What Is The Tender Years Doctrine?
5.24.21 | Child Support
Tender Years Doctrine In Nevada
When people go through a divorce or separation in southern Nevada and they develop child custody agreements, they sometimes ask me about the “tender years” doctrine.
I’m Shawn Huggins and my law office and I have over 20 years’ experience practicing family law in southern Nevada. The Huggins Law Office can answer this question and any others you might have.
The “tender years” meaning goes back to the end of the 1800s, when divorce became more common and available for the average person. Proverbial wisdom at the time thought that young children would be better served with the mother. The “tender years” were generally considered to be those of a child 4 years or younger, though sometimes the doctrine went as high as children 13 years of age.
In 1979, the Nevada Supreme Court struck down the “tender years” doctrine in Nevada. Since that time, the Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) determine custody of children based on the standard of best interests of the child, NRS 125C. 0035. Generally, this means both parents share joint physical custody unless reasons can be shown that either parent is unfit, giving sole custody to one parent.
With the many temptations of Nevada, the termination of the “tender years” doctrine means custody of children no longer assumes a bias in favor of mothers. Best interests of the child makes it possible for fathers not only to gain joint custody of their children but also to show that their former partner may be an unfit parent, by NRS 128.018. Unfit parent standards could include: outright neglect, failure to provide the child with basic necessities (food, a stable home, healthcare when and if necessary), and abandonment. We have all read stories of parents leaving children in a vehicle so they may gamble. If you’re in trouble for actions of this kind or if your former spouse has an addiction issue and you’re worried about the health and safety of your child, we can advocate for addiction services and counseling. Taking action on addictive behaviors may help our case in front of a judge.
In Nevada, a child cannot choose a parental preference until he or she is 12 years old. If your former partner has issues that may define him or her as an unfit parent, especially if abuse or criminal activity plays a role in that preference, we can present that evidence to a judge. Though this does go beyond the scope of the “tender years” doctrine, when your child or children reach the age of 18, in Nevada they can choose to refuse a custody order if one is in effect. Up until that point, no matter your or their feelings on the matter, children must obey the court’s judgment.
Today, the “tender years” doctrine is considered obsolete. Our modern society respects the rights of both parents now, with the enlightened knowledge that two civil co-parents are best for a child’s mental health and emotional development. Current law also understands that some mothers are unfit as parents.
If you have any concerns about the safety and health of your children as you work out a custody agreement, reach out to me at the Huggins Law Office and I will guide you to the best resolution for yourself and your family.
Huggins Law Office
8683 West Sahara Avenue #180 Las Vegas, NV 89117