Best Interest Of The Child Is The Guiding Principle
In Nevada, when dealing with matters related to child visitation, family court judges use a standard known as the “best interests of the child”. This standard places an overriding focus on what would be best for the child or children in question and all decisions related to child custody or visitation must be made to foster and encourage the child’s happiness, health, security, and emotional well being.
To achieve the best interests of the child goal, courts do not give preference to one parent over the other, i.e., the court will not give custody preference to a mother over a father, simply because she is the child’s mother. In practice, however, mothers are more frequently the custodial parent, while fathers are more commonly the noncustodial parent, with child visitation privileges.
Non-Custody Parent Visitation
When one parent is awarded primary physical custody of a child, the non custodial parent is often awarded visitation. This means that the child primarily, or solely, resides with the custodial parent, and has visitations with the non custodial parent. Parents have the opportunity to create a visitation schedule on their own, so that they can take into consideration their child’s day-to-day needs and routines. Parents need to work together to create a visitation schedule that is in the best interests of the child.
Parties are ordinarily ordered to participate in confidential mediation through the family court to try to reach an agreement on a custody/visitation schedule. A failure to reach an agreement will result in a court being forced to make custody/visitation decisions for the family, which can produce a less than optimal visitation schedule.
Visitation schedules should outline when visitations will be and how long in duration. Not all visitation sessions must be equal. Many visitation schedules contain different visitation schedules for different aspects of the child’s life.
- Regular Schedule. There is often a regular visitation schedule, which includes a visitation schedule for everyday use. For example, the child primarily resides with the mother, and visits with his or her father Tuesday and Thursday evenings, from after school until 8:30 pm, with alternating Saturday visitations from 9:30 am -8:30 pm.
- Special Schedule. Visitation schedules often also provide arrangements for holidays and other special occasions. Often, mothers get the child on Mother’s Day and fathers get the child on Father’s Day. Other holiday visitation arrangements are provided for as well. One common strategy employed by many parents is to alternate which parent spends holidays with the child each year.
- Vacation Scheduling. Since it is difficult to predict when a parent will want to take vacation time with a child, parents often prepare an agreed upon method for making vacation schedules.
Also, in furtherance of the best interests of the child, a parent is prohibited in Nevada from denying the other parent visitation with the child. If visitation is denied, the court can order additional visitations to make up for lost visitation opportunities. Makeup visitations sessions should be of the same type of visit and duration as the denied visit, and must be made up within a year of the denied visitation opportunity.
Child Visitation Modifications
There may come a time when a child custody order needs to be modified for a variety of reasons. In Las Vegas, Nevada, if parents share joint legal and joint physical custody, the custody arrangement can be modified if doing so is in the “best interests” of the children. However, if the parents share joint legal custody and one parent has primary physical custody, a modification can be granted only if the non-custodial parent can prove two things: 1) there has been a “substantial change in circumstances,” and, 2) A change will be in the “best interests of the children.”
Supervised Child Visitation
Certain situations arise where the welfare of the child is best served if visitation with the non-custodial parent is supervised. Supervised visitation could mean that the visitation must be supervised by the custodial parent or a third party. The requirement that child visitation be supervised is rare, and is usually reserved for situations where the non-custodial parent has a history of behavior that could be detrimental or harmful to the child.
For example, a non-custodial parent seeking visitation with his or her child might be ordered by the court to be supervised if the non-custodial parent has a history of violence toward the child, or has a history of drug or alcohol abuse. The duration of supervised child visitation is usually limited and is often coupled with some sort of treatment program for the non-custodial parent’s issues, such as anger management classes or therapy sessions. As the non-custodial parent shows signs of improvement, child visitations can become less restrictive and longer in duration.
Court Ordered No Visitation
In limited circumstances, a judge might decide that it would be in the best interests of the child to not permit a parent to have any visitation with the child. This may be because the parent is unfit to care for the child, the parent exhibits behavior that is detrimental to the child, or the parent is incapable of providing a safe environment for the child during visitation.
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