What is legal custody?
Legal custody means you have legal responsibility for your child. It means you have the right to make major decisions about your child regarding his/her health, education, religious upbringing, and more.1
There are two types of legal custody:
- sole legal custody; or
- joint legal custody.
If you have sole legal custody, you alone have the right to make all major decisions affecting your child’s life.
If you have joint legal custody, you and the other parent must consult with each other to make major decisions about your child.1 To learn when a judge will give joint legal custody, see When will a judge give joint legal custody?
1 Rivero v. Rivero, 216 P.3d 213 (2009)
What is physical custody?
Physical custody means you take physical care of and supervise your child.1 A judge can give:
- sole physical custody, also called primary physical custody, to one parent; or
- joint physical custody to both parents.2
To learn when a judge will give each type of physical custody, see When will the judge give primary physical custody to one parent? and When will the judge give joint physical custody?
1 N.R.S. § 125A.145
2 N.R.S §§ 125C.0025; 125C.003; 125C.0035
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.