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How to File a Motion in Family Court

Being involved in a family court proceeding can be emotional, time-consuming, and frustrating. 

The judge, your ex, and even your family court attorney may throw around terms you don’t understand. This inconvenience can make getting divorced or fighting for child custody even more frustrating. 

After all, if your ex isn’t being fair with custody or alimony, the judge should do something. 

But the reality is that the judge doesn’t know something is wrong with your case until you tell them. And you can’t call the judge on the phone and ask him to fix the issues with your ex. That’s where family court motion practice comes in. 

In this ultimate guide, we break down the basics of the family court motion. We also explain what you need to include in your motion and give you tips for winning your hearing. 

Keep reading to learn more. 

The Ultimate Guide to Filing a Motion in Your Family Court Case

What is a Motion?

A motion is you notifying the judge of a problem in your case and asking for a court-ordered solution. Your motion will need to be in writing because you can’t call the judge and ask for an answer. 

 

What Can I Ask the Judge for in My Motion?

You could ask the judge for anything in your motion. But, since this guide deals with family court motions, we’ll deal with problems you have with your ex. 

If the case is brand new, you could ask for immediate solutions to your problems like:

  • establishing a temporary custody or visitation schedule, 
  • setting alimony, 
  • ordering your marital home to get listed for sale, 
  • asking to enforce a restraining order, 
  • or having your ex pay for your attorney fees.

For closed cases where your ex isn’t following the orders, or if there is a new problem with your ex, you could ask the judge:

  • to change the orders like modifying your custody schedule, 
  • increasing or decreasing a child support or alimony award, 
  • getting a passport for your child,
  • or order that assets get sold to pay a past judgment. 

 

CAUTION: Before You File, You MUST First Try to Resolve Issues with Your Ex

Yes, this means you have to communicate with your ex before a motion gets filed. It does not mean that you have to have a sit-down conversation or even a phone call. 

A simple text pointing out the issue and asking for a resolution could be enough to get you past this rule. 

Whichever way you do it, you must make a good faith effort to resolve it before filing a motion. 

If you can’t resolve the issue, or your ex won’t talk to you, you must explain these facts to the judge. This includes your efforts to resolve the case and why you believe the case could not settle. Your reason could be as simple as “I sent an email to my ex asking to change the custody schedule, but she ignored it.”

Resolve Issues
CAUTION: Before You File, You MUST First Try to Resolve Issues with Your Ex

Drafting Your Motion

Now it is time to write up the motion. 

If you are filing the motion yourself, you may consider using the Self Help Forms from the Court. These include detailed instructions of what to have in the motion.

If you want to write your motion yourself, you need to verify the format meets the Court’s requirements. 

There are four parts to a motion filed in family court, and each gets discussed below.

 

1. The Caption of Your Motion

Believe it or not, the way your motion gets captioned is significant. 

You need to include the correct motion code in the upper left corner of the motion below that you should have your name, address, email, and phone number. 

Next, you have the Court Caption. This area identifies the Court you are filing in, i.e., family court.

Next, you will identify the parties to the case, case number, and department. These are pretty self-explanatory, and I have included a sample below. 

You will also need to tell the Court if you want to explain your motion. This type of thing gets referred to as an oral argument. Also, if you want the judge to decide based on the motion you filed. This action gets called a “in chambers” hearing. 

After this, a required statement informs your ex they need to respond within 14 days. 

Last is the name of the Motion. The name of the motion should explain to the judge fast what you want him to do. 

For example:

  • “Motion to List Marital Home for Sale” 
  • “Motion to Change Custody” 
  • “Motion to Decrease Alimony.” 

 

Here’s a sample caption:

MOT

JANE DOE

123 Main Street

Las Vegas, Nevada 89101

Email: [email protected]

Phone: (702) 123-1234

DISTRICT COURT, FAMILY DIVISION

CLARK COUNTY, NEVADA

JANE DOE, 

 Plaintiff

V.

JOHN SMITH, 

 Defendant

Case No: D-22-000001-D

Dept No: 1

ORAL ARGUMENT REQUESTED: YES

NOTICE: YOU ARE REQUIRED TO FILE A WRITTEN RESPONSE TO THIS MOTION WITH TE CLERK OF THE COURT AND PROVIDE THE UNDERSIGNED WITH A COPY OF YOUR RESPONSE WITHIN FOURTEEN (14) DAYS OF YOUR RECEIPT OF THIS MOTION. FAILURE TO FILE A WRITTEN RESPONSE WITH THE CLERK OF THE COURT WITHIN FOURTEEN (14) DAYS OF YOUR RECEIPT OF THIS MOTION MAY RESULT IN THE REQUESTED RELIEF BEING GRANTED BY THE COURT WITHOUT HEARING PRIOR TO THE SCHEDULED HEARING

PLAINTIFF JANE DOE’S MOTION TO HAVE THE MARITAL RESIDENCE SOLD, TO INCREASE ALIMONY, AND CHANGE CHILD CUSTODY

Drafting Your Motion
If you want to write your motion yourself, you need to verify the format meets the Court's requirements.

2. Statement of Facts

With the Motion’s first page set up, you are ready to explain your side of the story to the judge. This part happens in your statement of facts section. 

Your first paragraph should include your full name and your ex’s full name. It should also include your children’s full name and their dates of birth. 

If you are going through a divorce, include your date of marriage. That way, the judge can refer to this paragraph at a glance for basic information. 

The following paragraph or two should explain what is happening that has led you to file your motion. 

Be brief.

For example, if your ex isn’t letting you see your children, you should explain:

  • when it started, 
  • what you and your ex were doing before your ex started withholding the children, 
  • and why you believe your ex isn’t letting you see the children.

You want to give the judge a sense of what has caused you to get the court involved. 

The following paragraph should explain your efforts to settle this case with your ex. If you have called, texted, and emailed, include the specific days and times you reached out. You should also explain your ex’s response to your requests to settle. 

Your last paragraph should outline what you want the judge to do. Tell the judge you wish to get alimony and the amount you ask for alimony. If you want the judge to order a custody schedule, explain the specific plan you want. 


3. Legal Argument

Include a section in your motion called Legal Argument after your statement of facts. 

This section is where the law gets placed into the Motion, and your legal analysis gets done. For this, you will see a section for each request for relief. 

So, if you ask for a custody schedule and child support, include two legal argument sections—one for custody and one for child support. 

You will need to include the law for each section in your legal argument part. Looking up the law on the internet or using the Self Help website can help you. 

Finally, you will need to tie your facts (the ones you wrote in the statement of facts) to the law. 

For example, if your ex refuses to allow you to see the kids, you might want to cite NRS 125C. Say, “the law recommends joint custody, and by my ex denying me visitation, my rights under the law are getting denied.” 


4. Conclusion

After the legal argument section, you will want to include a conclusion. Usually, the conclusion sections of family court motions are brief. 

We write something like:

“For the reasons set forth above, Jane Doe’s Motion should get granted in its entirety.” 

If the motion asks for several different things, sometimes we will write out what we want the judge to do. 

We may write something like:

“To reiterate, Jane Doe asks that this Court award temporary alimony of $1,000 per month, order that the marital home get listed for sale, and award her vehicle to her.”

practice pointer
Practice pointer: Motions in family court get limited to thirty (30) pages. If you need to file a motion longer than 30 pages, you must get the judge's approval. Keep in mind thirty pages is usually more than enough.

5. Exhibits to your motion

You have the opportunity to provide documents to the judge to support your arguments. These documents get referred to as exhibits. 

Exhibits must get filed apart from the motion. You should include a cover page with your caption and list the exhibits. For example, an exhibit cover page might look like this:

EXH

JANE DOE

123 Main Street

Las Vegas, Nevada 89101

Email: [email protected]

Phone: (702) 123-1234

DISTRICT COURT, FAMILY DIVISION

CLARK COUNTY, NEVADA

JANE DOE, 

 Plaintiff

V.

JOHN SMITH, 

 Defendant

Case No: D-22-000001-D

Dept No: 1

ORAL ARGUMENT REQUESTED: YES

JANE DOE’S EXHIBITS IN SUPPORT OF MOTION

Exhibit 1: Text Messages

 Exhibit 2: Emails

 Exhibit 3: Photographs

 Exhibit 4: Receipts

Ensure that you paginate each exhibit and include a page that separates the exhibits. 

Now that you have drafted your motion and organized your exhibits, you still have to file them.

 

How to File Your Family Court Motion

First, your Motion needs a Motion and Opposition Fee Sheet. You can get this form from the Self Help Center. This form gets attached to the end of your motion. It identifies what, if any, monies you must pay the Court for the filing.

Odyssey file and serve is the system in which the Motion will get uploaded for filing with the Court. You can either log into the system from home or take your paperwork to the Family Court to get filed.

Next, you must notify the opposing party that you have filed a motion. If the opposing party is representing themselves and not registered for Electronic Service, the Motion will have to be mailed, and a Certificate of Mailing will have to be filed with the court. 

If counsel or the opposing party represents the opposing party gets registered for electronic service. In that case, the Odyssey filing system has a service mechanism that can send the motion to them electronically. If this gets used, you still need to file a stand-alone certificate of Electronic Service. 

 

A Final Word About Financial Disclosure Forms

Chances are pretty good you will need to file a financial disclosure form.

This fact is especially true if your motion involves money, such as:

  • alimony, 
  • child support, 
  • dividing a bank account, 
  • or even a request for attorney’s fees. 


If so, you must file a financial disclosure form. 

You must also file your financial disclosure within three days of filing your motion. Your financial disclosure form should include a copy of your last three paystubs. 

If nothing has changed in your financial condition AND you have filed a financial disclosure form in the preceding six months, you can write in your motion that nothing has changed in your financial situation. This move is enough to keep you from having to file a new financial disclosure form. 

We hope this guide has been helpful. If you or someone you know needs help with a family court motion, feel free to give us a call. 

We can help.