Getting a "Legal Separation" / "Separate Maintenance" in Nevada

In Nevada, legal separation -- properly known as “separate maintenance” -- is an alternative to divorce. The court in a separate maintenance action can decide the same financial and family matters as in a Nevada divorce. These include:

To help you better understand legal separation / separate maintenance in Nevada, our Las Vegas family law attorneys discuss, below:

Separate 20maintenance 202

1. What is “separate maintenance” in Nevada?

Separate maintenance refers to a legal proceeding similar to a divorce. It allows a spouse to seek permanent child support and alimony without applying for a divorce.1

Some people refer to separate maintenance as a “legal separation.” However, Nevada law refers to the action as “separate maintenance.”

2. How is a legal separation different from a divorce in Nevada?

Unlike divorce or annulment, separate maintenance does not dissolve a Nevada marriage.

Although the spouses may live apart from one another, they remain legally married.

3. Why get a legal separation instead of a divorce?

Divorce and annulment terminate a marriage in the eyes of the law. Both decisions are permanent and cannot be undone (though a couple can always remarry).

But sometimes spouses who have broken up wish to remain legally married.

Reasons couples might desire a legal separation rather than a divorce include:

  • To keep health benefits or other insurance;
  • To remain entitled to federal survivor benefits under social security or the military;
  • Because the spouses practice a religion that forbids divorce;
  • So that the couple can file a joint tax return; or
  • Because the couple hopes they can patch up their differences.

4. When can a spouse bring an action for legal separation?

A spouse may bring an action for separate maintenance in Nevada if the spouses could get divorced.

Nevada is a no-fault divorce state. The most common reason for a divorce or legal separation is incompatibility of the spouses.

But a spouse can also sue for legal separation when:

  • The other spouse has been legally insane for at least 2 years;
  • The spouses have lived apart for at least 1 year; or 
  • The other spouse has deserted the spouse bringing the action and the desertion has continued for at least 90 days.2  
couple with pen and paper sitting behind judge's gavel

5. What rights can a court decide in a separate maintenance action?

The court may determine the same rights and obligations in a legal separation as in a Nevada divorce. These can include:

  • Child custody,
  • Child visitation rights, 
  • Child support, 
  • Spousal support (alimony), and
  • The distribution of property.3

The court may also order one spouse to pay:

  • Temporary alimony while the legal separation action is pending, and
  • The other spouse's costs of maintaining the action.4

The court may not, however, issue an order for support that is contrary to a valid Nevada premarital (prenuptial) agreement.5

6. Can a decree of separate maintenance be modified?

Just as with a divorce, a Nevada court may revoke or change a decree of separate maintenance.6

The most common reason for a changed order is that a spouse can no longer afford child support or alimony payments.

But the changed order will only apply to support payments not yet accrued. A spouse must pay any past due support amounts at the original rate.7

Otherwise, the decree expires on the death of either the husband or wife.

7. How does a spouse enforce a decree of legal separation?

A decree of separate maintenance is a legal judgment in Nevada. If either party breaks its terms, the other spouse can take that party to court to enforce it.

The court can hold the disobedient spouse in contempt and sentence him or her to jail until he / she agrees to comply with the order. The court's order can also be enforced by the seizure and sale of the spouse's property (other than veteran's disability benefits).

In Nevada, failure to pay child support can also be charged as a crime.

8. Why should I hire an attorney?

A separate maintenance decree has the same legal force as a divorce decree. It can permanently decide the division of marital property and determine a spouse's legal rights and obligations for years to come.

An experienced Las Vegas divorce lawyer can help you protect your rights. Your lawyer can also help you determine whether a legal separation is your best option.

Considering a legal separation in Las Vegas? Call us for help…

female receptionist

If you are thinking about a legal separation from your spouse, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation.

Our experienced Las Vegas divorce lawyers can help you determine whether a divorce, legal separation or annulment is your best bet.

We can also help you protect your rights and the rights of your children.

To schedule your FREE consultation call us at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673). Or complete the form on this page and a lawyer will contact you when it is most convenient for you.


Legal references:

  1. NRS 125.190.
  2. Same.
  3. NRS 125.210; NRS 125.230.
  4. NRS 125.200.
  5. NRS 125.200 (2); NRS 125.210 (3).
  6. NRS 125.270.
  7. Same.

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