Child custody battles are understandably infamous for being tense and emotionally charged. During custody hearings, the court can decide not only with whom a child lives, but also a parent's visitation rights and the process by which major decisions about the child's life will be made. It can be excruciating to imagine being separated from a child that you have helped to raise.
If couples who are getting divorced, separated, or simply splitting up can come to an agreement, they can decide their child's custody without the intervention of the court. One parent may decide to give primary custody of the child or children to the other, or the two may decide to an arrangement of joint custody. Sometimes, parents may agree to allow the children to decide with whom they live while maintaining joint custody. However, not every situation is so amiable.
When and How to File Custody Claims
If two parents cannot decide on the custody of a child, either parent will ask the court to issue orders. This is often done during a divorce or separation if the parties are married, but may also be done at any other time if a parent feels compelled to do so. The parent will file a complaint for either custody or paternity, depending on the situation. The complaint will describe what that parent, the plaintiff, wants for the child, and it will be sent to the other parent, the defendant, who will respond with what they want for the child. Both requests are reviewed by a judge, who will set hearings to evaluate the case. If necessary, the case will go to trial.
Filing for Custody in Nevada
In order to file for custody in the state of Nevada, certain conditions must be met. Nevada must be considered the child's “home state.” As a general rule, Nevada will qualify as a child's home state if they have been residing in the state with a parent for at least six consecutive months to the claim, or since birth, if they are younger than six months of age. There are, however, exceptions to this rule such as if a child has not lived in any state for six months or longer, or if another state believes that Nevada is a more appropriate place to hear the case. Other exceptions may apply, but it is best to consult with a Las Vegas Child Custody Attorney if you have questions involving the residency of your child.
If the two parents are married at the time of the hearing, joint custody of the child will be assumed as a starting point. However, if the two parties are not married, paternity must be established in order for any custody to be given to the father.
If the paternity is not contested, both parents can sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity, certifying that the man is the legal parent of the child. If the parents disagree on the paternity of the child or if it is in question, either parent may file a Complaint to Establish Paternity. The court may order DNA testing to confirm paternity, and may, in conjunction, assign child support payments and/or custody and visitation rights as part of the complaint.
Two Types of Custody
When the judge is determining who the child will spend most of their time with and how decisions about the child's life will be made, they will focus on the child's or children's best interest. This may mean taking into account the parents' respective histories of income and job security, criminal records, domestic abuse, relationships with siblings and other family members, and the previous involvement with the child or children, among many other factors. In Nevada, there are two kinds of custody that will be considered by the court.
Legal custody refers to the ability to make decisions about a child's education, healthcare, and religious upbringing. Joint legal custody is usually awarded to both parents unless there is convincing evidence that one parent is not fit to participate in decision-making regarding the child's life.
Physical custody refers to where the child will be living after the parents separate. There are three ways to divide the custody of the child in this case.
- Joint physical custody: each parent will have the child for at least 40% of the time, or 146 calendar days per year. This is the default custody awarded unless it is in the child's best interest to avoid or limit contact with one parent.
- Primary physical custody: one parent will be awarded the majority of the time with the child (over 60%), while the other parent will have visitation rights, determined by the judge.
- Sole physical custody: one parent has complete custody of the child 100% of the time with limited to no visitation rights awarded to the other parent. This kind of custody is only awarded in extreme situations.
Child support is ordered by the court to divide financial support of a child equally between his or her two parents. It means that one parent will contribute money to the other in order to help cover the costs of caring for and raising the child. In cases in which one parent has full custody of the child or children, the parent without custody will most likely pay child support. The amount of child support that a parent will have to pay will depend on what the parent's income is.
If both parents have joint custody, meaning that they share responsibility for the child or children, the parent with the higher income will most likely be ordered to pay child support to the parent with a lower income in order to provide their children with a similar standard of living between the two households. Child support in split custody situations (in which one child lives with one parent and another child lives with the other parent) is usually similar to joint custody.
Legal Guidance through Child Custody Disputes in Las Vegas, Nevada
The preceding information is only a brief overview of the many laws Nevada has pertaining to the custody of children. Anyone going through a difficult separation when there are children involved understands how painful it is to imagine having the access to your own children limited or cut off. Legal representation and mediation can improve the outcome of child custody disputes. At the Jacks Law Group, we are committed to finding tenable solutions to child custody disputes and can help our clients settle custody battles outside of court in order to improve the chance of successful co-parenting after a separation. For answers regarding any child custody concerns you may have, call us today at (702) 834-6300, or contact us online to get started.