Nevada Child Custody

Child custody determinations are often the most contentious part of divorce and separation proceedings in Nevada. Custody agreements dictate the amount of time a child spends with each parent and who has the right to make important life decisions for the child. Unlike some states, Nevada family law does not favor joint custody arrangements. Rather, custody is decided based on an analysis of the child’s best interests. The wishes of the child are also given serious consideration in Nevada custody cases.

Overview of Child Custody in Nevada

Nevada child custody law allows for sole custody, where one parent is awarded full legal and physical custody, or joint custody, where both parents share decision-making responsibilities and residential time. Nevada courts determine custody based on the best interests of the child while considering all relevant factors.

Legal Decision-Making Authority

Legal decision-making authority gives a parent the right to make important choices regarding the child’s education, healthcare, religious upbringing, and more. Sole legal custody grants this right to one parent only. With joint legal custody, both parents share the right to make major decisions concerning the child.

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Physical Custody

Physical custody refers to where the child lives and which parent they reside with. Sole physical custody means the child lives primarily with one parent while visiting the other. Joint physical custody grants both parents equal or near equal residential time with the child.

Factors Considered in Custody Determinations

Nevada judges consider several factors when determining child custody arrangements:

Best Interests of the Child

The top priority is the physical and emotional well-being of the child. Factors considered include the child’s adjustment to home, school, and community; the mental health of all individuals involved; and the ability of each parent to meet the child’s needs.

Parenting Capabilities

The court examines each parent’s ability to provide a stable, nurturing environment. Factors considered include abuse allegations, parenting skills, mental health, and substance abuse issues. Willingness to foster a relationship with the other parent is also considered.

Child’s Preferences

If the child is of sufficient age and capacity to form an intelligent preference, the court will consider the child’s custody wishes. Children 14 or older can choose their custodial parent in Nevada.

History of Abuse/Neglect

If there are allegations of abuse or neglect, the court will take this into account when determining custody arrangements. A history of domestic violence can impact custody.

Distance Between Parents’ Homes

Joint custody is more difficult if parents live far apart. Proximity of the parents is considered.

Types of Custody Arrangements

The various types of custody in Nevada include:

Sole Custody

One parent has legal and physical custody. The noncustodial parent typically has visitation rights. Sole custody is preferred if parents are unable to cooperate in the child’s best interests.

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Joint Custody

Both parents share joint legal custody and physical custody. This requires extensive co-parenting and cooperation. Joint physical custody entitles each parent to significant residential time with the child.

Split Custody

Each parent is awarded sole legal and physical custody of one or more of their children. This occurs when there are multiple children and joint custody is not workable.

Modifying Existing Custody Orders

Custody orders can be modified if substantial changes make the current arrangement undesirable. Possible reasons include:

Changes in Circumstances

This includes a parent relocating far away, changes in work schedule impacting parenting time, remarriage, or other significant changes.

Child’s Wishes

Once a child is old enough to express reasoned preferences, their desired change may be considered.

Parental Agreement

If both parents agree to change the custody arrangement, the court will generally approve the new agreement.

Child Support and Custody

Child support obligations in Nevada are tied to physical custody. The parent with less overnight time with the child pays support to the other parent. Custody decisions directly impact child support determinations.

Use of Mediation in Custody Disputes

Many courts order mediation to resolve child custody and parenting time disputes. Mediation is less adversarial and often results in amicable custody plans agreed to by both parents.

Hiring a Family Law Attorney

It is advisable to hire an experienced family law attorney when creating an initial custody plan or seeking to modify an existing arrangement. An attorney protects your rights and vigorously advocates for your desired custody and visitation.


Child custody determinations significantly impact the lives of both parents and children. Understanding Nevada’s child custody laws and court procedures allows you to confidently address custody during separation or divorce. Putting your child’s best interests first helps lead to an amicable shared custody arrangement. Discuss your case with a qualified family lawyer to develop a strong custody agreement.

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Q: What is the standard for deciding child custody in Nevada?

A: Nevada courts use the “best interest of the child” standard when determining custody. The child’s safety and well-being are paramount in all custody decisions.

Q: At what age can a child choose which parent to live with in Nevada?

A: Once a child turns 14, they can select their primary custodial parent in Nevada. The court will consider the child’s wishes along with all other relevant factors.

Q: Can a parent ever be denied visitation rights in Nevada?

A: Yes, visitation can be denied if there are concerns for the child’s physical or emotional safety when in the parent’s care. Supervised visitation may be ordered in some cases.

Q: Can child custody be decided outside of court in Nevada?

A: Yes, parents can create an out-of-court custody agreement by drafting a parenting plan with the help of their attorneys or mediators. Courts must approve agreements.

Q: If neither parent lives in Nevada, can child custody be determined by a Nevada court?

A: No, for a Nevada court to have jurisdiction over custody, at least one parent must reside in the state. Custody is determined by the home state of the child and parents.

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