Child Custody and Relocation in Nevada

It may seem like an easy decision to move for an exciting job opportunity or a new marriage, but if you share custody of your children with an ex-spouse, relocating may be quite complicated. One parent’s relocation can lead to custody changes.

Custody Basics in Nevada

A custody order will define visitation schedules, child support, transportation arrangements, and which parent has legal and physical custody of a child. Legal custody involves a parent's right to make major decisions on a child's behalf. Physical custody is where a child lives. One parent can have sole physical and legal custody, or parents can split physical and/or legal custody under a joint custody arrangement. Even if parents share joint physical and legal custody, a court will appoint a custodial parent. The custodial parent has the final say when the parents can't agree on something involving their child.

Judges consider several factors in determining the arrangement that will meets a child's best interests, including:

  • the child's relationship with each parent
  • the child's ties to extended family and siblings
  • each parent's physical and emotional well-being
  • the parents' ability to work together in a co-parenting relationship
  • each parent's ability to meet the child's emotional and physical needs
  • each parent's financial stability
  • each parent's willingness to foster a relationship between the child and other parent
  • any history of domestic violence, and
  • any other factor relevant to the child's best interests.

What Happens When one Parent Wants to Relocate?

Relocation means more than a move down the street. Under Nevada law, the custodial parent must seek written permission from the other parent before moving out of state or moving a distance that substantially interferes with the other parent's visitation. If the child's other parent won't consent to the relocation, then the moving parent must seek permission from the court to relocate.

A parent who shares joint custody of the child, but isn't the primary custodial parent has an additional hurdle to overcome in relocation cases. Specifically, a parent seeking to relocate must motion the court to become the child's primary custodial parent. A court will evaluate whether it's in the child's best interests to remain in the state or move out of state.

For example, in one Nevada case a mother sought to move to California for a new job and educational opportunities. The court denied the mother's request to relocate with the children because she wasn't the primary custodial parent and hadn't filed for primary custody. However, once primary physical custody has been established, the custodial parent can file a request for permission to relocate. A judge will schedule a hearing to determine whether the relocation would serve the child's best interests.

What Should I Expect at a Relocation Hearing?

You should bring any evidence or witnesses that support your case to a relocation hearing. You will likely have to testify at the hearing. A custodial parent bears the initial burden of proof at a relocation hearing to show that:

  • there is a good faith reason for the move, and
  • the move will greatly benefit the custodial parent and the child.

Once a custodial parent has established these facts, a court will evaluate additional factors to determine whether the proposed move serves the child's best interests. Specifically, a judge will consider:

  • the child's quality of life in the new location
  • available educational opportunities in the new location
  • the child's developmental and/or special needs and availability of services in new location
  • the child's preference, if the child is of a sufficient age and maturity to form a mature opinion
  • the availability of extended family support in the present and new location
  • how the custodial parent's income will benefit from the move
  • the move's impact on a noncustodial parent's visitation

For example, in one Nevada case, the court allowed a child's mother to relocate to New Jersey. The mother was the custodial parent and was pursuing the move in good faith because there were better career opportunities available in New Jersey. Additionally, New Jersey offered better educational opportunities for the child, the chance to be near extended family, and the child's father would still have reasonable access to visitation. All those factors demonstrated that the move served the child's best interests.

If you have questions about relocating with children after a divorce, contact a local family law attorney for advice.

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