Client Information - Frequently Asked Questions
My law practice is primarily devoted to two areas: personal
injury/accident law, and domestic relations/family law. I
rarely take cases outside of these areas, however, I do make
limited exceptions for cases where I feel I can be of a
unique and excellent service to a client in select matters
of criminal defense, civil rights, and real
estate/construction litigation. Here below, you will find my
answers to some of the most frequently asked questions I get
for the areas of law that I practice in. I hope you find
this information helpful and informative.
Family Law -
Personal Injury -
Criminal Law -
(click on above to jump to that section)
Relations & Family
QUESTION: What do I
need to get divorced in Nevada?
In order for a Nevada state
court to assert jurisdiction over the marriage to render a
divorce, either the husband or wife must be a current Nevada
resident (with the intent to continue to have Nevada as his
or her domicile for the indefinite future) and have lived in
Nevada continuously for the six weeks prior to the filing of
the divorce. Exceptions include active military service
members and annulments if you were married in Nevada.
QUESTION: How much
does a typical divorce cost and how long will it take?
Unfortunately, there is no
clear way to answer this question other than by saying, it
depends. As I always tell my prospective clients at the
start of representation, the expense and length of the
divorce process is a function of two factors: complexity and
acrimony. In other words, the gamut of cases can run from
highly complex divorce involving a variety of complicated
issues (such as: combined separate and community division
claims on personal and real property assets and/or business
valuations; alimony claims; retirement work-outs; and
contentious disputes over child custody, visitation
schedules and support) to relatively simple divorces
(wherein the parties do not have property or debts to
divide, or have already decided and agreed how to do so, and
have no children or support issues or claims).
Additionally, if one or both of the parties are harboring
unresolved and heavily negative emotional issues toward each
other, especially anger, then the existence of such acrimony
inevitably results in the divorce process taking longer and
being more expensive.
QUESTION: Do I need
to hire a lawyer for my divorce?
No one has to absolutely
hire an attorney to handle their
divorce, however, like any other situation involving
professional assistance not having an attorney on your side
in a divorce entails certain risks. Just as you might not
visit your physician to treat a minor cut, you would
certainly want to if facing a serious illness or injury. If
you consider that a divorce is typically the most serious
encounter an average person has with the legal system, then
it certainly makes sense to at least consult with an
attorney to discuss what is at stake and find out if you
really need one. In using another medical analogy, you
might not think a small infection is worthy of a visit to a
doctor, however, there is a possibility that the infection
is symptomatic of something far more serious that you don=t
have the experience or training to identify. From a legal
standpoint, a divorce in no different, and you should at
least pay for an initial consultation to find out if there
is anything you might be overlooking.
Frankly, I have made a lot
of money fixing problems created by parties attempting to
“do it themselves” and/or by using an unlicensed paralegal
who cannot nor has the training
to give legal advice. I would strongly encourage hiring an
attorney to represent your interests in a divorce under the
following circumstances: if the other party has retained an
attorney; if the marriage was for a long term and/or there
are significant assets in the marital estate, especially
real property or retirement accounts/pensions; if you are
completely at odds with the other party regarding custody,
visitation or support issues associated with the children of
the marriage; if there was or is any form of abuse present
in the relationship; if you are unable to deal with or
communicate with a dishonest, hostile or vindictive spouse;
or, if you suspect that your marital estate is being
undervalued, debts are overstated, or assets are being
QUESTION: What is
Mediation is an attempt to resolve your divorce
issues with dignity, compassion and understanding. The
parties with or without their attorneys meet with the
mediator for the purpose of engaging in discussions and
exchanging evidence in order to resolve their marital
property, custody and support differences. All efforts are
explored to settle all matters without going through the
court process. Once a settlement is reached there is no
need for the parties to appear in court and be subject to
the stress and related costs. The goal is for the parties
to reach and enter into a Marital Settlement Agreement.
QUESTION: How is the
amount of child support determined in Nevada?
As a general rule, the
amount of child support that a non-custodial parent will be
ordered to pay to the custodial parent is governed by a
statutorily defined percentage table of gross monthly income
(Nevada Revised Statute 125B.070). However, the law imposes
statutory caps on these percentages but also allows
deviation from the percentages and/or caps upon showing of
special circumstances. Additionally, the custodial status
also can have an influence on the amount of support,
especially if the court enters into what is called an
alimony (spousal support) be awarded to a party in a Nevada
Yes. For a variety of
historical reasons, Nevada courts have consistently, and
sometimes generously, awarded alimony as part of the
financial workout of the parties in divorce. In general, if
the parties have been married for a significant period of
time (over five years), and/or there is a fairly disparate
difference in the amount of income between the
parties, you should expect
alimony to be a major issue in the divorce. Additionally,
the law in Nevada is fairly non-specific as to whether
alimony should be awarded, and if so, how much alimony is to
be paid. This means that the trial (District) court has
a wide latitude of discretion on
the issue of alimony, and the court will take into
consideration many different factors in making those
understand that Nevada is a “community property” state.
What does this mean?
Nevada is one of only nine
states in the United States to be a community property
state; all the other states are considered equitable
distribution jurisdictions for purposes of dividing up the
marital estate at divorce. The difference is quite
important. In non-community property states, the relative
financial merits of the parties at the time of the divorce
define the parameters by which a court looks to in dividing
the marital estate. But in Nevada, all
the income earned and property acquired during the time of
the marriage (from date of solemnization to date of divorce
[not separation]) is presumed to belong to both spouses
“equally” (hence the term community). Therefore in a
Nevada divorce, the starting point is that any community
property will be divided equally as much as possible, unless
the Court finds compelling reasons the property should be
owned by a spouse before marriage, or acquired during the
marriage by gift, inheritance or personal injury recovery
for damages is considered “separate property,” and therefore
under normal circumstances would return to that spouse upon
divorce. However, like most things in the law nothing is
normal or simple about dividing property in a community
property state such as Nevada, and in almost all instances,
a variety of different factual circumstances often arise
during a marriage that has the effect of changing the
character and/or valuations of property making it hard to
define what is separate and what is community.
Nevada recognize and enforce pre‑nuptial agreements made
before the marriage?
Yes. Nevada has adopted
the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act which codifies the
requirements and formalities for a valid “pre-nup.”
A pre-nuptial agreement is essentially a contract, and
therefore, many of the issues regarding formation or
enforcement flow from contract law. As such, a pre-nuptial
agreement (or some of its terms) may or may not be upheld as
valid depending on a variety of legal considerations which
are often very complex. Because of the varying complexities
of premarital agreements, the creation of a pre-nuptial
agreement without the advice and assistance of knowledgeable
legal counsel is risky business.
QUESTION: How is
child custody determined by the Court?
The threshold standard the
Court must take into account is: what is in the best
interests of the child or children? A variety of different
factors are taken into account in making this determination,
some of which include but are not limited to: the stability
and environment of the respective households and/or parents;
issues of past parenting conduct; whether there was domestic
violence in the household; the respective financial means of
the parties; the desires of the child(ren),
if of sufficient age; and possible relocation issues.
Additionally, in some cases the Court may order the parents
to undergo independent evaluations in order to assist the
Court to make the custody determination, and the Court
frequently orders parties who cannot initially agree as to
custody to participate in mediation.
QUESTION: Can I just
use a divorce kits or preprinted forms that are available?
Family law is a complex
area of the law which is not well served by simplistic forms
that attempt to address all of the issues and areas
concerned. Additionally, courts typically do not inquire
into the fairness of the terms of any agreement presented to
it by non-represented parties. Choosing not to retain
counsel in a divorce can and does often result in one of the
parties losing important custodial and/or property interests
because most lay persons are not well versed in the nuances
of both the substantive and procedural law.
QUESTION: What is an
An annulment is a method of
voiding the contract of marriage. If an annulment is
granted, the result is that the parties are treated as if
the marriage never occurred. An annulment can only be
granted if the initial marriage contract suffers from a
specific defect in the formation as established by law.
Such defects include an underage party without parental
consent, a party lacking the mental capacity to understand
the marriage contract, or fraud in the inducement of the
Injury & Accident Law
QUESTION: I was hurt in an auto accident,
what should I do?
First, ensure that you and others are safe. Accident scenes can
be very dangerous, and you should make sure you are protected
from any further injury. Call 911 and describe your location
and the extent of your injuries. When medical personal arrive,
be very specific in describing your pain and its severity and
location, and provide as much detail about the accident to the
police as you can. Don’t make any statements to anyone else at
the accident scene except to the police and medical personnel
for them to do their job.
QUESTION: After the
accident, I was contacted by the insurance company, should I
talk to them?
you feel you have been injured significantly, you should contact
an personal injury attorney before talking to an insurance
company. There is usually no charge for an initial consultation
with an accident attorney, and our office is no exception to
that, so there is really no downside to talking to an attorney
first. Frequently in personal injury matters, an insurance
company representative will attempt to contact you early on in
order to get you to sign something that could very well prevent
you from getting fair compensation for your case later on.
Don’t sign anything until you have a chance to talk to us.
QUESTION: How do I
know if I have a case such that I should contact an attorney?
Generally speaking, if you have been injured (either physically
or emotionally) due to negligent or intentional acts of another,
you may have a personal injury case. If you have any question
as to whether or not you have a case, by all means call my
office and discuss the matter with me. If I think you might
have a case, then you can take full advantage of a free
consultation where I can more closely examine your situation and
advise you if you have a case and what you can do going
forward. The laws associated with personal injuries are
complex, so it is always a good idea to consult with an attorney
rather than trying to figure it out on your own.
QUESTION: How soon
should I contact you for an appointment?
First and foremost, you should always follow the advice of your
medical care provider. Take care of your medical needs first as
your health is the most important thing and legal concerns can
wait. That said, it is probably never too soon to contact an
injury attorney where the liability of others to you for the
harm done may exist. The main reason I practice in this area of
law is to help people, plain and simple. Therefore, I have no
hesitation in meeting with you at a hospital or your home, if
need be, in order to help you assess if you have some legal
rights and remedies to pursue, and if I am the right person to
help you with that. Additionally, personal injury cases have
statute of limitations attached to them, meaning that you only
have a certain amount of time in which to file your case, so you
should never wait too long to contact an attorney.
QUESTION: What does
Negligence is a legal term art associated with the failure to
use such care that a reasonably prudent and careful person would
use under the circumstances. This reasonable person standard is
a long-standing concept in Nevada tort (private or civil wrong
or injury) law. Generally speaking, if a person acted (or
failed to act) in a negligent manner, and that negligence caused
you harm (damages), the law provides for you remedies for that
negligent person to be held responsible for making you whole
QUESTION: What kinds
of damages are obtainable in personal injury cases?
There are generally two types of damages, compensatory damages
and punitive damages.
Compensatory damages are the
standard damages assigned to make‑up for injuries to the
plaintiff in a tort case. This amount can include compensation
for your physical and/or emotional pain and suffering, medical
bills, lost wages, future medical expenses, and legal fees.
Punitive damages are exemplary damages awarded over and above
compensatory damages as a way to punish a defendant in
aggravated circumstances such as intentional acts of harm or for
gross negligence on the part of the defendant in an injury
case. These damages are also made available “to set the
example” so as to deter others from committing such wrongful
acts in the future.
QUESTION: Is it
absolutely necessary for me to hire an attorney for my injury
is never absolutely necessary for you to hire an attorney,
however, if your case is either complex or your injuries
significant, you are much better served by having an attorney so
as to ensure you are fully and adequately compensated for your
damages. Accident and injury law in Nevada is highly complex,
and any injury case will typically have some difficult issue(s)
in any one of the following areas: state and/or federal rules of
procedure, statute of limitations, the law of negligence and
causation, contributory and/or comparative fault, damages,
insurance law, and subrogation rights and/or medical liens.
Furthermore, civil litigation requires a high degree of
knowledge, skill and experience to obtain the maximum recovery
your case deserves.
QUESTION: I have not
seen any television ads by your firm, you must not be a very
good personal injury attorney if you can’t afford all that
really. Many personal injury firms often operate on the margins
of being in the “business of law” as opposed to the “practice of
law.” Such businesses rely on maintaining a large volume of
injury cases generated by their mass advertising and handled by
lower paid and unlicensed staff. They then attempt to settle
their cases as quickly as possible so as to not incur the heavy
costs fighting with insurance companies or actually doing
substantive legal work. Such case management practices are
typically to the detriment of their injury clients as their
cases often settle for much less than the full value for what a
case might really be worth. I personally handle every case I
take, and every case I accept is undertaken with the
understanding that my client has entrusted in me to be the
caretaker for getting a recovery that is both fair and complete.
QUESTION: How much do
you charge; what are your fees?
Law Office of Roger R. Harada we offer free initial consultations to
discuss your injury case. During that consultation, I will explain
the details of how attorney’s fees and costs apply to your case,
however, generally all our personal injury and tort cases are
handled on a contingency fee basis. A contingency fee is a
percentage of the amount recovered on your behalf. Most often our
fee is one third of the amount we collect for you, however, this may
vary depending on the complexity of your case, the time involved, or
the likelihood of settlement or successful resolution short of
trial. The advantages to a contingency fee arrangement is that you
will not be required to pay any fees or costs up front or as the
case progresses, and I only get paid when and if you get paid. In
the unlikely event your case is unsuccessful, you will owe nothing
for your case to have been litigated.
I’ve been arrested, what should I do?
First and foremost..., don’t say a word! Law
enforcement officers are trained at eliciting incriminating
statements from people both before and after arrest. The best
thing you can do is say “I do not wish to say anything until I
speak with an attorney” and say it as often as you need to. If
you have been arrested, the arresting officer has already made a
judgment call that enough evidence exists (probable cause) such
that he/she can legally take you into custody. If you are
arrested on a warrant, a judge has already made a similar such
determination based upon an application by law enforcement.
Either way, anything you say can and will be used against you,
so you are best served by turning into a very quiet person if
you are arrested. Don’t even say anything to other inmates if
you can’t get out of jail quickly. You can give your identifying
information at booking, but that is it. Until you have a chance
to speak to your attorney, don’t say a word!
QUESTION: What if I cannot
afford an attorney, what are my options?
Anyone accused of committing a crime is entitled
to legal representation - even those who can’t afford it. This
right is guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the U.S.
Constitution and legal cases interpreting the same. If it is
established that you qualify for appointed counsel, a private
attorney or the Public Defenders Office will be appointed to
QUESTION: What is bail?
If you have been arrested, unless the crime is
very extreme you will be afforded the opportunity to “post
bail.” What this means is that you put up either cash or a bond
as part of your promise to show up for court at a later date in
order to be released from jail until then. If you don’t show up
for court at your next appearance date, that money or bond will
be forfeited and a warrant will be issued for your immediate
arrest. If you cannot afford to post bail, and you are not
otherwise released on your own recognizance (O/R), then you will
have to remain in jail until such time you can post bail, are
released on O/R, or your case finalizes.
QUESTION: What is plea
A plea bargain is an offer from the prosecution
to a person accused of a crime (also known as a “defendant”) to
accept a deal that typically would be better for the defendant
than if convicted straight up for the crime they are accused of
committing. In this type of deal, the defendant usually pleads
guilty (or no contest) in exchange for something such as a
reduced charge, consideration for lighter sentencing or
probation, or even an outright dismissal of the charge. The
reason why the prosecution may do this is usually to avoid
expending taxpayer money taking your case to trial while still
getting a conviction. Whether you should accept a plea bargain
should usually only be decided with the advice and counsel from
QUESTION: I have been
accused of committing a crime, can I defend myself in court?
You have a constitutional right to represent
yourself in a court of law (unless you are deemed to have
diminished mental capacity). This is something that is unique
about our legal system due to notions of access to justice. Of
course, there is a very common saying associated with this
practice and it is: “A person who represents himself in a court
of law has a fool for a client.” I always like to analogize the
practice of law to the practice of medicine, where in both
arenas there are varying degree of seriousness depending upon
the situation. A traffic ticket is much like a sliver or minor
cut, and you can easily take care of this yourself. A
misdemeanor crime is like a medical condition where you might at
least consult a professional to make sure it isn’t something
more serious. Lastly, a felony crime is like major surgery, and
in both of those situations too much is at stake to not have a
professional helping you. Hospitals do not let you operate on
yourself, but courts of law do, however, you can expect similar
QUESTION: What are civil
In American law, civil rights are enumerated personal
rights as guaranteed and protected by the U.S. Constitution
(including the Bill of Rights and other amendments) and other
specific federal or state laws. Generally speaking, civil rights
include, but are certainly not limited to: freedom of speech and
religion, the right to bear arms, the right to vote, due process
of law, equal protection of the laws, freedom from unreasonable
arrests or search and seizures, and protection from unlawful
QUESTION: How are my civil rights defined?
Civil rights are typically defined in two ways, by
statutory provisions passed by Congress and state legislatures
(statutory law), and through the rulings of courts, most notably
the U.S. Supreme Court (common law).
QUESTION: What are the most important federal statutory laws
regarding civil rights?
The most notable federal civil rights laws are: the
Civil Rights Act of 1964; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1968 (employment discrimination); Title VIII of the Civil Rights
Act of 1968 (housing discrimination); Section 1983 of Title 42
of the United States Code; the Americans with Disabilities Act
of 1990; and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.
QUESTION: What are the main issues which come up in civil
Just like normal civil torts litigation, there are two
main issues to a civil rights action: liability and damages.
Liability is the determination that someone committed a wrongful
act or omission upon another, and damages is how much should be
assessed to make the victim whole for the harm done. However,
other issues arise in civil rights cases that you don’t often
see in other normal civil actions. One is that civil rights
cases are also concerned with curbing future behavior, thus, if
an entity is sued other objectives could include obtaining
consent decrees or injunctions. Additionally, immunity issues
often arise in cases where the government or government
employees are being sued in the context of a claim of a civil
QUESTION: What kinds of acts or conduct give rise to civil
The most common civil rights cases usually arise out of
illegal discriminatory conduct or overreaching by a governmental
actor(s) such that civil rights are violated.
QUESTION: What is illegal discrimination?
Discrimination per se is not illegal. One can
discriminate, however, it is illegal to discriminate for a bad
reason. If the basis of discrimination is one based on race,
color, creed, religion, national origin, sex (gender), or
disability (or perceived disability) in the areas of public
accommodations, employment, education, housing, or voting, it
may be illegal. Additionally, if the basis of discrimination is
one based on familial status it may be illegal in the context of
housing, or if the basis of discrimination is one based on age
it may be illegal in the context of employment.
QUESTION: What is overreaching by a governmental actor mean?
The U.S. Constitution was crafted by our founding fathers to
be a document of two main purposes: one, to define the structure
and enumerated powers of our federal system of government, and
two, to define the limits of that government in its relationship
to its citizenry. As such, when a “state actor” does something
that adversely affects a citizen, and that adverse action is
proscribed by law (statutory or common), then the citizen may
have a cause of action in the nature of a civil rights action.
The most frequently litigated types of civil rights actions
against government actors are police misconduct cases (ie:
illegal arrests, excessive use of force, false evidence, etc.).
QUESTION: How do summary judgment issues affect civil rights
Due to how civil rights cases are litigated,
particularly in federal court, it is very common that no
settlement can be had in the case until the judge has had an
opportunity to rule on a motion for summary judgment. This
motion cannot be filed by the defense until after completion of
the discovery process, which takes at a minimum several months
and can sometimes take a year or more. Furthermore, the law
generally is not as plaintiff oriented as people might be led to
think from watching TV, so it is not unusual that more summary
judgment motions are granted for the defendants than not. The
combination of these things make civil rights cases very
difficult to prosecute, and any good civil rights lawyer tends
to be very selective about what cases they choose to take on.
Since not very many attorneys practice in the area of civil
rights, finding an attorney to take a civil rights case can
often be challenging.
For more information on legal
issues please check out my Blog