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Service Recognition

When a family is facing divorce or custody challenges, this time in your life will have a great impact on health, stability and wealth of you and more importantly your children’s lives. Most people are not initially familiar with the family court system until they are facing, often times, a sudden tipping point in their relationship and their lives.

A single contentious divorce can impact your career, family, health, general well-being and additional contact with criminal and government agencies. Our focus is to offer affordable representation, experience, compassion, and protection of your personal and family rights.

Our team garnering more than a decade of legal service for Nevadans and families from other states and countries, we are proud of the recognitions graciously awarded to us for our service to the Las Vegas, Clark County Community. Our team was named one of the “Top Lawyers” in 2013; received the Ask-A-Lawyer Community Commitment Award for Pro Bono Service in 2009; 1st Place Co-Winner: 2005 Clark County Bar Client Counseling Competition; 3rd Place Co-Winner: 2006 ABA Regional Client Counseling Competition; CALI Award: Contract Theory; Society of Advocates Member/Competitor: 2006–2007; Student Bar Association Vice President (eve.): 2005-2006; Family Law Community Service: Spring 2005.

We are currently creating additional opportunities in education and outreach about Nevada family law issues with local family advocacy organizations, unions and civic organizations.

We are experienced in litigating family law, business law and Supreme Court appellate cases.

If you have any questions concerning any of our legal services or would like to partner with us as an organization, please call us.

What Not to do in Divorce

We understand the emotional trauma that divorce and custody can bring to you, your children and extended family and friends. Our priority as attorneys is to protect you from doing anything to harm your case during the term of the divorce process. We have listed a few general guidelines of What Not To Do:

1. Losing control of yourself, your temper, and your legal bill.

Although our attorneys are compassionate about your case, we suggest finding a counselor, support group or religious organization that specializes in divorce and custody issues. There are free or low-cost services available throughout Clark County. If your case is “bundled”, you are being billed for every communication, even with a paralegal. This can cause you to pay for more than you expected and waste your retainer when you need it most.

2. Hindering your case.

Help your cause rather than hinder your divorce lawyer. Making numerous phone calls each day with questions may distract the one person who is trying to help you. Ask your attorney from the beginning what you can do to help and how you will proceed with communicating about your case. Our attorneys do give you their direct cell phone number to call with concerns or emergencies. However, we also suggest that during the day, keep a notepad or journal and save up several questions or items for discussion before calling or e-mailing your attorney or paralegal.

3. Making appearances at your divorce attorney’s office without an appointment.

4. Expecting or demanding unrealistic things from the divorce and custody.

You will not get everything you want just like in the marriage. It is best to make your demands reasonable. There are no winners in a divorce. The best you should expect is to be treated fairly but that may happen only if you insist on it with the help of your divorce lawyer.

5. Letting divorce lawyers or their paralegals gather and organize your paper work when you should be doing it.

6. Giving up control of the divorce to your divorce lawyer, friends or relatives.

It’s your divorce and your lawyer takes direction from you. Your attorney will guide you legally on the likelihood of your demands being honored in court. Don’t let friends and relatives steer you too much. However, confiding in and getting moral support from close friends who have been through a similar experience is helpful.

7. Not listening and following your divorce attorney’s advice about your interaction with opposing party.

8. Staying with a divorce attorney that makes you unhappy.

9. Dividing up property without a thorough inventory and accurate valuations.

Make an inventory list of marital assets including description, year purchased, purchase amount and present value. Also make a list of marital debts including description, year acquired, interest rate and present amount owed as of a certain date: mortgages and liens on real and personal property, credit cards, loans including student and personal ones.

10. Failing to be precise when negotiating child custody and visitation.

Get specifics on the court record to insure which parent gets to do what and when and which parent is responsible for certain financial care obligations.

If you have any questions about divorce or custody for our attorneys we are always available.

Paternity Issues in Custody

We have represented parents with paternity questions and the experience can be very emotional for everyone involved, especially the psychological trauma of separating a meaningful, healthy parent-child relationship at risk of being reduced or terminated. Below are a few considerations:

Legal action for paternity can be filed with the Family Court at almost any time. Paternity is determined by the courts in large part by a genetic DNA test, with a probability rate of 99%.

In Nevada, there is what’s called, “presumption of the law” that the male in the relationship is the biological father, if one of the following is true:

1. The mother and father are married.

2. The unwed mother and partner were living together for at least 6 months before or during the time of conception.

According to the legal definition presumption is, “A conclusion as to the existence or nonexistence of a fact that a judge or jury must draw when certain evidence has been introduced and admitted as true in a lawsuit but that can be contradicted by evidence to the contrary.

A rebuttable presumption can be overturned only if the evidence contradicting it is true and if a reasonable person of average intelligence could logically conclude from the evidence that the presumption is no longer valid. For example, a person who is presumed to be the father based on particular legal evidence will be named the biological father, unless there is sufficient proof, usually in the form of a DNA test, that the person is or is not the biological father.

An unwed mother of a child assumes primary custody, unless or until a finding by the court for paternity or a custody order has been adjudicated. In addition, if there is a case of abandonment of a child by the biological mother for more than 2 months without contact while the “father” has provided sole care of the child, the custody will be awarded to the father, if there are no legal actions during that time period.

Once the court establishes paternity and custody arrangements, the same Nevada laws between married parents will apply in this instance when determining child custody, visitation and financial obligations for the child.

If you have any questions regarding paternity, please contact our legal experts.

Adultery in Divorce

Adultery is a leading cause of divorce, however, adultery is not grounds for divorce in Nevada. Nevada is a “no fault” divorce state and this includes adultery. No-fault divorce is where the divorce does not require any wrong-doing by either party.

However, evidence of adultery can often help in bringing the character, integrity, and financial waste of the adulterer into question in a divorce case. Often, this may not directly be from the adultery but may be related to the adultery before the divorce. For example, if the adultery occurs around a child before the divorce or commits marital waste of community property by spending money on the girlfriend/boyfriend.

What Are the Grounds for Divorce in Nevada? The Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) covers “Causes for Divorce” in Chapter 125. In NRS 125.010 a list of the following causes whereupon a divorce may be obtained: Insanity existing for 2 years prior to the commencement of the action. Upon this cause of action the court, before granting a divorce, shall require corroborative evidence of the insanity of the defendant at that time, and a decree granted on this ground shall not relieve the successful party from contributing to the support and maintenance of the defendant, and the court may require the plaintiff in such action to give bond therefore in an amount to be fixed by the court. When the husband and wife have lived separate and apart for 1 year without cohabitation the court may, in its discretion, grant an absolute decree of divorce at the suit of either party. Incompatibility.

Note: that adultery is not mentioned in the above divorce statute. Most divorces in Nevada cite “incompatibility” as the cause for divorce.

‘Unbundled’ Legal Services

Consulting with an attorney is important to protect your most precious assets, your children and any financial benefits. Even in the best circumstances where you and your soon-to-be former spouse agree on all the terms, it is still important to consult an attorney so that you are protecting your current or future legal rights and obligations. Most attorneys offer a one-time free consultation to better help you understand your legal needs in order to make intelligent decisions.

There are many different ways that an attorney can help you, including “unbundled” or “bundled”, and mediation legal services.

Some spouses decide to represent themselves in court and hire an attorney for “unbundled” legal services. Unbundled services mean that you hire an attorney to perform only specified legal services that are agreed upon prior to the work being completed.

We are proud to be one of the few family legal teams to offer a flat rate for unbundled legal services. For example, you can have your lawyer draft legal documents and correspondence to your spouse or your spouse’s attorney; ask questions about any aspect of your divorce or custody case and your lawyer will provide you with legal advice; have your lawyer negotiate the final divorce or custody settlement with the other side; and/or have your lawyer help you with any other agreed upon issues in your case (except for court appearances). If your lawyer is providing unbundled services, your lawyer will not sign court documents for you, file papers in court for you, or go to court hearings, trials, and conferences with you.

In many instances, unbundled legal services is the most cost-effective method for hiring a lawyer because you can control how much work your attorney completes for you.

Many times, clients who are getting divorced or going through a custody battle decide to start out the process with an attorney for consultation only as an unbundled agreement, because you are able to do the work yourself. If things become contentious with your spouse and you want an “attorney of record” to represent you in court, you and your attorney can change your agreement for representation so that your attorney can enter any court appearances in your case. Most lawyers will require that a litigation fee agreement be signed if you want to change from unbundled to bundled legal services.

Other people decide to proceed from the outset with bundled legal services, meaning they hire an attorney to handle all aspects of their divorce or custody case. If an attorney is hired in this capacity, your attorney will enter the case as your “attorney of record” and will represent you in court. Even if you have an attorney of record, you may not need to go to court, because your attorney will attempt to settle your case with the opposing party’s attorney with the terms you believe are in your best interest. Yet, you will have your attorney prepared to go to court for you if necessary.

Some people want an attorney of record listed with the court because they do not feel comfortable representing themselves, especially if:

•There are complicated financial or emotional issues, or there is a contentious relationship between the spouses.

•There is no agreement on parenting terms affecting the children.

•There is a large marital estate.

•There are “separate” property issues meaning you or your spouse have assets that were acquired prior to the marriage.

•There are domestic violence or child abuse issues.

Many times, even though you might initially be confident representing yourself, if your spouse later hires an attorney of record, you might feel safer proceeding with an attorney to represent you in the same capacity. When each spouse has hired an experienced family law attorney, the benefit of familiarity with the laws, and at times more importantly the knowledge of the judge and how he/she might rule in many situations outweighs the cost of representing yourself. At any time during the case, for any reason, you can hire an attorney to enter into your case. In doing so, make sure to bring all of your documents from the court so that the attorney can review the history and notices concerning upcoming hearings in your case.

For spouses who are amicable and confident that they can work out their settlement terms, another less costly option is for both parties to go to an attorney for a settlement agreement. This option can be cost effective, if the mediation sessions are limited to one or two sessions and the case settles quickly. However, it could be cost prohibitive, for example, if there are several long mediation sessions and the parties continue to not agree. In that case, the neutral mediation attorney cannot represent either party in the future so it is possible that you and your spouse will need to hire your own separate lawyers.

If you have any questions for our legal team please call us.

Estimating Time to Divorce

Have you ever wondered why divorce proceedings take so much time?

On average for a family divorce case with traditional disputes over child custody, child support and financial assets, can take up to five months to one year to resolve in Clark County Nevada Family Courts. However, this is a relative term, depending on both parties willingness to work together coupled with the availability of the Court’s calendar. Clark County Nevada Family Court judges see roughly 400,000 new and repeat divorce and family-related cases a year, so as you can imagine the process will take some time.

We recognize and understand the urgency for resolution and finding answers clients during this time of upheaval to the family. Understanding this, there are some actions we can take immediately for example once retained, setting emergency motions in such instances of abuse, a parent not honoring visitation orders or fleeing with the children to another state. We will set a plan of action for each of our clients in contacting your attorney for updates and circumstance changes to your case.

A General Timeline to Settle Your Divorce/Custody Case:

0 – 3 Weeks:

Setting the initial motion hearing in Clark County Family Court will take about three weeks once your attorney has filed the initial divorce and custody motion. Most of the work will take place during the initial phases of your case before you even set foot into a courtroom. During this time, you and your attorney will set an action plan on how to proceed. You will assist your attorney in understanding your marital history, concerns and needs for the future. Before the initial motion hearing, attorneys and their clients will work to settle as many of the disputes outside of court through mediation and settlement conferences. If issues can be settled outside of court between attorneys, this saves you time and money once the hearing occurs.

3 Weeks – 6 Weeks:

Prior to the initial hearing your attorney will prepare you for court. Please see our blog on the Etiquette and Dress for Court. During the initial motion hearing, the judge and attorneys will decide what outstanding issues need to be settled. If the terms of the divorce cannot be settled amongst the parties and their attorneys in this initial hearing, the family court judge will set what is called an evidentiary hearing. Before the initial hearing is closed, the terms for temporary custody, financial requirements, or any mediation or expert evaluations of the parents or children will be ordered until the evidentiary hearing decides permanent conditions.

6 Weeks to 4 Months:

The court judge will set the evidentiary hearing about three months from the initial hearing. During this time prior to the hearing, additional motions and rebuttal motions, evidence, documents, and witness lists will be filed with the court. An evidentiary hearing can last several hours to several days, depending on the complexity of the disputes, witness testimony and evidence that is needed to make your case.

4 Months and Beyond:

The determination to co-parent, work together with your former spouse, and follow the court’s orders will set the tone for future litigation after the evidentiary hearing has set permanent conditions for you and your children. However, unforeseen issues or lifestyle changes may arise and you may need to return for a modification to current orders or parenting plans.

In Nevada, you will be assigned the same judge throughout the life of your case until the children are 18 years old. An attorney can only opt-out of a judge assignment before the first hearing by filing a motion for cause to do so. The court will only grant a new judge one time.

If you have been satisfied with your initial divorce attorney, it is beneficial to remain with the same attorney because they will have invested the most time and have the best historical knowledge of your case to continue fighting for you.

If you have any questions about the best way to settle your divorce case please contact us.

NV Grandparents Rights

Custodial rights are generally between two parents, and the extended family, including grandparents are often left out of the equation. This can be especially painful to both the children and the grandparents relationship when the extended family members have been involved in the upbringing of the children. Nevada’s laws are not specific to grandparents, but does extend to any third-party with an interest in visiting a child. Other sections apply to any person with whom the child has resided and who has had a meaningful relationship with the child.

Nevada Revised Statutes set out guidelines for determining the grandparents visitation with a child, these include:

• Emotional ties existing between the grandparent and grandchild.

• The grandparent’s ability to provide care and guidance and serve as a positive influence to the child.

• The grandparent’s willingness to supply material needs during visitation.

• The grandparent’s ability to provide the child with health care.

• The prior relationship between the two, including such factors as whether the grandchild resided with the grandparent and whether the child was present at holidays and family gatherings.

• The grandparent’s mental and physical health.

• The preference of the child, if applicable

• The willingness of the grandparent to facilitate and encourage the child-parent relationship.

• The grandparent has the ability to facilitate the medical needs of the child.

• Any financial or other support provided by the grandparent

For any legal questions about custody, guardianship or visitation rights please call our legal staff.

Finding the best Attorney

When a decision is made to divorce from your spouse, there is what feels like a great urgency to find an attorney so that you are not caught off-guard with anything that may come your way from the opposing party, especially when children are involved. It is important to remember that you do not need to retain the first family law attorney you meet. Choosing the right attorney is as important as choosing the right school or medical specialist for you and your children.

Even if your friends or another lawyer offers a referral for a particular family law attorney, it is important to still be diligent in making sure that the attorney has the experience and qualifications to handle all the issues you will be facing during litigation and settlement.

As you drive anywhere in Las Vegas, turn on the radio, or watch commercials on the TV, you know there are lots of lawyers out there, and many describe themselves as “family law” or “divorce” attorneys. However, family law is a specialty that involves complex statutes, which take experience to master. Within the area of family law, there custody law, military law, international custody law, guardianship, and Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs), which is required to divide certain types of retirement benefits.

Be your own investigative reporter and ask the questions below:

1. Do you specialize in divorces, or are divorces just a part of your practice? How long have you been practicing family law? How many family law cases have you handled? Are you a “certified family law specialist?”

2. What is your strategy for my case? How long will it take to resolve my case?

3. How long do you take to return phone calls? How do I get a hold of you if there is an emergency? What do you consider to be an emergency?

4. Will anyone else in your office be working on my case? What experience do they have? Can I meet them?

5. What administrative tasks am I billed for? What is your hourly rate? Do you charge for the time I spend with other lawyers, with paralegals, and/or with secretaries? If so, at what rate? What is your retainer up front?

6. What costs (other than your own) do you expect will be involved (for example, for private investigators, forensic accountants, physicians, and/or psychologists), and how will you charge me for them?

7. What’s your estimate of the total cost of this divorce?

8. Do you mediate settlement hearings outside of court to negotiate directly with my spouse? How can I keep the cost of my divorce down? Is there work I can do myself keep costs low?

9. Based on what you know about my case, how would you predict a judge would rule on it?

10. What can you tell me about the financial decisions I will have to make?

Family Court Etiquette

If you think your attitude or appearance doesn’t matter in Family Court, consider that both could influence the judge in his rulings, including contempt of court. Whether you are the plaintiff or the defendant, or even a witness in a lawsuit, your appearance, dress, and actions can affect how the court sees you and how successful you are in presenting your case.

Respect for the Court

A courtroom is a solemn place, a judge demands respect as a representative of the government, whether it is federal, state, or local. Specific rules apply to those who are bringing cases to court or who have cases brought against them. In fact, anyone appearing before the court, including witnesses and members of the public, have the responsibility to act with respect.

•Arrive early and prepared. You might have to sit and wait, but that is far better than running late. Arrive late and you might find your case passed by.

• Gum chewing, tobacco, recording devices (like pda’s or ipods), cell phones, food, beverages, or newspapers are NOT allowed.

• Cell phones are not allowed in many courtrooms. If you are permitted to bring your cell phone, TURN IT OFF!

• Children are not allowed in Nevada Family Court, unless the judge requests it through formal means.

•In general, you must have permission to move beyond a certain point toward the judge or jury. Follow your attorney’s instruction.

•When addressing the judge, say “Your Honor,” not “Judge Smith.” Talk only to the judge and (in a soft voice) to your attorney. Do not address the opposing counsel or other party. When referring to others, do not use first names. It’s “Mr. Smith,” not “Jim,” even if he is your brother-in-law.

• Speak only when instructed or given permission by your attorney. Only one person speaks at a time. Don’t interrupt anyone, especially the judge or opposing party. When you answer questions, be brief and to the point; answer the question you were asked and stop.

• Use formal English, not slang.

• Be aware of your body language. Do not slouch in the chair, fold your arms or make facial expressions in any way towards anything said in court, negatively or not.

Clothing Attire

• Wear modest business or business casual clothing, if you do not have a suit or tie; No open shoes, flip-flops, tank tops, mini skirts, T-shirts, or other non-business attire.

• If you are in doubt what to wear, dress up more rather than less;

• Don’t wear a hat unless it is for religious reasons.

• No wild hairstyles.

As part of our full-service, we prepare all clients for their appearances in court. If you have any questions, please give us a call.