Learn about the different levels of courts, who you might meet at the courthouse, and how cases move through the courts.
Courts In Nevada
The court you will appear in most often as part of your family law matter is the District Court. District Court judges hear divorces, custody matters, name changes cases, guardianships, adoptions, and many other kinds of cases.
If you need to apply for a protection order, you usually file your case in Justice Court. Justice Courts also hear other matters such as evictions, small claims cases, and traffic offenses, to name a few.
If a party wants to challenge an order issued by the district court, an appeal can be made to the Nevada Supreme Court. The Nevada Supreme Court is the state's highest court, and has the power to hear the case or assign the case to the Nevada Court of Appeal. The appellate court does not re-try the case, but instead determines if legal errors were made by the District Court. Visit the Nevada Supreme Court site to learn more.
To find your local court that can help with your kind of case, visit Find My Court.
Steps Involved in a Family Court Case
Most family law cases can be divided into the following steps:
- Opening a Case. One person (the “Plaintiff”) files legal papers to start the court action (the "complaint"), and has the other party served.
- Responding to the Case. The other person (the “Defendant”) files legal papers to respond to the case (the “answer and counterclaim”).
- Case Management Conference. In most family court cases, the judge sets this hearing within 90 days of when Defendant filed the answer and counterclaim. The parties will appear in court to discuss the issues.
- Mediation/Settlement. Family court judges encourage the parties to resolve their issues out of court whenever possible. Judges may refer the parties to settlement programs so the parties can try to settle their issues with the help of a neutral person.
- Motion Practice. It may take a while to get a final order from the court, due to the steps above. Parties sometimes need the judge to issue temporary orders to guide the parties while the case is going on. Parties can file motions to ask the judge for temporary orders.
- Discovery. Discovery is ongoing as a family case is moving through the court. Discovery allows both sides to exchange information and learn about the strengths and weaknesses of the other side's case.
- Trial. If the parties cannot reach a full agreement on the issues, the judge will set a trial where the issues are decided by the judge. At trial, each party presents witnesses and evidence, and the judge decides the issues.
- Post-trial. After trial, one or both of the parties might appeal the judge’s decision.
- Changing the Order Later. Things may change in the future that make the court order no longer practical (such as child custody/visitation, or child support issues). When parties want to change anything about the court order, they can either stipulate to the changes or they can file motions to have the judge consider new orders.