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.