Child custody is a sensitive issue that can lead to acrimonious courtroom battles between parents. If you are a parent and you become involved in a child custody dispute in or near the Las Vegas area, you must be advised and represented by a Las Vegas child custody attorney.

How are “legal” custody and “physical” custody defined in this state? How can a parent boost his or her chances of retaining a child’s legal and physical custody? When should a parent contact a Las Vegas family law attorney? Every Nevada parent needs the answers to these questions.

Keep reading this brief discussion of custody arrangements and parents’ rights, and you’ll find the answers you may need, but if you become involved in a custody battle for your own child, you must contact a Las Vegas child custody attorney who will fight aggressively on your behalf.

Custody Has Many Aspects

Child custody is legally quite complicated. It includes both the physical custody of the child and the right to decide where the child lives as well as the child’s legal custody, which gives a parent the right to make choices about the child’s education, health, and activities.

Historically, in most child custody cases, a child’s mother would be awarded sole or primary physical custody. However, in the 21st century, courts seldom grant a child’s sole or primary physical custody to one parent without a good reason. Instead, the courts usually require some type of joint custody plan.

Courts in Nevada decide child custody based on each case’s unique circumstances. A variety of factors are considered when a court determines whether sole or joint legal and sole, primary, or joint physical custody should be granted. Always, a court’s top priority in these cases is the best interests of the child.

What is Primary Physical Custody?

If a Nevada court gives one parent the primary physical custody of a child, that child will live most of the time with that one parent, although in most cases, the child’s other parent will be allowed to have scheduled visitations.

And when a parent has a child’s primary physical custody, in most cases, the other parent will still have joint legal custody, which gives both parents the right to weigh in on decisions about the child’s education, health, religious training, and other matters.

However, when a Nevada court gives one parent the sole physical custody of a child, if the court has found that the other parent is unfit, the court may decide that visitations with that parent must be supervised, or in the most egregious cases, entirely denied.

What is Joint Physical Custody?

In joint physical custody arrangements, each parent spends considerable time with the child, although the time parents share with their child may not be precisely fifty percent each.

Parents in a joint physical custody arrangement will need to come up with a schedule for custody time sharing that works for both parents and takes into account their work schedules as well as the child’s schedule.

What Does Nevada Law Presume Regarding Child Custody?

Every child custody case in the State of Nevada begins with the court presuming that joint legal and physical custody are in most children’s best interests. A court will then examine the evidence to determine if that presumption should be held or disregarded in that specific case.

In most child custody cases in Nevada, a court will award joint physical custody and joint legal custody to both of the parents, unless that court has been convinced that joint physical custody and joint legal custody aren’t in the best interests of the child.

Additionally, in some rare circumstances, the court may approve a “general” joint legal custody arrangement but grant one parent sole legal custody pertaining to one specific issue, for example, where the child attends school.

What Do Courts Consider When Making Child Custody Decisions?

When the parents cannot agree on a custody arrangement or a parenting plan, a Nevada judge will make the child custody decision based on a consideration of factors that include but aren’t necessarily limited to:

  1. a child’s physical, emotional, and psychological needs
  2. each parent’s cooperation and willingness to compromise
  3. each parent’s role in the child’s life prior to the divorce
  4. each parent’s desire for a positive relationship between the child and the other parent
  5. any indication of a parent’s alcohol or drug abuse, domestic abuse, or criminal activity
  6. the child’s own preferences
  7. the child’s long-term best interests

Judges need facts, not allegations. If you claim that the other parent regularly causes your child to be late for school, for instance, have a copy of the attendance records or a statement from the school. Remaining calm and having your documents and facts in order will work in your favor.

What Can You Do to Persuade the Court?

When parents cannot agree on a custody arrangement or a parenting plan, what can you do to make sure the court treats you fairly and understands that you are the parent who should have joint, primary, or sole physical and joint or sole legal custody of your child? Consider these recommendations:

  1.  Stay abreast of and active in your child’s education and extracurricular activities.
  2.  Do not be verbally critical of – or abusive toward – your child’s other parent.
  3.  Be cooperative and willing to compromise where possible.
  4.  Consider mediation as an alternative to a courtroom custody battle.

If either party refuses to cooperate, the mediation process will not be helpful. However, mediation can save both parents from a lengthy courtroom battle, and the custody agreement you reach will be your own agreement rather than an arrangement imposed on you by a judge.

A Las Vegas family law attorney can advise you regarding child custody mediation and guide you through the process. While mediation succeeds for many parents, if mediation fails in your own custody dispute, your attorney will argue on your behalf in front of a Nevada judge.

What is Important for Parents to Remember?

During and even after your divorce, you may have concerns about who is in your child’s presence, when and if you can see your child, and what the future holds. Nothing is more important than your child.

That is why, if a custody dispute arises, you should ask a Las Vegas child custody lawyer – as quickly as possible – for the legal advice and services you will need.