What Is the Difference Between Physical Custody and Legal Custody in Nevada?

Legal issues relating to child custody can be difficult and emotionally distressing, whether they occur in a divorce or in a separate custody proceeding. In Nevada, part of the reason is the complexity of the laws that apply to custody determinations, including the distinction between physical custody and legal custody. Understanding the underlying legal principles may make it easier to navigate the custody process. Getting help from a custody lawyer is also essential to resolving child custody issues.

Nevada Statutory Policy on Custody of Children

Detailed statutory provisions govern child custody determinations in the State of Nevada. The courts apply and interpret those laws in deciding a custody case. If you reach a custody agreement with the other parent, the court reviews your agreement in light of those same legal standards.

At the beginning of the legislative Chapter on custody, the law declares the Nevada policy concerning child custody. The stated policy explains and determines all the statutory provisions that apply in child custody cases.

The policy furthered by the laws is to “ensure that minor children have frequent associations and a continuing relationship with both parents after the parents have ended their relationship, become separated or dissolved their marriage.” In addition, the state wants to encourage parents to share child rearing and the rights and responsibilities that are part of raising a child. Finally, a stated purpose of the law is to establish that both parents “have an equivalent duty to provide their minor children with necessary maintenance, health care, education and financial support.

The law provides that the “parent and child relationship extends equally to every child and to every parent, regardless of the marital status of the parents.” If a court has not made a ruling regarding the custody of a child, the law establishes that “each parent has joint legal custody and joint physical custody of the child until otherwise ordered by a court.” The provisions following this statement explain joint physical custody and joint legal custody.

Physical Custody

Physical custody refers to where a child resides, which is the traditional concept of child custody. It refers to which parent the child lives with, or the child’s physical location. Decisions on physical custody are made by Nevada courts under the statutory standard of what is in the best interests of the child.

Joint physical custody refers to a situation in which the child lives with each parent for at least 40% of the time. If a child lives with one parent for more than 60% of the time, that parent has primary physical custody of the child and is referred to as the custodial parent. If a child lives with one parent 100% of the time, that parent has sole physical custody of the child.

Since joint physical custody is the default under the law, it is usually preferred by the court, unless the best interests of the child support a different physical custody arrangement. In the case of primary physical custody or sole physical custody, the non-custodial parent has visitation rights with the child in most cases.

Legal Custody

Legal custody refers to the right of a parent to make important decisions affecting the child, including (but not limited to) issues relating to medical care, education, and religion. In most cases, courts consider it to be in the best interests of the child (the legal standard also used to make physical custody decisions) for the parents to have joint legal custody of a child, which means the parents share decision-making authority over the major decisions affecting the child.

In some circumstances, the court may determine that only one parent should have decision-making authority for the child. In that case, the court awards sole legal custody to only one of the parents. A parent with sole physical custody is likely to have sole legal custody as well.

In Nevada, joint legal custody is far more common than sole legal custody. Joint legal custody and sole legal custody are the only two types of legal custody in Nevada. Unlike physical custody, there is no such thing as “primary legal custody.” The terms of the custody agreement or court order define each parent’s role in the decision-making process.

How To Resolve Child Custody Issues

If you face legal issues relating to child custody, you should talk with an experienced custody attorney. The complex laws that apply make it virtually impossible to successfully represent yourself in a custody case, either during a divorce or in a separate custody proceeding.

At The Gersten Law Firm, your first consultation is free of charge and without any obligation. There is no reason to hesitate discussing your case and your concerns with us.

Schedule a Free Consultation with a Las Vegas Child Custody Lawyer

Las Vegas attorney Joseph Gersten assists clients with all family law matters, including child custody. He approaches every case with compassion and 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.

Categories: Nevada Family Law