This is the next post in a series of articles discussing obtaining an uncontested divorce in Las Vegas, Nevada. My previous post addressed situations in which parties to an uncontested divorce may find themselves back in Court, litigating issues that arise after the fact. In theory, couples who obtain an uncontested divorce should have agreed on the resolution of all open issues between them before availing themselves of the process. It is not uncommon, however, for future disputes to arise related to child custody, support, alimony, or other matters that may lead to litigation. In this article, I will address another issue that may lead to future litigation between spouses who have obtained an uncontested divorce: the failure to enforce their final decree. If you are considering a divorce and have questions about the process, contact my office today to speak with a lawyer.
When a divorce case is finalized in the Clark County Family Court, the Judge will enter a Decree of Divorce. In the context of an uncontested divorce, the Decree will reflect the agreement of the parties as to how property and assets are to be divided, child custody arrangements, spousal support, etc. Depending upon the circumstances, some Decrees direct the parties to take specific actions, such as refinancing debt, closing credit cards, or signing new deeds for property to remove one party from the title. If a person does not comply with the requirements set forth in their Decree, the other party may take legal action to enforce the terms. In some cases, the Court may hold the offending party in contempt and impose fines or other penalties including incarceration. Under Davidson v. Davidson, the Nevada Supreme Court held that requests to enforce Divorce Decrees must be filed no later than six years after the date the Decree was entered. Complaints made after the expiration of this time frame will not be recognized.
Couples who have cooperated in reaching an uncontested divorce settlement may not foresee a situation in which their counterpart would fail to comply with their Decree. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for this situation to occur with potentially disastrous results. Consider the following example. Jim and Pam file for an uncontested divorce. Their Decree allows Jim to keep their house, but he is required to refinance the mortgage within one year after their divorce is final to remove Pam from the loan obligation. Pam and Jim both move on with their lives and each remarries within a few years. Eight years after their divorce, Pam applies for a department store credit card and is surprised to find that her application is denied. She has always maintained a high credit score and is not behind on bills. She checks her credit report afterward and sees that her name is still associated with the home loan she co-signed with Jim years before and that Jim has missed the last six payments. She believes that this must be a mistake, but after investigating she learns that Jim never refinanced the mortgage loan and she is technically still liable for the payment. Because she failed to verify that Jim took the actions required in their Decree and did not seek to enforce the provision within six years, Pam may be prohibited from requesting enforcement through the Clark County Family Court.
I cannot overemphasize the importance of enforcing one’s Divorce Decree as soon as any noncompliance is discovered. Taking timely action can help ensure that your settlement terms are honored. If you need assistance, contact my office to speak with a Las Vegas family attorney.