When parents split up one of the major challenges they face is figuring out how to continue to co-parent. Many times parents cannot agree on how to do so, and they need the court to step in and make custody and child support decisions. Parents in Nevada should understand the types of custody arrangements available, how the court makes custody decisions and how the court calculates child support.
Like many other states, Nevada has two categories of custody:
- Legal: Legal custody means that a parent has the right to make decisions about the child regarding matters such as healthcare, education and religious training. Parents with legal custody have access to children's medical and school records, as well as extracurricular activities.
- Physical: Physical custody is the right to physically care for the child. Physical custody can either be shared jointly between the parents, or one parent can have primary physical custody with the other parent having visitation rights. The law considers custody "joint" when each parent has physical custody of the child at least 40 percent of the time. Nevada presumes that parents will have joint physical custody. However, a parent can rebut that presumption by showing that joint physical custody is not in the best interest of the child.
The court makes custody determinations based on the best interests of the child. The law does not presume that either parent is more fit than the other. Some of the factors that the court considers when assessing the best interest of the child include:
- The child's wishes, if the child is mature enough to express a preference
- Which parent is more likely to foster a relationship between the child and the noncustodial parent
- The level of conflict between the parents
- The parents' ability to cooperate
- The parents' ability to provide for the child's needs
- Acts of domestic violence in the home
- Abuse and/or neglect of the child
When the court orders primary physical custody, the general guidelines for child support payments that the court will order for the non-custodial parent is:
- Eighteen percent of the parent's gross monthly income for one child
- Twenty-five percent of the parent's gross monthly income for two children
- Twenty-nine percent of the parent's gross monthly income for three children
- Thirty-one percent of the parent's gross monthly income for four children
When parents have joint physical custody, the calculation changes. The court will:
- Calculate what each parent would pay under the primary physical custody amount
- Subtract the lower amount from the higher amount
- Order the parent with the higher income pays the difference
All child support awards, whether the parents' have joint custody or one parent has primary custody, are subject to a statutory cap and certain offsets that limits the amount of child support that can be awarded.
Decisions in child custody cases vary widely based on the specific circumstances of each family. If you are facing child custody issues, consult an experienced family law lawyer who can advise you of your options.