The short answer, yes. Nevada prefers to award Joint Physical Custody. This means that Nevada believes it is in the best interest of the child to spend equal time with both parents, regardless of age. This is often surprising to Mothers. Clients often ask, “If I am breastfeeding, do I have to share custody with the father?” The answer again, is yes. There is no such thing as a “tender age” doctrine in Nevada. In other words, from birth, the state prefers both parents have equal time with the child.
As one judge put it to a very surprised mother, “You can pump and send bottles with dad.” While it may be hard to hear, you need to know ahead of time what to expect in a child custody case. If the other parent asks for Joint Physical Custody, the burden will fall on you to prove why that is not in the child’s best interest.
First, what constitutes “joint” custody? Joint custody does not have to be a solid 50/50 split of time between the parents, although it can be. Joint custody can be a little less than 50/50 and still be granted. In other words, there is a little wiggle room when it comes to the exact amount of time it takes to be considered joint.
Second, joint custody will not be awarded if the parents live in different states. Not even if one parent is in Nevada and the other is in California. You must live in the same state in order to have an award of joint physical custody. A crucial word of caution here – do NOT move out of state with the child without the other parent’s written consent or the court’s permission in an attempt to avoid joint custody. If you do, you can find yourself in a world of trouble.
Third, is it possible for a parent to get Primary Physical Custody at all? Absolutely. Primary Physical Custody is where the minor child spends more than 60% of the time living with one parent and the other parent will have regular visitation with the child. How is this type of custody awarded? On a case-by-case basis. The court will consider many factors when making the determination of what is in the best interest of the child, including things such as: which parent is more likely to allow the child to have a continuing relationship with the other parent and allow that child to have frequent associations with the other parent, the mental and physical health of each parent, whether domestic violence against the child or a sibling of the child has taken place, the physical and developmental needs of the child, the level of conflict between the parents, and the nature of the relationship of the child to each parent, just to name a few. If the parents are unable to agree on custody, the judge will order mediation in an attempt to help the parents come to an agreement. If no agreement is still made, the judge must set a trial to determine custody. While the judge can grant temporary orders while the case is proceeding, a judge cannot make a final order on a contested custody case without a trial per the NV Supreme Court.
Fourth, the child never gets to simply decide which parent to live with while the child is under 18. The judge may hold a child interview at the request of one parent, if the child is at least 14 (though in some cases the child may be a bit younger) to ask the child specific questions about the child’s relationship with each parent and the child’s preferences. While the judge can consider the child’s input, and this can have a great impact on the case, it is not the only deciding factor. A word of caution here – the judge’s pick up on when a child has been coached on what to say!
Finally, just because a parent works full-time does not mean they are not able to have joint custody. In fact, the judge will make it clear that both parents have a duty to support their child financially. The reality is that most parents do have to work full-time. While work schedules will be discussed in most every case, the court will not simply penalize (by taking away joint custody) from a parent who has a full-time job. Another common surprise amongst parents is when a judge explains during a divorce that just because you were a stay-at-home mom while married (or in the relationship) does not mean you may automatically continue to be after the divorce or split.
As you can imagine, custody laws are anything but simple. Particularly if you find yourself in a situation where you and the other parent are not on great terms. Representing yourself in a custody case is a scary road to travel. Often times mistakes are made that cannot be undone. Please give us a call today to discuss your specific case and let our Las Vegas child custody and Divorce attorneys help protect your parental rights. 702-515-1500
For more information about child custody in Nevada, click here: https://devine.legal/practice/child-custody/
5 Mistakes to avoid in a custody case: https://devine.legal/2023/02/5-mistakes-to-avoid-in-a-custody-case/
How does a parent lose his/her parental rights? Can a parent voluntarily terminate their rights? https://devine.legal/2022/01/termination-of-parental-rights-in-nevada/
Can I relocate out-of-state with my child? Do I need the other parent’s permission to relocate with my child? Relocation with Children – Devine Legal Group
How do I obtain a divorce in Nevada? https://devine.legal/practice/divorce-in-nevada/