Unfortunately, divorces are rarely as straightforward as marriages in Las Vegas. They can take a high financial and emotional toll on those involved.
If you file for divorce and it becomes contested and ends up at a trial with a judge deciding, the whole process can take many months or even years to finalize.
In many ways, every divorce in Las Vegas is contested until both spouses agree on all the terms of the divorce and are prepared to sign paperwork to that effect. Even spouses who are in general agreement at the start of the separation and divorce process can run into problems that create disputes and delays.
Here’s what you need to know about contested divorces—why they happen, how they proceed, and what you can do about your situation if you are facing divorce difficulties.
What is a contested divorce?
In an ideal world, two spouses who separate and decide to divorce agree on all of the key terms of separation. They establish legal grounds for the divorce, file the paperwork, create a divorce agreement, seek approval from a judge and move on with their lives.
Unfortunately, in the real world in Nevada, disagreements, and disputes arise during this process. Most disputes concern property and finances or child custody or support issues.
When a couple does not see eye to eye on either filing for divorce in the first place or on how to arrange their affairs after the marriage, a contested divorce results.
The disagreements need not be acrimonious and can often be resolved through mediation or collaboration between opposing lawyers. However, they also have the potential to escalate and become deadlocked. In such cases, there is a greater chance of litigation resulting.
Generally, the main points of disagreement are in the following areas:
- The equitable division of marital property
- Alimony/spousal support
- Child custody and visitation rights
- Child support
- Ownership of the primary marital residence
In a contested divorce that ends up with litigation and a trial, the spouses forgo the right to make decisions and, instead, hand the decision-making powers over to a judge. This may require multiple hearings before being concluded, hence the added time and expense involved in contested divorces.
The more outstanding issues there are, the longer it may take to resolve. This can impact the lives of both spouses and the children greatly because of the additional time, expense and stress involved.
Contested divorces may be resolved between the spouses at any time up to the point of the trial and when the judge makes a decision.
What are the grounds for contesting a divorce?
You do not require legal grounds for contesting a divorce in Nevada.
However, you do need legal grounds to file for divorce and you must also meet the residency requirements for your divorce papers to be filed, i.e., at least one of the spouses must have resided in Nevada for a minimum of six weeks before filing and a “resident witness” must sign a document to support this claim.
Nevada is a “no-fault” divorce state, meaning that, to file for divorce, you do not need to apportion blame or prove wrongdoing (such as adultery or cruelty) by the other spouse. You can simply claim that you are “incompatible” and the marriage is beyond repair because of unresolved marital issues.
This is designed to reduce the number of litigated divorces and free up the family courts in Nevada.
Generally, when a spouse is accused of wrongdoing in a fault divorce (still available in some states), he or she will defend the claim and this may necessitate a trial. Because fault does not need to be apportioned in Nevada, there is more chance that the divorce can proceed as uncontested.
But if the spouse who is served the divorce papers does not agree with the divorce proceedings or the spouses disagree on one or more elements of the terms of the divorce, it will proceed as contested.
Complications in contested divorce cases
Typically, the same issues arise again and again in contested divorce cases. One or more of the following are the main sticking points:
Nobody likes having their children taken away from them. The Nevada courts prefer that both parents spend as much time as possible with their children after a divorce as this is generally considered to be in the best interest of the children.
However, sometimes this is not possible or one parent files for sole custody of the children, often leading to a contested divorce.
Judges in Nevada must follow a set of guidelines when calculating child support.
Extenuating factors may affect the decision in contested divorces, though, adding complexity to the equation. Judges in Las Vegas can apply some discretion depending on these factors.
Division of the marital estate
Nevada is known as a community property state for marital property division. Any property acquired during the marriage is presumed to be owned equally by both spouses and should be shared as evenly as possible. This is usually 50-50 down the middle.
If there is doubt about who a piece of property belongs to, it is considered general marital property. However, other factors may enter into the calculation and this is generally more likely in a contested divorce than an uncontested one.
Alimony or spousal support
Spousal support is money paid by one spouse to the other to assist in the transition to a self-sufficient single life. If the recipient spouse wants to claim more support than the payor spouse is prepared to pay, it is more likely to lead to a contested divorce and a judge will need to decide.
Spousal support is often the most heavily litigated issue in contested divorces in Nevada.
An experienced contested divorce lawyer can make a big difference to how you emerge from a divorce in Las Vegas.
The divorce lawyers at Goldstein Flaxman PLLC will support you and protect your interests if you are currently considering a divorce or thinking about initiating proceedings. Get in touch for a case evaluation today.