The History of Divorce in Las Vegas

Driving around the southern edge and interior core of Las Vegas’ bustling downtown area, one will see dozens of wedding chapels. Our local casinos tout their wedding planning acumen, and licensed wedding officiants aplenty can be found in our fair city. Indeed, many famous weddings have taken place in Las Vegas, and thousands of couples each year either come to Las Vegas for the express purpose of tying the knot, or do so on a lark once they arrive here.
Yes, today, Las Vegas is known as the “Wedding Capital of America”, and rightly so. However, did you know that it was the other end of the marital timeline that originally brought thousands of people to Nevada? It’s true: beginning in the Great Depression and continuing at least until the 1970s or so, Nevada was actually the “Divorce Capital” of the United States.
Like many good stories (wink, nudge), this one begins with a piece of legislation. Specifically, in 1931, Nevada lawmakers reduced the residency requirement to obtain a divorce in our state from three months (which had already been reduced from six months a few years earlier) to only six short weeks — the shortest such requirement, by a large margin, in the whole country. Soon, so-called “divorce ranches” were popping up all over the Silver State, where soon-to-be divorcees could come stay (and perhaps play) for the required six weeks before obtaining a divorce here, and then go back to wherever they came from. By 1940, 1 of every 20 American divorces was being granted right here in Nevada, and there was 1 divorce lawyer per 200 residents up in Reno.
Today, with residency requirements for divorce in other states having largely caught up with our own, the divorce ranches are gone, and not too many people visit Nevada for the purpose of getting a divorce. However, Nevada’s once-trailblazing six-week residency requirement remains the law of our state, and a divorce can, in some circumstances, still be obtained relatively quickly here. At the Law Office of Sean D. Lyttle, we are prepared to assist you with your own Nevada divorce, whether it is a negotiated “quickie” divorce or a more protracted and complex dispute. Call us to schedule your free consultation.
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