In the United States, the most common custody arrangement is where the parents have joint legal custody and one parent has primary custody. Nevada, however, has developed a preference for joint legal and joint physical custody. When parents have joint legal custody, they make decisions together about the child’s health, education and welfare. Physical custody is based upon the custody schedule and how much time the child spends at each home. There are exceptions and times when the parties should not share joint legal or joint physical custody. Since each case is unique, you should consult an attorney when seeking custody rights for your children.
Top Five Myths about Custody of Children in Nevada
Myth 1-There is no child support if the parties have joint custody.
When parents share joint custody, child support is calculated using each party’s income in a percentage related to the number of children. If the parents’ incomes are relatively equal, child support may be waived. You should never agree to waive or lower child support without knowing your rights. An experienced attorney can advise you on the correct amounts for child support and whether there are any other factors which could raise or lower child support. Parents can agree that neither party pay child support, but you should obtain advice from an attorney regarding the child support amounts before making any decision to waive child support. Even if you agree to zero child support now, child support is reviewable every three years or with a 20 percent change in income. In addition, if the custody schedule changes, child support can be reviewed.
Further, many parents do not factor in the cost of health insurance for the children. Even if there is no child support owed to either parent, the parties usually split the cost of health insurance for the children. If one parent is fortunate enough to have health insurance for the children at no cost, keep in mind that with a job change or increase to cost this issue can still be addressed in the future.
Myth 2-To have joint custody, the parents must have the exact same number of hours with the children.
There are many options available for a joint custody schedule and it does not have to be with each parent having the exact same number of custodial hours. For example, a schedule where one parent has three days per week and the other parent has four days is a joint physical custody schedule. In some cases, one parent has more custody during the school year and less days in the summer. Since the Court does not know your children, you should always try to agree upon a schedule that will work best for your children. An experienced family law attorney can guide you towards schedules that have been successful given your children’s ages and both parents’ work schedules.
Myth 3-The mother always has custody if there is no custody order in place.
In the past in Nevada for unmarried parents, the mother had custody until there was a custody order, but this is no longer the law. NRS 125C.0015 provides the parents have joint legal and joint physical custody, regardless of marital status, until there is a court order. If there is a reason why the other parent should not have joint custody, you will need to seek an order from the court. Withholding custody from the other parent, without cause, can severely affect your custody rights. In addition, it is important to start following a temporary custody schedule to help the children adjust to the separation and to ensure both parents get to spend time with the children.
Myth 4-When children reach a magic age in Nevada, they can choose which parent they want to live with.
There is no set age in Nevada where children can choose which parent they want to live with. Further, it can be very difficult for a child who believes they must choose between two parents. When children become teenagers in Nevada, many parents request teenage discretion. Teenage discretion does not mean that the children choose their own custody schedule, but instead allows for the children to make requests and have those requests considered by the Court. There are limitations for teenage discretion, such as a child cannot change the custody schedule completely. Small modifications to the current schedule, are usually permitted especially when they are set around the teenager’s own activities or job. If the parents have poor communication, teenage discretion can be abused. If your teenager is allowed to make changes to the schedule, make sure you confirm with the other parent to ensure that the child is where they are supposed to be.
Myth 5- Only mothers should have custody of young children.
Nevada law provides that a parent may not be given custody for “the sole reason that the parent is the mother or father of the child.” NRS 125C.0035(2). The standard for child custody in Nevada is the child’s best interest. With that said, if either parent can prove that it is not in the child’s best interest for the parents to share joint physical custody, then the parent proving same will be awarded primary custody.
In Nevada, separated parents can agree upon a temporary custody schedule, but if you cannot reach an agreement, you should not wait to seek legal advice. When parents go to Court, the Judge will consider the schedule you have been following when setting temporary orders. For example, if you have been separated for a month, but have only spent a few days with your children, this could affect the temporary orders. Also, if the other parent has denied you time with the children, make sure you have documented your requests through email or text message. In addition, for parents who cannot reach an agreement on custody, Nevada requires mediation, through the Family Court Mediation Center. The goal of court ordered mediation is to agree upon a schedule that will be best for your children. At mediation, a neutral mediator will talk to both parents separately or together to try to help them reach an agreement. If you reach an agreement, the mediator will draft a Parenting Plan. If both parties sign the Parenting Plan, the Judge will sign and then this will become your custody order.
If you are a parent dealing with a custody issue or concerns about your custody rights, please contact our office to schedule a consultation with an attorney. Each case is different and we take the time to assist you with all of your custody needs.