Complaints for Divorce

Getting a divorce begins with filing a “Complaint for Divorce.” In a contested divorce, the Complaint is written by one spouse (the plaintiff) and served on the other spouse (the defendant). The Complaint is not effective until it has been signed and verified by the plaintiff and filed with the Family Court. The complaint must be filed in a state court in the county where one of the spouses resides. For the purposes of a divorce, it does not matter where the parties were married, but only where one of the spouses resides.

Since Nevada is a notice pleading state, the Complaint for Divorce can be somewhat vague. However, if you believe your spouse will not answer the complaint, and your divorce will be granted by obtaining a default, it is better to include specific language in your complaint about how your assets will be divided, how your debts will be divided, custody, visitation, child support, spousal support and changing your name.

There is no time limit to file your complaint. This means that you can draft the Complaint for divorce and wait to file it once you are certain a divorce is necessary. However, after the complaint is filed, there are very specific deadlines within which to complete the divorce process and failing to meet these deadlines may mean having your entire divorce case dismissed.

After you have decided that you want to get divorced, you must take your divorce complaint and file it with the Clerk’s Office at Family Court. When filing the Complaint, make sure you include the Family Court Cover Sheet and pay the appropriate filing fee.

After your divorce complaint is filed, you must obtain a filed stamped copy of the complaint and have the Court clerk issue a summons and Joint Preliminary Injunction. These three documents must then be served on your spouse. This is known as service of process. You only have 120 days from the time the complaint is filed to have it served. If you fail to meet the deadline, and you do not obtain the Court’s permission to extend the time, the Court can dismiss your case. In order to ensure appropriate service, you should consider hiring a legal process server.

Once the defendant has been served, the clock starts running on the time for your spouse to respond to the Complaint. In Nevada, the waiting period is 20 days. It also sets automatic restraining orders (joint preliminary injunction) on the spouses, known as a joint preliminary injunction. At this point, the spouses are not permitted to take any children out of state, sell any property, borrow against property, destroy property or borrow or sell insurance held for the other spouse.

After the defendant is served, although not required, the defendant may file a responsive pleading, known as an answer. In the answer the defendant can either agree or disagree with the items stated in the complaint. The defendant can also make his/her own allegations about child support, spousal support, division of assets, division of debts, custody, visitation and name changes. This is known as a counterclaim.

Once the answer/counterclaim are filed, the parties are now involved in what is known as a contested divorce.