What is more important in life than your children? The answer is almost always: nothing, and rightfully so. As you proceed with your Las Vegas divorce, child custody can become the most important aspect of your divorce case. How child custody is resolved will have a significant impact on your life, and on the lives of your children. Since there are such emotional and life-altering decisions involved in determining child custody in a Las Vegas divorce, it is important to hire an experienced and knowledgeable child custody attorney who has helped many clients through the difficult process of a child custody dispute.
In every custody case, there are two types of custody that the court must determine, “legal custody” and “physical custody”. The sole consideration of the court in a child custody case is “the best interest of the child.” Until there has been a custody determination by the court, the parents will share joint legal and joint physical custody of the children.
Legal custody involves making major decisions regarding the children including their religious upbringing, educational programs, social environment, health care, medical records, school records, notice requirements for travel with the children, communication with the children while in the other parent’s care, and extracurricular activities, among other issues. There are rare cases where a court awards one parent sole legal custody, allowing that parent to make all decisions without input from the other parent. However, almost always, the court awards the parents joint legal custody where both parents have to agree on these major decisions; when they cannot, the parents come to court on an equal footing to have the court decide what is in the children’s best interests. Joint legal custody is actually presumed under Nevada law if the parents agree, or if a parent has demonstrated an intent (even if that intent is frustrated by the other parent) to establish a meaningful relationship with the children.
Physical custody is where the children physically spend their time when in the care of a parent. While residing with a parent, that parent provides supervision for the children and makes the daily decisions regarding the children’s care. The court can award one parent sole physical custody where the other parent has no visitation whatsoever or only limited supervised visitation, but those cases are very rare and usually only in extreme circumstances such as abuse or neglect of the children, severe drug use by the parent, child endangerment, etc. The court may also award one parent primary physical custody of the children where they will reside with one parent 220 days, or more, per year and the other parent will have visitation with children for 145 days, or less, per year. Finally, the court can award the parents joint physical custody, where the children will spend at least 146 days, or more, per year with one parent and 219 days, or less, per year with the other parent. Recently, however, there has been a substantial change in Nevada’s custody laws that make joint physical custody much more likely to be awarded; indeed, it is now preferred.
In 2015, Nevada law changed such that there is now a preference that joint physical custody of the children be awarded if the parents agree, or if the parent has demonstrated an intent (even if that intent is frustrated by the other parent) to establish a meaningful relationship with the children. While not a presumption like joint legal custody, the preference still carries tremendous weight with the court. It does not mean, however, that one party cannot be awarded primary, or sole, physical custody of the children if the court determines that joint physical custody of the children is not in the best interests of the children.
Best Interests of the Children
When determining what type of custody arrangement is in the best interests of the children, the court will consider the following factors:
The wishes of the child if the child is of sufficient age and capacity to form an intelligent preference as to his or her physical custody.
Any nomination of a guardian for the child by a parent.
Which parent is more likely to allow the child to have frequent associations and a continuing relationship with the noncustodial parent.
The level of conflict between the parents.
The ability of the parents to cooperate to meet the needs of the child.
The mental and physical health of the parents.
The physical, developmental and emotional needs of the child.
The nature of the relationship of the child with each parent.
The ability of the child to maintain a relationship with any sibling.
Any history of parental abuse or neglect of the child or a sibling of the child.
Whether either parent or any other person seeking physical custody has engaged in an act of domestic violence against the child, a parent of the child or any other person residing with the child.
Whether either parent or any other person seeking physical custody has committed any act of abduction against the child or any other child.
These factors are not exhaustive and there may be many other facts that you will want the court to consider in presenting your child custody case. When doing so, it is important that you have an experienced, knowledgeable and dedicated attorney on your side. Shawn M. Goldstein is that attorney.
Child Custody Modifications
While child custody modifications are possible down the line, they can be difficult to accomplish. It is important to have your case handled appropriately from the beginning because if you want to modify custody, you are only allowed to use evidence that occurred since the most recent custody order (with limited exceptions). The standards for modification of custody are different if one parent has primary physical custody as opposed to if both parents share joint physical custody. If you are unhappy with your current custody orders, and believe modification is warranted, contact Shawn M. Goldstein for a consultation today.
One of the most difficult areas involving child custody is when one parent desires to relocate with the children to another state. This often happens when a parent remarries or when a job requires them to relocate. These cases are challenging to settle because it is a zero-sum game; either the parent and children are given permission to relocate, or they are not. Mr. Goldstein has been successful in all of his relocation cases whether he represented the side requesting the relocation or the side opposing the relocation. If you are thinking of relocating, contact Shawn M. Goldstein to discuss your options.