What Are a Father’s Child Custody Rights?
As a father, can I receive custody of my children? This is a question we hear often from men throughout the Las Vegas, Nevada area. The answer is unequivocally, yes!
Men often fear pursuing child custody during a divorce or following the end of a relationship with the mother of a child. There is a common misconception that courts will have gender preference and grant full or primary custody of the child to the mother simply because she is the child’s mother, without regard for any other factors.
While this may have been a regular practice in the 1950’s and 1960’s, Nevada family courts have long established it is preferable that the child spend time with both parents unless it is not in the best interest of the child. In fact, the Nevada Legislature ensured there is to be no gender bias by stating, “Preference must not be given to either parent for the sole reason that the parent is the mother or the father of the child.”
The courts are to “ensure that minor children have frequent associations and a continuing relationship with both parents” and are to “encourage such parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child rearing.” Rather than rely on gender, the Nevada courts use a list of non-exhaustive “best interest factors” to determine the appropriate child custody arrangement.
Presumption of Joint Custody
The Nevada Legislature specifically declared the policy of this State as it relates to custody. If a court has not yet made a determination regarding the custody of a child, both parents share joint legal and physical custody until otherwise ordered by a court.
The Legislature has given direction to assist the courts as they make determinations of legal and physical custody. Pursuant to law, it is presumed that it is in the best interest of the child that both parents share joint legal custody. With joint legal custody, both the mother and father are responsible for making decisions about the child’s life, including schooling, extracurricular activities and medical care.
As to physical custody, the Nevada Legislature has stated that there is a preference that joint physical custody would be in the best interest of a minor child if the parents have either agreed to an award of joint physical custody or have cohabited together with the minor child for a period of at least one year. With joint physical custody, the mother and father split time with the child equally or according to an agreement. A court may award primary physical custody to apparent if the court determines that joint physical custody is not in a child’s best interest.
Best Interest of the Child Factors
When determining the best interest of the child the court considers the following factors:
- The wishes of the child if the child is of sufficient age and capacity to form an intelligent preference as to his or her custody.
- Any nomination by a parent or a guardian for the child.
- Which parent is more likely to allow the child to have frequent associations and a continuing relationship with the noncustodial parent.
- The level of conflict between the parents.
- The ability of the parents to cooperate to meet the needs of the child.
- The mental and physical health of the parents.
- The physical, developmental and emotional needs of the child.
- The nature of the relationship of the child with each parent.
- The ability of the child to maintain a relationship with any sibling.
- Any history of parental abuse or neglect of the child or a sibling of the child.
- Whether either parent or any other person seeking custody has engaged in an act of domestic violence against the child, a parent of the child or any other person residing with the child.
- Whether either parent or any other person seeking custody has committed any act of abduction against the child or any other child.
The aforementioned list is non-exhaustive and the court may consider any other factors it deems relevant.
Fathers and Child Custody
Undoubtedly, recent amendments to Nevada law have leveled the playing field for fathers seeking child custody, but some fathers will still encounter challenges. Because the father is often the sole or primary financial provider, the mother may spend significantly more time with the child and, as such, may appear better equipped to care for the mental, physical, and emotional needs of the child, as well as encourage a close and continuing relationship with the father and siblings.
In these cases it is important to consult an experienced lawyer. An experienced attorney can skillfully present evidence showing that fathers are capable of providing for their child’s needs and that awarding the father shared or sole custody is in the best interest of the child.
The following are examples of evidence that could be presented to show active involvement in the child’s life and the ability to care for the physical, mental, and emotional needs of the child.
- Letters from teachers, childcare providers, and/or coaches– Children usually spend more time with teachers, daycare personnel, coaches, and/or tutors throughout the week than their own parents. The aforementioned persons are generally aware of the family dynamic and can also attest to the father’s involvement in school activities, field trips, and community service. These letters are especially valuable, because they can show the father’s ability to care for the needs of the child while remaining the sole or primary financial provider.
- Testimony and/or letters from child– Depending on the age of the child, the court may consider the child’s preference when determining child custody. Should the child prefer to reside primarily or solely with the father, it is important to present this evidence to the court.
- Agreed Child Custody and Visitation Plan– Often, the mother and father have created an implied shared custody agreement by their conduct. Active fathers that participate in their children’s lives, both before and after separation, can present evidence of their activity to show that the mother actually has already impliedly agreed to a shared custody agreement. Additionally, any written agreement for shared custody automatically creates a presumption under Nevada law that the Court should award joint physical custody based on the parties’ previous agreement.
Child custody disputes can be confusing and stressful, especially for the father. Fear that the relationship with the minor child could be diminished or severed because of gender preference can be overwhelming. If you and your spouse are considering divorce or you and your partner are having disputes regarding custody and visitation, it is important to consult an experienced child custody to discuss your options.
The attorneys at Mills & Anderson Law Group are experienced father’s rights and child custody lawyers. With over 36 years of combined experienced, they understand the challenges fathers face in child custody disputes and will work diligent to obtain a result that is in the best interest of your child.
With outstanding professionalism and integrity, the attorneys at Mills & Anderson proudly represent fathers throughout Clark County and Las Vegas, Nevada. Contact our experienced family law attorneys at Mills & Anderson at (701) 386-0030 for a confidential, in person consultation at no upfront cost.