currently the simplest and fastest way to dissolve a marriage in Las Vegas. Actually, all courts in Nevada accept joint petition divorce filings, so they’re not just for a Las Vegas divorce.

That said, filing a joint petition divorce requires the participation of both parties which is why we sometimes refer to it as a two-signature divorce.  Note that if your situation is highly acrimonious and you fear harm from your soon-to-be ex-spouse, this article isn’t for you. Protect yourself first and foremost. In this case, a one-signature divorce is the best option for you.

If there are no children, no debt, and no property, and even if there are, a joint petition is the simplest, and least costly, way to obtain a divorce in Las Vegas, provided both parties are willing to sign the divorce papers.

If children, property (this can be anything from a house to a couch or television for divorce purposes) or debt are involved, obviously an agreement on issues such as child support, child visitation, physical custody, and property and debt division will be required before you get started.

Before you make the above decisions, a little research would go a long way towards avoiding arguments.  For instance, in Nevada, child support is pretty much set in stone, so you can just look up the child support guidelines and follow them. The guidelines also contain allowed deviations.

This being a community property state, as far as property and debt division is concerned, you’d expect it to be a 50/50 split between the parties. However, this isn’t always the case; there are many exceptions. For instance, a vehicle or a house owned by only one of the parties before the marriage is likely to be awarded to that party were you to go into a divorce trial.  Many things are considered, such as investment of the community property funds (when both parties share a checking or savings account and those funds are used for home improvement or paying the mortgage, for instance).  If one of the parties owned a house before the marriage, the other party would only be entitled to half of any increase in equity from the time of the marriage.

If you feel that a Joint Petition divorce is a good option for your but feel uncertain about how to divide your debts and property, or if you have children with your spouse and want to know what’s appropriate as far as child support and visitation, consider Collaborative Divorce.  This is a good option for longer term marriages, especially when the parties have many assets and, or,  retirement benefits come into play. Some attorneys’ offices, like ours, offer divorce mediation services (collaborative divorce by a different name) in preparation for doing a Joint Petition divorce.  Generally speaking, during mediation , the parties find out what they’re likely to be granted if they ended up in a divorce trial.  Find out more about it here, Collaborative Divorce in Nevada

Bottom line is that when filing for a divorce in Las Vegas, a joint petition, except in a few situations, is the best option for everyone involved. You save time and money and the even bigger heartache of divorce court.

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

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