Divorce is tragic and all too common. It is even worse when there are disputes about child custody and innocent children are caught in the middle. Nevertheless, divorce is an unfortunate reality and when such a regrettable situation arises, understanding how these issues are handled under the law is important.
When a divorce involves young children, the most immediate concern is which parent will have custody. There are two types of custody: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody relates to which parent the child will live with. Legal custody relates to a parent’s right to make or participate in decisions such as those relating to the child’s education, religion, and health care.
Concerning physical custody, if the divorcing couple can’t agree, a court will make the determination. If the court awards one parent primary physical custody, that parent will have the children the majority of the time and the other parent will have only visitation rights. If a court awards joint physical custody, each parent will have the children at least 40 percent of the time.
For good reason, the law requires custody determinations to be made in the best interests of the children. A judge considers a variety of factors including the child’s safety, any past instances of abuse, the ability of the parent to meet the needs of the child, the nature of the child’s relationship with each parent, and related factors. If the child is old enough, the judge will also take into account the child’s wishes.
A parent’s child support obligations relate directly to physical custody. Nevada courts generally use a mathematical formula based on the parents’ respective monthly incomes to determine child support obligations. For example, where one child is involved, the parent who is awarded primary physical custody should receive 18 percent of the other parent’s gross monthly income. As the number of children increases, the amount of child support likewise increases. Child support is calculated differently depending on whether the court has awarded primary or joint physical custody.
If divorce has become an unfortunate reality, it is important to understand how these issues are determined. It can also help to resolve differences and reduce harm to the children.
Clifford Gravett lives in Mesquite and is an attorney with Bingham Snow & Caldwell. He is licensed to practice in Nevada, Arizona and Utah. He can be reached at (702) 346-7300, firstname.lastname@example.org, or 840 Pinnacle Court, Suite 202 in Mesquite.