Child Custody in Las Vegas
For parents who have just separated, child custody is often the most contentious matter that parents will have to deal with as they move forward with separate lives. It is also the most important, as the decisions parents make with respect to their children can have significant repercussions both legally and in their relationship with a child. Here are some pointers on how to behave and what actions you should take to preserve your rights as a parent and your relationship with your child immediately following a separation.
1: LEAVE YOUR KIDS OUT OF IT. The biggest mistake that parents make in any contested child custody case is inappropriately involving children. Not only does it reflect poorly on your judgment as a parent, it can also violate court rules and jeopardize your position if you are are seeking primary or joint custody. Innappropriate conduct can be any of the following:
– Using a child as a go-between: Kids are not old or mature enough to act as messengers for adult communications. Don’t ask your child to hand over child support, or to find out what time the other parent will be available to go over finances. Allow your kids to be kids and handle the grown up stuff yourself. As uncomfortable as you may be communicating with the other side immediately after separation, imagine how your child feels doing the same thing. Keep your kids out of it and handle the grown up stuff on your own.
– “Venting” to your child or making any kind of disparaging remarks to your child about the other parent: You may have just gotten out of the worst marriage of your life to the most unfaithful, selfish, self destructive person you have ever met. But to your child, that person probably still walks on water. Nothing you can possibly say will be beneficial or necessary for your child to hear if it is something bad about your ex. There are exceptions based on a child’s maturity level and if necessary for the child’s safety, but these are extremely rare.
Such statements are not only damaging to a child, but prohibited by Court rule and can result in sanctions against you. In extreme cases, such statements can result in “parental alienation” and cause significant distress to the relationship between a child and the other parent. Parents who are found to have intentionally alienated a child from the other parent often lose significant time, and in some cases custody of their children, in an effort to limit the child’s exposure to the damaging behavior.
The only thing your child should ever have to consider is the fact that he/she is loved by both parents and that you are doing your best to get things worked out. Anything beyond the basics is probably unnecessary and potentially damaging.
– Forcing your child to choose between you and the other parent or “tell the judge” what they want: Not only can this be extremely stressful for your child, but it also places your child in an impossible position. Undoubtedly, your child will want to please you while at the same time fear upsetting the other parent. This often leads to conflicting statements to opposing parties, making it impossible to determine what your child really wants and destroying their credibility.
There is a mechanism in Clark County called a child interview that allows for a child “of sufficient age and intelligence” to express a preference as to custody. However, this is rarely done by a judge and never occurs in the presence of the parties. Talk to an attorney about how best to gather this information if your child has already expressed an unsolicited opinion and is old enough to form an intelligent preference.
2. SPEND TIME WITH YOUR KIDS. Spending significant quality time with your kids immediately following a separation is important for several reasons. Not only will it foster some sense of stability for your children in the midst of the tumult, it will also ensure that your ex does not try to claim that you are un-involved with the children’s lives.
Quality time here does not mean movies and ice cream. Although recreational activities are undoubtedly important, a more significant factor in determining custody is establishing which parent is a constant presence “where the rubber meets the road.” Homework, housework, extra-curricular activities, meals, shopping, and medical appointments are all responsibilities that need to be fulfilled; the parent who has appeared through history to be the more reliable provider of these necessities is likely have a more significant share of the custodial time in the future. In short, if you want to be a part of your children’s day to day experience, you must act like it.
3. MAKE IT OFFICIAL WITH A COURT ORDER. If you are not married or separated and facing a divorce, do not wait for the other side to file something before you take action. Trying to work it out amicably with the other side is important and always the first step toward resolution. However, leaving the custody issue in limbo leaves both parties open to uncertainty and unnecessary conflict.
Handshake agreements and oral representations are ALWAYS a bad idea when it comes to custody. While you may be getting along well now, there is a reason that you are no longer together. This will eventually surface in the form of a custody dispute. You will end up in court anyway, except now it will be with a venomous disposition and not with the same amicable feelings you once shared with your ex. What could have been resolved easily when you were both getting along now becomes a lengthy and often very expensive ordeal before the issue is resolved.
It is always better to get a a formal court order establishing your custodial rights. Once entered, you are free to disregard it completely upon mutual agreement. However, if it comes down to a fight, you already have an order in place that dictates the ground rules.
Following the three tips above will almost certainly make your life easier immediately following your separation and will place you in a much better position in inevitable custody proceedings that follow.
Mills & Anderson Law Group focuses its practice in the areas of Nevada family law including: divorce, custody, child support, spousal support, alimony, guardianship, adoption, termination of parental rights, and abuse and neglect proceedings. We also practice in the areas of corporate consulting, contracts, business organizations and criminal law. If there is a specific topic you would like information on, feel free to comment on the blog or contact us directly via our “contact us” page.