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Explaining Legal Custody and Physical Custody

The laws of Nevada recognize that children need their parents. So when it comes to child custody, the legislature has explicitly stated their intention that children have “frequent associations and a continuing relationship with both parents after the parents have ended their relationship” and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of raising their children. These custody rights are broken down into two categories: “physical custody” and “legal custody”.

Physical Custody

Generally speaking, physical custody refers to the physical care and control of the child. In other words, physical custody entails the right of a parent to be a caregiver and for the child to reside with them. Courts can either award the parents joint physical custody, or one parent is granted primary physical custody subject to the other parent’s visitation.

Primary physical custody generally occurs where one parent: (1) is the primary caretaker of the child; and (2) the child spends most nights out of the year living with that parent. In this scenario, there will be a parenting plan, which sets out the specific visitation schedule for the noncustodial parent. This plan will encompass both standard visitation, visitation on holidays and special occasions, and access to the child.

The other option is for a court to award joint physical custody to both parents, where parents split physical custody and neither is the primary caregiver. There is a preference in Nevada for parents to be awarded joint physical custody.

Courts are tasked with making decisions of physical custody based on the child’s best interest, not on the best interest of the parents.

Legal Custody Explained

In contrast to physical custody, legal custody refers to the rights of a parent to make major decisions regarding their child. While many parents focus on physical custody and spending time with their children, legal custody is significant in its own right and should not be overlooked. Some of these critical rights include the right to information about the child, to make educational and medical decisions, and the right to direct how a child is raised.

Significantly, there is a presumption under the law that it is in the best interest of children when parents share “joint” legal custody of a child. This means that both parents would share in the decision-making and information sharing regarding their child. This presumption is rebuttable, so if a parent proves that the other parent is unfit, then a court may award one parent sole legal custody of the child.

It is also worth noting that physical and legal custody are separate legal issues. So it is entirely possible for one parent to have primary physical custody of a child, while both parents share joint legal custody.

Trust Viloria, Oliphant, Oster & Aman L.L.P.

Viloria, Oliphant, Oster & Aman, L.L.P. is a full-service law firm that offers a wide range of legal services to individuals, such as family law representation. If you are considering a separation or divorce, a lawyer can help you navigate critical issues like property division, alimony, child custody, and child support. You have important legal rights and you deserve a proven, experienced lawyer who will go above and beyond to protect your interests. Let our attorneys fight for you. Call Viloria, Oliphant, Oster & Aman L.L.P. today at (775) 227-2280 to schedule an initial consultation or contact our office through our website.

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