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Nevada “Child Custody” Laws – Who Gets the Kids?

by Louise W. Rice
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There are just two aspects to consider when dealing with child custody in the state of Nevada: which biological parent gets physical custody of the child/children and which of them gets legal custody of the child/children? Both aspects are important and deal with very different matters and the biological parents can be granted a combination of one or other or both depending upon the individual circumstances.

Physical Custody

Physical custody is concerned with the living arrangements of the child – which of the parents they live with either some or all of the time. This can be shared between both parents on a percentage basis or custody allocated to just one of the parents as ‘sole custody’. When a parent is not granted physical custody regarding the living arrangements, they can still be granted shared legal custody along with the other parent.

The parent with sole custody is also legally permitted to claim (and is entitled to) child support from the other parent. There have been some cases where joint custody has been granted, and the parent earning the higher salary is still expected to pay child support to the lower-earning parent.

Legal Custody

Legal custody is concerned with the decisions which are made about the child throughout their childhood years. The expectation is that if a parent has physical custody they will almost definitely share legal custody. Legal custody can also be granted regardless of whether the parent has physical (living arrangements) custody or not.

Decisions about the child’s life that can be made by the legal custodian(s) include religious participation, medical treatment, and which school the child attends. This is by no means an exhaustive list of the decisions which would be made by the legal custodian, but just some examples. Many more decisions will be made on a day-to-day basis by the legal custodian, such decisions as made by parents worldwide on a daily basis.

How Physical and Legal Custody is Awarded in the State of Nevada

There are two ways in which custody of children is awarded to parents in Nevada. The first is by way of a mutual agreement between both biological parents. This makes it easier on the courts as, if there are no negative circumstances such as abuse, the decision is made without them.

The second is an award through the courts. Until the court decision is finalized, both parents share both physical custody and legal custody of the child/children. Provided each parent is keen to maintain an established relationship with the child, joint custody will likely be awarded to both parents.

According to a Las Vegas family law attorney, Nevada courts do not favor the mother over the father when determining who gets custody of the child/children. The best interests of the child are always taken into account during hearings.

Determining who gets custody – what factors are considered?

The judge has to consider many factors before making such a complex decision. He must determine whether there has been any former abuse or neglect of the child, whether there is any animosity between the two parents, and, ultimately, if the child is able to communicate it, the preference of the child.

Assessing the health of the relationship between the child and each parent, as well as hearing the child’s wishes will also be key within the hearing. The judge must also consider if siblings are involved and how contact will be maintained between them.

Sometimes, while the case is still being decided upon, the judge will issue a temporary child custody order. When the case hearing is finalized and a decision on custody is made, the order will become permanent.

Disputing the Custody Arrangements

Mediation is offered to parents who are locked in a dispute over the custody of the child or children. This is not optional – they must attend. If the parents cannot agree on the arrangements it will fall to the judge to make the binding decisions.

Finalizing Custody Agreements

Custody agreements can be contested but, ultimately, the judge’s decision is final. It is, therefore, important that the judge is in receipt of all information pertaining to the case and discretion is exercised. Following a divorce or separation, parents are expected to come to a formal child custody agreement.

The agreement not only decides upon legal and physical custody but the visitation of the absent parent as well as how child support will be paid. The role of the judge is to ensure conflict is minimal but the most important consideration will always be to find a solution that only accounts for the interests of the child or children.

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