When a married couple with children decide to end their relationship, they often face difficulty in resolving child custody issues in a Nevada divorce. Sometimes parents can resolve the issues and reach an agreement, which is subject to court approval and conformity with state law. If a parental agreement is not possible, the court decides matters based on the child’s best interests.
The residency requirement for filing for divorce in Nevada is six weeks. However, for a court to have jurisdiction over child custody matters, the child must reside in Nevada for at least six months prior to the divorce petition.
In child custody matters, Nevada statutes distinguish between legal custody and physical custody of a child. Legal custody concerns a parent’s right to make important decisions about matters relating to the child. Physical custody involves determining where the child lives. A parent can share legal custody, even if the other parent has sole physical custody of a child. Both types of custody, as well as child support, are addressed as part of the custody issues that must be resolved as part of a divorce.
In the absence of a custody order, both parents automatically have joint legal and physical custody of a child. Joint custody can be altered either by mutual agreement of the parents or by an order from the court that includes assignment of legal and physical custody between the parents. The primary determining factor in a custody case is what is in the best interests of the child.
The statutes include an extensive, non-exclusive list of factors for the court to take into account in making custody decisions. The factors include the child’s physical and emotional needs and relationship with each parent, as well as the history and level of conflict between the parents. The child’s wishes may be taken into account in appropriate circumstances.
Public policy in Nevada favors ensuring that children have a continuing relationship with both parents after a divorce. The state also encourages equivalent division of parental duties and rights with regard to raising a child. Calculation of child support will be based to a significant degree on the allocation of custody between the parents.
Nevada courts prefer that custody matters be resolved by the parents, rather than by the judge. If parents can reach a custody and visitation agreement, it must be in writing and signed by both parents. To fully protect their parental rights, each party should be represented by legal counsel, who can assist in negotiating the terms of the agreement and creating the written agreement. The court reviews the final agreement between the parents, to ensure that it takes into account the best interests of the child.
If parents cannot agree on custody issues, Clark County usually requires the parents to go through mediation to attempt to resolve the outstanding matters. Mediation sometimes succeeds in resolving outstanding custody and visitation differences, including allocation of legal and physical custody, visitation schedules, holiday and vacation sharing, and details relating to transportation and exchange of the child. If mediation is not successful, the court makes those determinations, based on the statutory provisions.
Whether the parents agree or the court decides custody matters, a court order relating to custody is a very serious matter that requires compliance by both parents. Both parents should recognize the potential ramifications of violating a custody order during the process that leads up to an agreement or court decision. Failure to follow the court order can have serious consequences, including criminal charges.
After the court issues a custody order, modification of the order requires another court proceeding. A parent may ask the court for modification of a custody order only in specific circumstances. Because of the limits on when modification is permitted, a parent going through a custody proceeding should be attentive to all the terms of a custody order. It is essential to carefully think through the future impact of each provision, since failure to abide by the order until modification can have adverse repercussions.
At The Gersten Law Firm, we assist clients with all family law matters, including divorce, child custody, and child support. Experienced Las Vegas family law attorney Joseph Gersten understands the sensitivity and emotional aspects of divorce and child custody for parents. He approaches every case with compassion and understanding, as well as dedication to protecting the interests and rights of the client.
The Gersten Law Firm does not charge for your initial consultation. We serve clients in Las Vegas, Henderson, and elsewhere in Clark County. Call us at 702.857.8777 or complete our online form to schedule an appointment.