Procedure for Filing a Contested Divorce

Obtain a Complaint for Divorce self-help packet from your local court or from the Nevada Supreme Court.

In addition to the Complaint, the person filing the divorce (the plaintiff) will need to complete a Financial Disclosure Form. This form MUST be filed and “served” to the other party (the defendant) within 45 days of when the defendant is served with the summons and complaint.

Terms of the Complaint

The plaintiff will include in the Complaint the terms that he or she wants in the divorce.

The plaintiff should be as specific as possible with his or her desired divorce terms.

If the parties have children, designate both legal and physical custody as well as how much child support should be ordered and which party should pay. For additional information on custody and child support, refer to the Custody, Paternity, Child Support page.

If seeking alimony, specifically outline the reasons for alimony.

When dividing property and debts, include only the last 4 digits of account numbers.

  • Include all property of monetary value that was acquired during the marriage (real estate, vehicles, boats/RVs, jewelry, electronics, furniture, etc.) even if that property is titled in only one party’s name.
  • May also include pets or other items in dispute that are not of high monetary value.
  • Include all debts acquired during the marriage.
  • Note that the court may include debts in the decree of divorce but lenders are NOT bound by such orders. Unless the debt is refinanced in only one party’s name, the lender can still try to collect that debt from both parties even if the debt was “awarded” to only one party in the divorce.
  • One spouse may request that the court order that, within a set period of time, the other spouse attempt to refinance a debt in his or her name alone. However, a lender is not bound to grant the refinancing and can refuse to remove the requesting spouse’s name from the account.
  • If there are no debts and no property to divide, say so in the complaint.

When crafting a child custody/visitation schedule, include a holiday schedule and designate who will transport the child, where exchanges will occur, and the time of exchanges.

  • Holidays often included are: New Year’s, Easter, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, Mother and Father’s Days, and birthdays.
  • Can include any time off from school such as Martin Luther King Day, President’s Day, Veteran’s Day, Labor Day, and Staff Development Days.
  • If child(ren) are of school age and the parties do not live within the same school zoning area, the Plaintiff may wish to include which school the child(ren) will attend.
  • If child(ren) are of school age, a schedule for winter break, spring break, and summer vacation should be included unless the parties intend to maintain the same schedule year round.
  • If the parties have minor child(ren), don’t forget to designate which party will be entitled to claim the tax deduction(s) for the child(ren.)

Have a third party who knows the client complete an Affidavit of Resident Witness stating that you have lived in Nevada for more than six weeks..

File the Coversheet, the Complaint, the Financial Disclosure, the Summons, the COPE Certificate of Attendance (if the parties have children and live in Clark County) and the Affidavit of Resident Witness with the court in your county.

A Joint Preliminary Injunction can be filed if there are concerns that the other party will sell or dispose of community property, harassing or stalk the other party, or take the parties child(ren) from the state. A Joint Preliminary Injunction becomes effective against the other party after it has been served and lasts until final judgment or Decree of Divorce is entered.

Serving Your Spouse

The defendant will need to be “served” with a copy of the Complaint, the Financial Disclosure, and the Summons within 120 days after the Summons is issued.

To complete service, the defendant will need to personally receive copies of the paperwork. The plaintiff cannot serve the defendant but can have anyone over 18 serve the documents including a friend, a family member, or a paid process server.

An Affidavit of Service must be filled out by the person who did the service and then filed with the court.

If the defendant lives out of state, file a Motion and supporting Affidavit for Out of State Service before having the defendant personally served in his or her state.

If the defendant cannot be found in Nevada after trying multiple ways to find him or her, the plaintiff can ask the court for permission to serve by publication.

To request publication, fill out an Affidavit for Service by Publication describing where and when the defendant last lived. Also complete an Affidavit of Due Diligence describing the ways you tried to fins the defendant. Submitted these papers to the judge assigned to your case along with a filled out Order for Service by Publication.

If the request is granted, you can submit the order to your local newspaper to have the publication run. 

If Your Spouse Fails to Answer within 20 Days of Service

The plaintiff may (and should) submit a Request for Default to the Clerk’s Office and complete a Default.

Until the plaintiff actually receives the Default from the Clerk, the defendant may still file an Answer, even if the 20 days post-service period has elapsed.

Once the plaintiff obtains a Default from the Clerk, the plaintiff may either

  • Submit the Default and a proposed Divorce Decree to the judge OR
  • Schedule a prove up hearing through the court’s clerk’s office, at which the plaintiff should bring a proposed Divorce Decree for the judge to sign.

NOTE: Defaults are disfavored! Defaults may be set aside within 6 months of entry if the defendant can show good cause.

If Your Spouse Answers and Agrees to Your Terms

The parties may schedule a prove-up hearing (a hearing before the judge where there judge will ask if the information in the Complaint is correct)  or request summary disposition (the judge will decide the case without an in-person hearing).

To obtain a prove up hearing, the plaintiff can schedule the hearing through the clerk’s office at their local court.

The plaintiff will need to bring a resident witness or file an Affidavit of Resident Witness.

The plaintiff should have the proposed Decree of Divorce at the hearing and if all is in order, the judge will sign the decree at the end of the hearing.

The Decree must be filed at the clerk’s office

Prepare and file a Notice of Entry of Order and mail the Notice and the Divorce Decree to the other party

File a Certificate of Mailing reflecting service of the Decree to the other party

To request summary disposition

The plaintiff must file a Request for Summary Disposition of Uncontested Divorce

The plaintiff should submit the Request for Summary Disposition along with the Complaint, the Answer, the Affidavit of Resident Witness, copies of the parties’ agreements on child support, custody, property division, etc, and the proposed Decree of Divorce to the judge assigned to the case.

Once the judge signs the Decree, it must be filed at the clerk’s office.

Prepare and file a Notice of Entry of Order and mail the Notice and the Divorce Decree to the other party.

File a Certificate of Mailing reflecting service of the Decree to the other party.

If Your Spouse Answers and Counterclaims

If the defendant files an Answer and Counterclaim, indicating that he or she does not agree with the Complaint, the plaintiff will have 20 days after he or she is served with the Counterclaim to file a Reply.

The plaintiff must file a Notice of Early Case Conference and conduct the case conference within 30 after the defendant has filed his or her Answer.

Following the Conference, the parties must prepare and file a Joint Case Conference Report explaining what happened at the meeting.

A blank fill in form can be obtained through the Self-Help Center.

If the parties cannot agree on the content of the Report, each must prepare and file their own Individual Case Conference Report

Once the Joint Case Conference Report is filed, the court will set a trial date.


If the parties have minor children, they may be required to attend mediation. Refer to the court in your county to determine if mediation is mandatory in your jurisdiction.

Mediation can be a useful way to settle a dispute and enables the parties to make their own custody decision rather than allowing the judge to make the decision for them.

The parties can initiate the mediation by either signing a stipulation or by one party submitting a request for mediation.

Parties can select a private mediator or check with their local court to see if the court has a mediation program.

If the parties reach a settlement during mediation, the mediator will help draw up a settlement agreement, which should be submitted to the judge for signature.

In counties that require mediation, an exemption from mediation may be sought when there are issues of child abuse, domestic violence, or if one party is out of state.

Mediation is confidential and the judge will only be told whether the matter settled but not any details of the mediation.

Pre-Trial Hearings

Child custody and child support are usually decided at the pre-trial stage of the case.

All contested issues involving minor children should be submitted to the judge prior to the setting of a trial date.

If child related issues are not settled in mediation, the mediator will usually issue a recommendation to the court and the judge may order an evidentiary hearing on those issues.

Alternatively, a request that the judge consider these types of issues should be made by filing a motion.

After a hearing, the judge will sign an order setting out what the ruling to be included in the decree of divorce.

Prior to the trial, each party should file and serve the opposing party with a Pre-Trial Memorandum. A fill in Pre Trial Memorandum can be obtained from the Self-Help Center.

Post Trial

Following trial, the judge will make a ruling and one party will be designated to prepare the Decree of Divorce.

Once the Decree of Divorce is signed by the judge it must be filed and the other party will need to be served with a file stamped copy of the Notice of Entry of Order and the Decree.

A certificate of mailing will need to be filed once the mailing is complete.