What options are there for legal custody?
There are two types of legal custody: sole legal custody and joint legal custody.
If you have sole legal custody, you alone have the right to make all of the decisions affecting your child’s life.
If you have joint legal custody, you share the right to make decisions about your child’s life with the child’s other parent. To read about when a judge will award joint legal custody, go to When will a judge order joint legal custody?
What options are there for physical custody?
In Nevada, a judge can award sole/primary physical custody to one parent or joint physical custody to both parents. To read about when a judge will award primary physical custody to one parent, see When will the judge give primary physical custody to one parent? To read about when a judge will award joint physical custody to both parents, see When will a judge order joint physical custody?
What is joint custody?
Joint custody means that legal and/or physical custody is shared by both parents. If you get a joint custody order, it’s important to know whether you have joint legal custody, joint physical custody, or both. There is a preference in Nevada for both parents to have a continuing relationship and frequent contact with the child, and to share the rights and responsibilities of child rearing after the parents have separated or ended their relationship.1
In Nevada, the judge will assume that awarding joint legal custody and joint physical custody are in the best interest of the child if:
- the parents agree to either or both in court; or
- the parent seeking joint legal custody or joint physical custody has demonstrated (or has tried to demonstrate but the other parent wouldn’t allow it) an intent to establish a meaningful relationship with the child.2
The judge could grant joint legal custody to both parents while still granting sole or primary physical custody to one parent.3 Therefore, even if your child lives with you full-time, the other parent can still have a right to make decisions about your child’s life if s/he has joint legal custody.
A judge will generally grant joint custody if s/he thinks it is in the best interests of the child.3 However, there is an exception for domestic violence victims when it comes to joint physical custody. Read Can a parent who committed violence get physical custody? to learn more.
1 N.R.S. § 125C.001
2 N.R.S. §§ 125C.002(1); 125C.0025(1)
3 N.R.S. § 125C.002(2)
Who has custody if there is no custody order in place?
Under Nevada law, the parent and child relationship extends equally to every child and to every parent, regardless of the marital status of the parents. If a court has not made a determination regarding the custody of a child, each parent has joint legal custody and joint physical custody of the child until a judge issues an order that says otherwise.1
1 N.R.S. § 125C.0015
What will a visitation order include?
A visitation order must specifically lay out the terms of the visitation (i.e., days and times) so that the order can be clearly understood and enforced. The order must include all specific times and other terms related to the visitation (also known as limited right of custody). The order is not supposed to say something ambiguous such as “the father has reasonable visitation,” because the term “reasonable” can be interpreted differently by each parent.1
1 N.R.S. § 125C.0045(5)
Should I start a court case to ask for supervised visitation?
If you are not comfortable with the abuser being alone with your child, you might be thinking about asking the judge to order that visits with your child be supervised. If you are already in court because the abuser filed for visitation or custody, you may not have much to lose by asking that the visits be supervised if you can present a valid reason for your request (although this may depend on your situation).
However, if there is no current court case, please get legal advice before you start a court case to ask for supervised visits. We strongly recommend that you talk to an attorney who specializes in custody matters to find out what you would have to prove to get the visits supervised and how long supervised visits would last, based on the facts of your case.
In the majority of cases, supervised visits are only a temporary measure. Although the exact visitation order will vary by state, county, or judge, the judge might order a professional to observe the other parent on a certain amount of visits or the visits might be supervised by a relative for a certain amount of time – and if there are no obvious problems, the visits may likely become unsupervised. Oftentimes, at the end of a case, the other parent ends up with more frequent and/ or longer visits than s/he had before you went into court or even some form of custody.
In some cases, to protect your child from immediate danger by the abuser, starting a case to ask for custody and supervised visits is appropriate. To find out what may be best in your situation, please go to NV Finding a Lawyer to seek out legal advice.
What are the pros and cons of getting a custody order?
There are many reasons people choose not to get a custody order from a court. Some people decide not to get a custody order because they don’t want to get the courts involved. Some parents make an informal agreement that works well for them. Some parents may think going to court will provoke the other parent, or they are worried that the other parent might get custody or visitation.
However, getting a custody order from a court can give you certain legal rights. Getting a custody order can give you:
- The right to make decisions about your child; and
- The right to physical custody of your child (to have your child live with you).
Without a custody order, it is possible that you may not have these legal rights, even if you’re the parent that takes care of the child every day.
Some people think they should file for custody so they can get child support. While custody and child support are related, you do not necessarily need a custody order to get child support. A custody order will not automatically give you child support. See Can I get financial support for my children and myself? for more details. As with all custody issues, we recommend that you talk to a lawyer about this. To find a lawyer in your area please visit our NV Finding a Lawyer page.