If you have been served with separation papers, there are things you must do to participate in the case. If you do nothing, your spouse may be able to get a final court order without you. Visit this section to find out important information you should know, deadlines you must follow, and forms you must file once you have been served.
Make sure you understand the basic concepts before filling out your forms! Read through Separation Overview to find out the basics. Because separations use the same laws as divorce and custody cases, you should also visit the Divorce Overview and Custody Overview pages for a more detailed explanation of the laws and procedures that may apply.
Being served with separation papers can be scary and stressful. Your emotions might make it hard to figure out what to do. It can be tempting to do nothing because you are too overwhelmed to deal with it. Or you might think if you do nothing, your spouse will not be able to move forward with the separation.
Ignoring the papers will not make the case go away. In fact, once you are served with the papers, you only have 21 calendar days to file your own papers in response. If you do not, the court could enter a default against you, and your spouse may be able to get everything they asked for in their complaint. This page will explain the steps you need to take to respond to a complaint for separation.
Step 1. Read the Complaint for Separation
You first need to figure out what your spouse is asking for. Read the Complaint for Separation. Don’t worry, the judge has not ordered anything yet – the complaint just tells you what your spouse is asking for. You may agree with some, all, or none of the complaint. Write down next to each paragraph in the complaint whether you agree or disagree with what that paragraph says.
If you agree with everything your spouse is asking for, you may not need to file anything. Talk to your spouse about signing a joint Decree of Separation. Or, you can do nothing and your spouse will get a default Separation Decree that includes everything requested in their complaint. But if you disagree with anything your spouse is asking for, you will need to file a response.
If you are not sure what to do, it is always best to talk to a lawyer. Visit Find Legal Help for information on lawyers and free / low-cost legal help.
Step 2. Fill Out Papers to Respond to the Separation
You only have 21 calendar days after being served to file your papers. If you were served more than 21 days ago, you may be able to request an extension with your court.
To respond to the case, you will need to file these forms:
- Answer (and maybe a Counterclaim) to Separation
- Financial Disclosure Form
Answer (and maybe a Counterclaim) to Separation
FILL OUT ONLY ONE OF THE ANSWER FORM OPTIONS BELOW. You have two choices when responding to the separation papers:
File an Answer only. This is the "short form" option.
The complaint will have numbered paragraphs with each item about the separation requested separately. Your "Answer" tells the judge and your spouse what numbered parts of the complaint you agree with and disagree with. For instance, you might agree with paragraphs 1, 2, 3, 7, 8 of the complaint, but disagree with paragraphs 4, 5, 6. Write this in your answer. You do not have to explain why. This lets the judge and your spouse know what issues will need to be dealt with.
File an Answer with a Counterclaim. This is the "long form" option that lets you make a counterproposal. You can use this form to request a divorce if you would rather have the judge give you a divorce instead of a separation.
The "Answer" (described above) tells the judge and your spouse what you agree and disagree with from the complaint. You can also include a "Counterclaim" where you can tell them specifically what you want (like the Plaintiff did). You can list the specific custody orders, property division, etc. that you would like the judge to order.
Answer & Counterclaim for Separation - No Kids (pdf fillable)
Answer & Counterclaim for Separation - No Kids (pdf)
Answer & Counterclaim for Separation - With Kids (pdf fillable)
Answer & Counterclaim for Separation - With Kids (pdf)
Financial Disclosure Form ("FDF")
You (and your spouse) have to file a Financial Disclosure Form within 30 days of when you file your Answer. It is best to file it with your Answer so you do not forget later.
The Financial Disclosure Form, or “FDF,” gives information about your employment, your income, your expenses, your property, and your debts. You must attach your three most recent paystubs to this form. This information helps the judge to have an idea of what financial issues are involved. If you do not fill out this form completely and accurately, the court may rule against you.
Attach your last 3 paystubs to this form.
For "high asset" cases where the parties own $1 million or more in gross assets, or the combined gross income of the parties is $250,000 or more per year, or where either spouse is self-employed or the owner or partner of a business, the parties can ask to opt into the "Complex Divorce Litigation Procedures" under NRCP 16.2(c)(2). This requires both parties to file a Detailed Financial Disclosure Form (available on the Miscellaneous Forms page) and raises many other litigation requirements. Anyone taking part in a Complex Divorce case is highly encouraged to retain an attorney. You can learn more about finding an attorney under Find Legal Help.
Step 3. File Your Papers
After you fill out the papers above, you will need to file them with the same district court where the complaint was filed. Visit Find My Court if you are not sure where to find the district court.
The court will charge you a filing fee to file your papers. The fee is different in every county. Find out from the court what the filing fee will be.
If you cannot afford the filing fee, please see Filing Fees and Waivers to find out how to ask the court to waive the fee.
Next Step: Serve the Plaintiff
After you complete the steps on this page, a copy of your answer/counterclaim (and anything else you filed) must be sent to your spouse (the “Plaintiff”). The Court does not serve the papers for you. It is up to YOU to make sure your spouse gets served after you file these papers. After you have completed the steps on this page, learn all about how to have your spouse served by visiting the Serving the Separation Answer & Counterclaim page.