Law Offices of Jill K. Whitbeck
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

FAMILY LAW:

QUESTION:  Can anyone get divorced in Nevada?
ANSWER:  No.  Either the husband or wife MUST be a current Nevada resident and have lived in Nevada continuously for six weeks prior to the filing of the Divorce action, with the intention of remaining in Nevada indefinitely.  One exception is for active duty military service members, who may divorce in Nevada if the active duty military spouse uses Nevada as his/her "home state" for tax purposes.  If children are involved, the children must have been in Nevada for six months for Nevada to have jurisdiction over them. 

QUESTION:  What about annulments?  Is there a residency requirement for them?
ANSWER:  No.  If you were married in Nevada, you may request an annulment in Nevada no matter where you live. 

QUESTION:  How do you get divorced in Nevada?  OR 
                      How do you establish custody if you are unmarried parents in Nevada?  OR
                      How do you get an annulment in Nevada?
ANSWER:  There are two types of legal actions:  Contested and Uncontested.  In an uncontested matter, if you and the other person can agree to terms that meet the requirements of Nevada law, you can file one set of papers that contains that agreement along with all required legal elements and proceed on the papers alone.  In these types of cases, if done correctly, you likely will not have to appear in court at all.  In a contested matter, one person files papers against the other, creating a Plaintiff or Petitioner, and a Defendant or Respondent.  The papers must be served on the other person, who then has time to respond.  If there is no response, the matter may proceed by way of default.  If there is a response, the matter works its way through the court system until a settlement in reached, or the Judge decides the matter.   

QUESTION:  Do I need a lawyer?
ANSWER:  You have the option of representing yourself, or using a "do-it-yourself" process with forms from the court or through a paralegal or typing service.  However, there are many pitfalls in the legal arena.  Some mistakes can be fixed, although there may be a cost, and sometimes a very high cost, to do so (more expensive than using a lawyer in the first place).  Some mistakes cannot be fixed at any cost.  You need to weigh the perceived cost savings of doing it yourself against the risks, and keep in mind that not all attorneys charge exhorbitant rates.  Using an attorney may be less expensive than you think.  At the very least you should consult with an attorney to make sure you are on the right track. 

QUESTION:  I have been served papers, or have received papers in the mail -- Do I need to do anything?
ANSWER:  YES, and rather quickly depending on what you have received.  Even if you agree with everything in the papers, you should still have them reviewed by an attorney and should respond in the court system.  Ignoring legal papers is never the appropriate response.

QUESTION:  How much does a divorce or unmarried custody case cost and how long does it take?
ANSWER:  It depends on the type of case you are doing (contested or uncontested), as well as the nature and extent of any disputed issues in a contested matter.  If you have an uncontested matter, this offices prepares papers at a flat fee.  Once those papers are filed with the court, it generally takes 2-3 weeks to get a final order with no court hearings or appearances necesary.  If you have a contested matter, the initial cost (known as a retainer fee) depends on what is being contested.  This office generally charges a $3500 retainer, but it can be more or less depending on the situation.  A case with relatively simple issues can be done in 2-3 months, depending on the court's schedule.  A case that is hotly contested with many issues can take quite a bit longer, even a full year or more. 

QUESTION:  We are married but living separate and apart, so is my stuff mine and his stuff his?
ANSWER:  NO, not in Nevada where the concept of community property, covering both assets and debts, continues even while separated.  So long as you are married, and have no court orders that say otherwise, it does not matter how your assets or debts are titled or held, they remain community property subject to equal division with very few exceptions. 

QUESTION:  How does child support work in Nevada?
ANSWER:  The child support laws are contained in the Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) at 125B.070.  Generally it is 18% of a person's gross monthly income for the support of one child, 25% for 2 children, 29% for 3 children, 31% for 4 children, and 2% for more each additional child.  There is a minimum due of $100 per child per month even if a person is unemployed.  There are maximum amounts per child which adjust for inflation each year.  There are some guidelines that allow for a deviation from these percentages, which can be found in NRS 125B.080(9).  The Nevada Statutes are available for free at http://www.leg.state.nv.us/law1.cfm  When parents share custody, they each owe support to the other, such that what the lower earner would owe is deducted from what the higher earning would owe, leaving the higher earner to pay the difference, if any. 

PERSONAL INJURY:

QUESTION:  How long does a person injured in Nevada have to file a lawsuit or settle his/her claims?
ANSWER:  Generally, under Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS), two years from the date of the accident that caused the injury.  However, for those under age 18 at the time of the injury, the time expands to two years from the date of the child's 18th birthday.  In medical malpractice actions, the time is only one year from when a person knew or should have known of an injury caused by malpractice, or four years from the date of the actual malpractice, whichever is SHORTER, and there is no additional time given for children.  If the person or entity who caused the injury has anything to do with the Federal Government, it is quite likely Nevada's State laws do NOT apply.  The Federal laws involve much shorter time periods, generally one year from the date of injury, and there is a requirement that the Government be notified of the claim on appropriate forms before a person can proceed in court.  If you have been injured, you should consult with an attorney in the state where you were injured as soon as possible to determine what deadlines apply to your particular circumstances. 

QUESTION:  Does the person who caused my injury have to pay my medical bills?
ANSWER:  No, not directly.  You have a claim against the person who caused your injury for the amount of damages you have incurred, which includes your medical bills.  However, the person who caused your injury (or his/her insurance company) does NOT have to pay your bills as they are incurred.  He/she only has to pay once, in a lump sum, for the injury damages caused, and usually that payment requires that you sign a release indicating that by accepting the money (a settlement) you are forever giving up any additional compensation for any damages caused by the accident and your injuries.  Thus, it is very important that you know the full nature and extent of your injuries and damages and all losses related to your accident before you agree to accept any settlement or even begin any negotiations. 

QUESTION:  If I am hurt on someone's property, does the property owner have to pay my medical bills?
ANSWER:  No.  A property owner is only liable (responsible) if they have been negligent, meaning they knew or should have known of a hazardous condition on their property and failed to fix that condition -- and it was that hazardous condition that caused you harm. 

QUESTION:  How much is my personal injury claim worth?
ANSWER:  The answer to this question can only be given after reviewing and analyzing the type of accident, the nature and extent of your injuries, the nature and extent of your damages/losses, and various other factors including how much juries in the area where your case would go to trial generally award for similar cases.  Do not guess, and do not trust an insurance company adjuster to tell you how much your case is worth.  Have the case evaluated by an experienced attorney to know for sure.  Most personal injury attorneys, including this office, offer free consultations for personal injury matters.

QUESTION:  Do I need an attorney?
ANSWER:  You are allowed to represent yourself, and to handle your own claim.  But if you do so, you are "stuck" with whatever decisions you make.  Keep in mind that you are likely dealing with the insurance company for the person who harmed you.  That company does not owe you any duty whatsoever -- no duty of good faith and fair dealing, no requirement to be fair, nothing.  Insurance companies work for the benefit of their shareholders as for-profit businesses, and only owe legal duties to the people they insure (and there are issues with that as well).  The insurance company hopes you "go away" and do not make any claim for compensation.  If you do make a claim, their job is to pay as little as possible.  You have been injured.  You are trying to get to the doctor for treatment, trying to live your life, work, pay bills, etc.  Do you really need the headache of additional paperwork and trying to navigate the insurance system?  If not, you need an attorney.  Keep in mind that any attorney working on a contingency fee basis, as this office does, will not get paid unless and until you do, giving that attorney very good incentive to do the best job possible and to get you the highest compensation that is reasonable. 

QUESTION:  Do I have to sue anyone to be compensated for my injuries?
ANSWER:  No, not necessarily.  When you make a claim to be compensated for your injuries/damages/losses, it is just a claim.  No one has been sued, and the court system is not involved at all.  Most attorneys will attempt to negotiate a reasonable settlement without having to sue anyone, and will only file a lawsuit with your permission after explaining why settlement negotiations have failed (or your statute of limitations is too near to allow time for negotiations) and why a lawsuit is the best option.   


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