RENO — When Jim Gibbons, the Republican governor of Nevada, divorced his wife recently, it was a classic illustration of what has made Reno into America’s “Divorce Capital”.
A law that passed in the Nevada legislature nearly 80 years ago has since assured that the state’s waiting period of six weeks would be the shortest in the United States. Another law that went through in the same session gave one party in a divorce the right to seal the divorce records from the public. The latter law was a result of a bill by State Senator Harry Heidtman, who drafted it in 1931.
Gibbons filed for divorce from wife Dawn Gibbons on May 2, citing grounds of incompatibility based on an unpublicized occurrence. Mrs. Gibbons, 54, is a former Assemblywoman, and they had been married for 22 years. She has accused Gibbons of having an affair with a doctor’s wife in Reno, and The Associated Press reported on June 10 that Gibbons had sent no less than 860 text messages to the woman within a month in March-April 2007. He claims that she is just a friend.
On May 5, after a privacy request from Gibbons, District Judge Bill Maddox ruled in favor of keeping the process private and sealing the legal records, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal; pending the outcome of negotiations, the divorce proceedings are currently on hold.
But the attorney representing Mrs. Gibbons, Cal Dunlap, is challenging the secrecy law. Dunlap filed a request to conduct the divorce in public on May 28. He claims that the sealing of divorce documents should be declared unconstitutional when a judge applies it to public officials such as a governor, the Review-Journal has reported.
Since it first passed, the law states that a divorce court must seal the records of a case and hold the proceedings privately “upon demand of either party”.
The ease of divorce in Nevada since the 1930s has attracted countless people — including the wives of Clark Gable and Nelson Rockefeller, as well as celebrities themselves — who have made the trip to the Washoe County Courthouse in Reno for fast and private splits. The state had only 91,000 residents at the time the liberal divorce laws came into effect, but the laws helped Nevada grow into a major tourist destination, especially Las Vegas. “It was an economic issue. They wanted to find a way to attract people here [in Nevada] to spend money,” Phil Earl, a retired historian, recently told the Review-Journal.
Gibbons, 63, assumed office as the Nevada governor on January 1, 2007. He has also served in the United States House of Representatives from 1997 to 2006. This was his second marriage. He and Mrs. Gibbons have a 20-year-old son, and he has two adult children from his first marriage.
Divorce in your area may not be as easy as in Reno, but there are ways to speed up the process and lessen the stress. Click here for an article about basic principles in divorce law.
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