Can a Non-parent Obtain Child Custody?

A little girl hugging her fathers leg

A parent’s rights to their children are among the most sacred legal rights in our Country. In Nevada, like in most other states, the law presumes that it is in children’s best interest to have frequent associations and a continued relationship with their natural parents. However, a parent’s rights to custody and access are not absolute, and a nonparent can obtain custody of a child.

Is a Parent’s Custody “Detrimental to the Child”?

A parental presumption exists in child custody cases that a child should be in the custody of his or her parents. However, this can be overcome by proof that a parent is unsuitable to have custody of the child. This occurs in circumstances where a nonparent third party, such as a relative who has cared for the child or a child’s foster parents, seeks an award of custody from a court.

Nonparent custody is governed by a special provision of Nevada’s custody laws that creates elevated legal and privacy rights to natural parents. NRS 125C.004 allows for a “person other than a parent” to obtain an award of child custody if that person can convince the court that:

  1. An award of custody would be “detrimental to the child”; and
  2. The award of custody to a nonparent is required to serve the best interest of the child.

When examining the detriment to the child, the court can look at evidence of abandonment or other evidence that the parent-child relationship is improper. This may include abuse, neglect, substance abuse, domestic violence, criminal conduct, or other factors that show a parent is not suitable as a custodian of the child.

The best interest consideration under the second factor lets a court cast a wide net in the evidence it considers. Because the award of custody to nonparent is “required” to serve the child’s best interest, courts will look closer look at the relationship between the nonparent and child. Special attention will be given to whether the child has lived with the nonparent, how long the child has lived there, the quality of care the child has received, if there has been substantial contact between the child and nonparent, the child’s needs, and the child’s bond with the nonparent.

Privacy in Custody Proceeding

Non-parent custody proceedings are also given a special level of privacy under the applicable laws. Proving that an award of custody to a parent is “detrimental to the child” naturally means that upsetting and inflammatory is going to be presented by the nonparent. Due to the sensitive nature of this information and the potential for false allegations, nonparents cannot list any allegations in their petition, other than the statement that “parental custody would be detrimental to the child”. Also, courts can exclude members of the public from any hearing involving nonparents seeking custody.

Family Attorneys at Viloria, Oliphant, Oster & Aman L.L.P.

If you are seeking child custody of a child, or are defending your parental rights, you need an experienced family law attorney. Viloria, Oliphant, Oster & Aman, L.L.P. provide effective family law representation to men and women in Nevada. Our attorneys are compassionate, knowledgeable, and proven. Let us fight for your custodial rights. Contact Viloria, Oliphant, Oster & Aman L.L.P. at (775) 227-2280 to schedule a consultation or contact our office through our website.

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