Know the Laws: Nevada
UPDATED May 29, 2012
Please consider getting help from an organization in your area before proceeding with court action. To find an organization, please go to the NV Where to find Help page.
There are many reasons people choose not to get a custody order from a court. Some people decide not to get a custody order because they don't want to get the courts involved. Some parents make an informal agreement that works well for them. Some parents may think going to court will provoke the other parent, or they are worried that the other parent might get custody or visitation.
However, getting a custody order from a court can give you certain legal rights. Getting a custody order can give you:
Without a custody order, it is possible that you may not have these legal rights, even if you're the parent that takes care of the child every day. Your legal rights without a custody order may depend on whether you're married to the other parent. See Who has custody if there is no custody order in place? for more details.
Some people think they should file for custody so they can get child support. While custody and child support are related, you do not necessarily need a custody order to get child support. A custody order will not automatically give you child support. See Can I get financial support for my children and myself? for more details. As with all custody issues, we recommend that you talk to a lawyer about this. To find a lawyer in your area please visit our NV Finding a Lawyer page under the Where to Find Help tab at the top of this page.
If you are not comfortable with the abuser being alone with your child, you might be thinking about asking the judge to order that visits with your child be supervised. If you are already in court because the abuser filed for visitation or custody, you may not have much to lose by asking that the visits be supervised if you can present a valid reason for your request (although this may depend on your situation).
However, if there is no current court case, please get legal advice BEFORE you start a court case to ask for supervised visits. We strongly recommend that you talk to an attorney who specializes in custody matters to find out what you would have to prove to get the visits supervised and how long supervised visits would last, based on the facts of your case.
In the majority of cases, supervised visits are only a temporary measure. Although the exact visitation order will vary by state, county, or judge, the judge might order a professional to observe the other parent on a certain amount of visits or the visits might be supervised by a relative for a certain amount of time -- and if there are no obvious problems, the visits may likely become unsupervised. Oftentimes, at the end of a case, the other parent ends up with more frequent and/ or longer visits than s/he had before you went into court or even some form of custody.
In some cases, to protect your child from immediate danger by the abuser, starting a case to ask for custody and supervised visits is appropriate. To find out what may be best in your situation, please go to NV Finding a Lawyer to seek out legal advice.
It depends. In Nevada, if the parents are married and have not yet gotten a custody order, both parents automatically share legal custody of your child. This means that you and your spouse have equal rights to make major decisions about your child's life and to have the child live with you.*
If the parents of the child were never married, the mother has primary physical custody of the child if paternity (legal fatherhood) has not been legally established. The father has primary physical custody of the child if the mother "abandoned" the child to the father (by failing to provide substantial personal and economic support to the child for at least 6 weeks in a row) and the father has been the only one caring for the child since the mother left.**
* N.R.S. § 125.465
** N.R.S. § 126.031
A visitation order must specifically lay out the terms of the visitation (i.e., days and times) so that the order can be clearly understood and enforced. The order is not supposed to say something ambiguous such as "the father has reasonable visitation," because the term "reasonable" can be interpreted differently by each parent. A visitation order must also say which state is the state where the child resides (this may be referred to as the "habitual residence" in the order).*
* N.R.S. § 125C.010