By Shannon R. Wilson, Attorney

Divorce is a topic no one really wants to contemplate, even when it feels inevitable. Worse still is when out of the blue you have been served papers and you realize your spouse has been contemplating divorce, but you have not. If you are in either camp, this article seeks to provide you with some things to help make a difficult situation somewhat less so.

First, knowing one’s legal rights and obligations and understanding the process can go a long way to removing dread and fear from divorce. I am continually surprised by the misinformation that circulates. Friends and family are not a substitute for the counsel of a family lawyer. If you are divorcing in Clark County, the Eighth Judicial District Court website has good information about divorce and self-help resources for those who decide to represent themselves, but should you represent yourself?

Second, consider whether you need a lawyer. Divorce can be expensive–not getting it wrong can be even more expensive. Not just in terms of money, but in terms of rights with respect to one’s children. A lawyer can help you see your case through the eyes of a judge, and that can help guide your actions to give you the best possible outcome. Everyone considering divorce should consult with an attorney to ensure they understand their rights and obligations and discover whether they need legal representation.

Third, find a lawyer who is right for you. In this regard, consider that this is a person you will be working with for a few months, at least. Is this a person to whom you can disclose your most personal information? Have they handled cases like yours previously? Have they tried cases? Will they be the attorney working your case, or will they give it to an associate or paralegal? Your lawyer need not be your best friend, but she must be someone in whom you have confidence to represent you both efficiently and effectively.

Fourth, what adjunct professionals do you need to help you through a divorce? If your divorce involves complex assets, debts or tax issues, then accountants, business valuators or actuaries are often useful and sometimes necessary to fully evaluate and prove your case. If there is excessive debt, then maybe a bankruptcy consult is needed. Therapists can be a valuable resource before, during and post-divorce. Parents divorcing in Clark County must take a seminar for separating parents, but additional resources can help you to help your kids through the transition.

Fifth, consider that you will be ok. This article is light on the law, but generally speaking, the law is designed to be equitable. Nevada is a community property state, which means in most cases, assets and debts acquired during the marriage will be divided equally. However, if one party has substantially more income than the other, then there are laws the Court can use to make that situation more equitable. With respect to children, the modern trend is for parents to share time equally unless they agree otherwise or there is a compelling reason in the best interest of the children for one parent to have primary custody. Child support is based on a formula, and a lawyer can help you make the calculation. You have enough to consider without worrying whether you and your children will be ok if you decide to pursue, or have been forced into, a divorce. Talking with a lawyer can help you understand the likely outcomes and leave you free to focus on your future.

Shannon R. Wilson is an attorney with Hutchison & Steffen and a member of the Firm’s Litigation Department. Her practice includes a full spectrum of family law services. She may be contacted at swilson@hutchlegal.com or 702.385.2500.

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