Sharing Child Custody
Joint custody of the children refers to two types of custody, legal and physical. With legal custody both parents shall have the legal authority to make decisions about a child’s welfare, schooling, religion and health care. Physical custody is where the child is physically residing. Although joint custody relates to two types of custody most parents are concerned about the physical custody.
In Nevada, as long as both parents are fit, the presumption is both parents should share in the legal custody and physical custody of the children. In other words, joint custody is the default status for the courts to impose. If a parents wants primary custody then either the other parent must agree to this arrangement or the requesting parent must prove to the court why primary is better for the child.
When you have joint physical custody, it means that you equally share physical custody with the other parent. The time split does not need to be completely equal. 50% / 50% could be considered joint and so would 60% / 40%. In fact, it is hard to equally divide timeshare during a seven day week. 60% of seven days would be 4.2 days. These percentages don’t work easily in seven day calendar. Sometimes it is easier to look at a two week calendar. 50% / 50% in a two week calendar might mean the child stays with mom Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday one week and then with dad Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday the next week. An example of 60% / 40% time share could be the child stays with mom Monday thru Thursday and with dad Friday thru Sunday.
In addition to a joint custody schedule during the week, you need to decide on a schedule for holidays and special occasions. Child birthdays, parent birthdays, maternal and paternal grandparents birthdays, Christmas, Halloween and other special days can be serious points of contention.
Most times we recommend alternating non-major holidays, splitting time on major holidays, splitting time on the child’s birthday, and splitting school vacations. For example, mom on odd numbered years would get Valentine’s Day, and Fourth of July, while dad would get Memorial Day and Halloween. The holidays would reverse on even numbered years. On both odd and even years the child’s birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and school vacations. This is just an example, with there being a wide range of options.
If both parents agree on initial custody, they can sign a settlement agreement as to the custody agreements. The court will approve the agreement with a signature and now you have a custody order. If the parents cannot agree on custody then the decision will be made by the judge.
Determining Child Custody
If you are embroiled in a custody dispute, the court must decide upon custody arrangements by looking at specific factors to help make a determination for custody. Before the court looks at anything, it’s going to look at what is in the best interest of the child. The court will consider the love and emotional relationship each spouse shares with the child, each spouse’s ability to provide the emotional and physical care the child requires, the mental and physical health of each parent and, if the child is old enough, and the child’s preferences.
Furthermore, additional factors that the court will use in determining a ruling include whether a parent allows the child to have frequent communication and association with the other parent whether through phone calls, emails, social media and physical visitation; how much conflict is between the parents; whether the parents are able to cooperate with each other so that the needs of the child are met; the physical, emotional and developmental needs of the child, the ability of one child to have a relationship with other siblings and half siblings, history of abuse between the spouses or abuse or neglect of the child or a sibling; and whether one of the spouses have previously committed any act of abduction.
If the court finds that one of the parents is not fit for custody, it could order primary custody to one parent and giving the other parent visitation. Primary custody doesn’t mean sole custody, whether the other parent doesn’t ever see the child. Primary custody may mean you have the child five nights a week, while the other parent has the child two nights a week.
Should either parent wish to change custody, he or she will have get the other parent to agree or apply to the court. The court will look to see if there has been a “material change in the circumstances of the child” and whether the “child’s welfare would be substantially enhanced by the change in custody.” The court looks at these factors regardless of whether the parents want to change from joint custody to primary custody or from primary custody to joint custody. If the circumstances change such that it is no longer in the best interest of the child for the parents to have the current custody label, the court will order a change.