For a Nevada court to create child custody and visitation orders, Nevada must be the “home state” of the children. That means the children must have lived in Nevada for six months (or since birth if the child is not yet six months old) before filing the case.
This is just one of several essential pieces of information you’ll need to know if you’re gearing up for a child custody battle in Nevada.
You can get complete information on child custody and visitation laws in the Nevada Revised Statutes, Title 11-Domestic Relations, Chapter 125, Dissolution of Marriage. A better place to start is by reviewing the information we’ve assembled below. It answers many questions you’re sure to have as you go through the process.
- What are the Types of Child Custody in Nevada?
- How is Custody Determined in Nevada?
- What is a Guardian ad Litem/Custody Evaluator?
- What Does “The Best Interests of the Child” Mean?
- What is a Parenting Plan?
- Can You Modify Child Custody in Nevada?
- Nevada Child Custody FAQs
What are the Types of Child Custody in Nevada?
There are two types of child custody in Nevada.
Legal custody is a parent’s legal right to participate in the child’s major life decisions.
In Nevada, joint legal custody is “presumed” to be in the child’s best interest, and court will adopt this as the default unless a party “rebuts” it with “clear and convincing evidence.”
Unless one party can prove the other is an unfit parent and incapable of adequately participating in decisions for their child, both parents will end up with joint legal custody.
Joint legal custody standards include:
- Neither parent shall do anything to estrange the children from the other parent or impair the natural development of the children’s love and respect for each of the parents. A parent may also not disparage the other parent or undermine the parental authority or discipline of the other’s household. Each parent must instruct their family and friends that no disparaging remarks should be made regarding the other parent in the children’s presence.
- Neither parent will use contact with the children as a means of obtaining information about the other parent.
- The parents shall consult and cooperate in substantial questions about religious upbringing, educational programs, significant changes in a social environment, and children’s health care.
- The parents shall have access to medical and school records about the children and will jointly consult, when possible, with any professionals involved with the children. All schools, health care providers, daycare providers, and counselors will be selected by the parties jointly when possible.
- Each parent can obtain emergency health care for the children without the other parent’s consent.
- Each parent shall notify the other parent as soon as reasonably possible of any illness requiring medical attention or emergency involving the children.
- Each parent will provide the other parent with information concerning the well-being of the children, including things such as copies of report cards; school meeting notices; vacation schedules; class programs; requests for conferences; results of standardized or diagnostic tests; notice of activities involving the children; samples of school work; order forms for school pictures; and all communications from health care providers.
- The parents will exchange the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all schools, health care providers, regular daycare providers, and counselors who have contact with their children.
- Each parent will provide the other parent with information concerning school, athletics, church, and social events. Both parents may participate in activities for the children, such as an open house, attending athletic events, etc.
- Each parent will provide the other parent with the address and telephone number where the children reside and shall give the other parent within five days before any change of address and provide the telephone number as soon as it is assigned.
- Each parent is entitled to reasonable telephone communication with the children.
Physical custody is the equivalent of a parenting plan. It considers the practical realities the parents face in how and when they can care for their children. Deciding physical custody entails figuring out work schedule accommodations.
The courts believe that the stability of the child’s circumstances is critical, so the court will do all it can to maintain the status quo. The court will look at various factors in determining what physical custodial arrangement is best.
There are three different types of physical custody a judge can order:
- Joint Physical Custody: This usually means that each parent has the children at least 40% of the time. This amounts to at least 146 days per calendar year. Parents automatically have joint physical custody rights to a minor child unless family courts order otherwise, and judges must generally award joint physical custody to both parents unless exceptions apply.
- Primary Physical Custody: This usually means that one parent has the children more than 60% of the year. The other parent will have “parenting time” or “visitation.”
- Sole Physical Custody: One parent has the children 100% of the time, and the other has no visitation or minimal visitation. This is not ordered very often but may take place when domestic violence or substance abuse is present.
If the parents cannot agree, the judge will set a trial and decide custody based on the “best interest of the child.”
How is Custody Determined in Nevada?
Under Nevada child custody laws, the court presumes the parties will share “Joint Legal Custody” over the minor children unless one parent is proven unfit. Joint custody does not necessarily mean the parents must divide their time with the child equally, but it does indicate that the child shall have ample time with both parents.
Judges have the final say in custody matters and have complete discretion to decide what custody arrangement works best on a case-by-case basis.
When a man and woman are married and have a child, the husband is presumed to be the child’s father. When an unmarried couple has a child, paternity is established in one of the following ways:
- Sign a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity. If a mother and father agree that the man is the child’s legal father, they can sign a Declaration of Paternity. This is usually done at the hospital when the child is born or later at the Office of Vital Records or the Southern Nevada Health District.
- File at a Child Support Office. A Nevada Child Support Office can file a case to establish paternity and child support at no cost to either party.
- File a Complaint to Establish Custody / Paternity. Parents can file a case with the court to establish paternity. The judge can determine paternity based on DNA testing or other Nevada statute presumptions.
In same-sex child custody situations, the Nevada Supreme Court has held that same-sex parents can have an enforceable parent/child relationship.
Temporary orders can be issued while a divorce is pending to provide parties rights and obligations until a final custody order is put in place.
Read More: How to File For a Divorce in Nevada
What is a Guardian ad Litem/Custody Evaluator?
A guardian ad Litem is a court-appointed attorney representing only a child’s interests in a custody case. They do not take into account the needs or interests of the parents. They have full powers to investigate and report to the court any issues that may impact the child’s best interest.
What if domestic violence is a factor in my Nevada custody case?
Nevada courts presume it is not in the child’s best interests for a parent to have sole custody or joint custody of the child if that has committed an act of domestic violence against the child, the other parent, or any other person in the child’s home.
Special provisions are made to protect the child from parents who are abusive, violent, have substance abuse problems, have abducted or attempted to abduct the child, have committed and been convicted of violent or certain sexual crimes, or exhibit any behavior that could prove to be detrimental to the child.
Visitation in these cases may be limited, supervised, or denied by the court, depending on the unique circumstances.
How do child custody and child support issues work as part of a divorce decree?
If the parents share joint physical custody, the court will calculate child support for both parents based on a percentage of the parent’s “gross monthly income.” Gross monthly income includes pre-tax income from all sources, including employment, tips, overtime, unemployment, and retirement. Each parent will have to provide the judge and the other parent with a financial statement, paystubs, and possibly prior tax returns so each parent’s income can be determined.
Then, the court will subtract the lower amount from the higher amount, and the parent with the higher income pays the difference.
If one parent has sole or primary physical custody, the other parent will pay the following in child support:
- 1 child = 16% of income
- 2 children = 22% of income
- 3 children = 26% of income
- 4 children = 28% of income
For each additional child, add 2% of the payor’s income.
The judge must order one or both parents to provide health insurance for the children. The cost of any insurance premiums may affect the total amount of child support paid. Unreimbursed medical expenses (i.e., copays and fees not covered by insurance) are typically paid equally by both parents.
Read More: Everything You Need to Know About Alimony
What about mediation?
Parents who cannot reach an agreement on child custody must attend mediation. In mediation, a court-appointed neutral third party will help the parents work through issues preventing an agreed-upon parenting plan from being executed.
Going through mediation gives parents more control over the custody process. However, if parents can strike an agreement, that duty will fall to a judge who will create a binding agreement that each parent must follow.
What Does “The Best Interests of the Child” Mean?
The court’s sole consideration is the child’s best interest when determining child custody in Nevada. You need to know and consider the factors and circumstances the court uses to get to this best interest standard.
The court considers all relevant factors, many of which include:
- The wishes of the child provided the child is of a sufficient age and maturity level to state a preference
- The custodial preferences of the parents
- Which parent is more likely to permit the child to have a continued relationship with the other parent
- Whether or not the parents are hostile or combative with each other
- The ability of the parents to work together to meet the needs of the child
- The physical and mental health of each parent
- The child’s physical, developmental, and emotional needs
- The existing relationships the child has with each parent and the nature of these relationships
- The need to maintain a relationship with any siblings the child might have.
- Whether or not there is any evidenced history of parental abuse or neglect committed on the child or a sibling of the child
- Whether or not there is evidence of any domestic violence against the child, a parent of the child, or any person residing in the child’s home, committed by a parent seeking custody
- Whether or not either parent seeking custody has committed an act of child abduction against the child
- Any other factors the court deems relevant.
What is a Parenting Plan?
A parenting plan is a detailed set of rules and agreements that govern how you and your spouse will act as parents in a custody situation. Essential components of parenting plans can include:
- What type of custody the parents will have
- Whether or not one parent’s home shall be designated as the child’s primary residence
- A child visitation schedule that includes a regular residential schedule and a schedule for holidays and vacations
- Detailed powers of both parents regarding major decisions, such as the child’s education, healthcare, religious upbringing
- Custody dispute resolution processes for future disagreements
- Provisions to modify the parenting plan as the needs of the child change
- Conditions for transportation between exchanges, such as the location of the exchanges, who will transport the child (and when), and who will be financially responsible for the transport
- Telephone and electronic communications parameters between each parent and the child
- Whether or not one or both of the parents is permitted to remove the child from the area or state, and what those stipulations are, such as who will pay for the additional expense if the move is farther away
- A right of first refusal clause that requires a parent to offer the other the opportunity to spend time with the child prior to calling a babysitter or other caregiver
Careful thought and consideration should be excised when developing the parenting plan because it will become a binding contract after the court accepts it.
You can create your own parenting plan or work with an attorney to have them create a plan for you.
Can you Modify Child Custody in Nevada?
Child custody and visitation orders can be modified at any time until the child is emancipated. Modifications are also based on the child’s best interests, so any change is based on similar factors in the original order. You must prove that one of the factors changed or that circumstances changed to justify a modification. For example, perhaps the parent has to move out of state because of an employment change, or a parent has become disabled, and the current plan would pose a significant hardship.
If both parents agree to the modification, it usually makes things easier. But the final decision as to whether or not to grant the request rests with the court.
Nevada Child Custody FAQs
Does New York favor mothers over fathers in Nevada child custody cases?
Judges may not favor a mother over a father when making a custody determination in Nevada. The best interests of the child are the only thing that matters.
What are the rules about moving a child to another part of Nevada or out of state?
A parent who wants to move to another part of Nevada or out of state must seek the other parent’s consent. If the parent denies consent, the custodial parent must get a court order permitting the relocation.
Attempts to move with the child absent consent or court order could be considered grounds for a violation of the custody order and may result in a change of the custody arrangement.
Factors that a relocating parent must demonstrate to the court are
- There exists a sensible, good-faith reason for the move
- The move is not intended to deprive the non-relocating parent of their parenting time
- The best interests of the child are served by allowing the relocating parent to relocate with the child
- The child and the relocating parent will benefit from an actual advantage as a result of the relocation
If a relocating parent demonstrates each of those factors, the court must then weigh the following factors and the impacts on each party:
- The extent to which the relocation is likely to improve the quality of life for the child and the relocating parent
- Whether the motives of the relocating parent are honorable and not designed to frustrate or defeat any visitation rights accorded to the non-relocating parent
- Whether the relocating parent will comply with any substitute visitation orders issued by the court if permission to relocate is granted
- Whether the motives of the non-relocating parent are honorable in resisting the petition for permission to relocate. This may also include to what extent any opposition to the petition for permission to relocate is intended to secure a financial advantage in the form of ongoing support obligations or otherwise
- Whether there will be a realistic opportunity for the non-relocating parent to maintain a visitation schedule that will adequately foster and preserve the parental relationship between the child and the non-relocating parent if permission to relocate is granted
- Any other factor necessary to assist the court in determining whether to grant permission to relocate.
Does a child have a say in custody matters?
It depends on the child’s age and maturity level. Generally, the older a child is, the greater say they’ll have in a custody preference.
Despite what a child wants, courts always put the child’s best interests first when deciding.
What are grandparents’ custody and visitation rights?
Grandparents and other third parties can petition for custody and visitation rights.
Nevada has adopted the “parental preference” doctrine, which presumptively favors a natural parent, even if a “better” placement for the child or children arguably exists. However, other options may be preferable if a child is at risk in any way, perhaps due to domestic violence or substance abuse.