Whether a couple is ending their marriage, their relationship, or are not together but have children, dealing with custody issues can often be time consuming, emotional and frustrating. While no parents want to spend time away from their child or children, having to share custody of children is a very real reality for those people who are not together and share children between them. When it comes to child custody cases in the state of Nevada, the family court system very much believes that the best interests of the child are the most important, and that is what its decisions are based on.
Best Interests of the Child Standard in Nevada
When parents come into court for help in deciding their custody issues, the court automatically takes a stance that the best interests of the child are the most important. Neither parent comes into the legal proceedings with more of a right to custody of the child than the other parent, and the judge will consider any and all factors that relate to the child’s well-being as well as the parenting skills and abilities of both parties seeking custody. Some of the decisions the judge must make are guided by state law, which generally falls into the following categories:
Child Custody Options in Nevada
Child custody in Nevada is recognized in two different parts – legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to a parent’s right and responsibility to make major decisions about the child’s wellbeing, including the child’s general welfare, health, education and possibly religious upbringing. Physical custody refers to which parent the child is physically residing with. Nevada state laws favors joint custody of both types whenever possible, unless there is some indication that having consistent contact with both parents is not in the best interests of the child involved.
When a judge makes a decision about custody, he or she can award joint legal custody but award primary custody of the child to only one parent – the child may have primary residence with one parent but also spend specified periods of time with the other parent. Parents are encouraged to come up with their own parenting plan, but should the parents be unable to come up with their own custody agreement, even with the help of counseling and mediation, it is then left up to the Nevada court system to make a decision in their child custody case based on the best interests of the child.
Safety of the Child
The physical safety of the child involved in the case is a very important factor for the judge to consider. In addition to making sure each parent’s home is suitable for a child to live in, the judge also looks for signs of abuse in both parents’ pasts. Should there be any instances of child abuse from either parent, signs of spousal or domestic abuse, or abuse of any other family member in the child’s household, it is possible for the judge to limit the time the child spends with this parent. This may result in that parent only being awarded supervised visitation with the children, which may be changed to unsupervised later on should it be determined the child is no longer in danger.
Emotional Needs of the Child
Some of the emotional factors that judge considers include the strength of the relationship between the child and each parent. Additionally, the ability of each parent to meet the emotional and developmental needs of the child is evaluated as well. Should a physical or mental health problem affect a parent’s ability to properly care for the child, the court takes the time to investigate these issues as well. Should multiple children be involved that are siblings, the court does its best to keep the children together and, should they be old enough and mature enough to make intelligent decisions, the judge may also ask for the children’s preferences.
Communication Skills and Co-Parenting
Nevada state law places a very strong emphasis on each parent’s ability to work together and foster a loving and positive relationship between the child and the other parent. Unless the court finds good reason for the child to not be in contact with a parent, the law requires that both parents support equal and consistent contact between the child and the other parent. When making a custody ruling, the judge also takes into consideration each parent’s willingness and ability to effectively communicate with one another and cooperate when it comes to raising their child.
Custody Modification in Nevada
There will likely come a time as the child grows older and the parents’ personal situations change that it may be necessary for changes to be made to the child custody agreement. Should both parents be able to come to an agreement about the proposed changes and the changes are deemed in the best interests of the child by the court, it is very possible for the parents to get their child custody modification approved with little to no effort on their part.
However, should one parent want to make a change to the child custody agreement and the other parent does not agree, they both have to appear in court in order to have the dispute settled. The parent who is making the modification request is tasked with handling the burden of proof as to why a change is necessary and needs to prove to the court that the changes they are proposing are in some way beneficial the child involved and is also within the best interests of the child.
Custody and Relocation in Nevada
Relocation requests are often tricky for Nevada judges to decide on, especially if one parent has primary physical custody of the child and wants to move and the other parent only has limited time with the children or visitation rights. Should there be a dispute among the parents about the relocation, it is again up to the court to decide if the relocation should be approved, and the burden of proving why the relocation is needed falls on the parent making the request.
Some of the reasons why a parent may want to relocate with his or her child include:
- Promotion or relocation through the parent’s employer
- Better job or income opportunities for the parent
- Better educational opportunities for the child
- Better social or community environment for the child
- Being closer to key family members or figures in the child’s life
When making a decision about whether or not to approve the relocation, the judge needs to look at a number of different factors. Some of these factors include, but are not limited to:
- The reasons given for why a relocation is needed by the requesting parent
- The reasons given for why the relocation should not be approved by the other parent
- The benefits the child will see from the relocation, such as better educational or social opportunities or better financial opportunities for the parent
- The relationship between the child and both the parents