What is Primary Custody?

When you ask, “what is primary custody?” you are looking at the difference between the two types of physical custody. The first is joint custody. The second is primary custody.

Joint physical custody means that the child spends roughly half their time with each parent. Primary custody is where a child spends more than 61 percent of the time with one parent. For example, if a child spends 4 days a week with one parent and 3 days with the other, that’s still joint custody because it’s less than 61 percent.

The courts here in Nevada prefer joint custody, but they will grant primary custody to one parent if they believe it is in the best interest of the child. You and your divorce lawyer will have to prove those best interest factors.

What’s Required to Get Primary Custody?

The court looks into several best interest factors before deciding to award primary physical custody to one parent. The best interest factors are primarily concerned with the child’s development and well-being. The myth of mothers getting primary custody been debunked in recent years.

The judge will consider things like whether one parent will try to keep the child away from the other, domestic violence, and drug or alcohol problems. Sometimes the courts will even look a the wishes of the child if the child is old enough (and mature enough) to make that decision.


Parents often gift confused with terms like “joint custody”, and “legal custody”. Divorce attorney Laura Johns discusses what primary child custody is.