What do judges look for in child custody cases?

by | Child Support

It is a widespread assumption that family law decisions typically favor mothers in court battles, but nothing could be further from the truth. Most people are of the opinion that mothers will always win primary custody.  This is definitely not the case at all, especially if you are working with an experienced child custody attorney that knows the law well and is an experienced child custody litigator. So what do judges look for in child custody cases then?

Child Custody attorneys that have been practicing for awhile will tell you that the mother receiving primary custody was likely true for your grandparent’s generation, and depending on your state, it could have applied to your parent’s generation as well.

If you know of a couple who got divorced and the mother won primary custody, it can be easy to take that as confirmation of prejudice against fathers.

However, it is important to note that family law courts make their decisions based primarily on what’s best for the child. In cases where joint custody isn’t an option, the courts will side with the parent they are sure will provide the child with the best possible preparation for their adult life. If you know of a case where the mother won primary custody, it is likely that your couple friends didn’t reveal to you everything that was happening within the confines of their home.

Does the “Courts Prefer Mothers” Myth Have Any Basis?

The presumption that courts always side with mothers wasn’t always false. It actually used to be a reality. Gender roles used to be different not that long ago as divorce started to become socially acceptable in the Baby Boomer generation. Parenting was considered a mother’s job.

In those days, fathers used to be the household breadwinners, and mothers remained at home. As fathers headed out to work every day, mothers were left tending to the needs of the children, including feeding them, bathing them, getting them ready for school and transporting them to and from school.

In case of a separation or divorce, mothers years ago would always win custody of the children. The mother was the one who would take care of the children. Fathers also rarely pursued custody of the children since they had to earn money and it was well known that custody of the children primarily went to the mother in those times.

Also during those times, fathers weren’t considered good at taking care of children. The belief was so rife that even in cases where the mother died, the father would have the children sent to relatives.

In cases where a father pursued custody, which was rare, the courts would generally side with the mother unless there was something significantly wrong with the mother, such as drugs, alcohol abuse, child abuse etc.

The main reason behind this was that judges were mainly men a long time ago and didn’t view taking care of children as an ideal role for a father.

Judges presiding such cases normally saw women as the best suited for this task. There even existed a legal rule referred to as the “tender years doctrine,” which stated that newborns had to stay with a mother for up to two years.

So What do judges look for in child custody cases?

Times Have Changed Regarding Child Custody Decisions

We are now living in different times. Mothers are starting to become the breadwinners of their families, and fathers are becoming more involved in the raising of children.

Judges are also keeping up with the times and the laws regarding children have also changed over the years. Now judges have varying views on parenting roles than those before them.

In modern society, there are no longer laws that give women preferential custody. In fact most states laws use equal parenting as a starting point for making custody decisions. There are now specific guidelines in place that judges use to determine what’s best for the children. Their decision is no longer based on the gender of the parent.

The idea that courts favor women in today’s society comes from the older generations and media sensationalism.

All parenting dynamics are different now in our more modern society. A lot of households split parenting roles.

However, we are also starting to see an increase in the number of stay-at-home dads and Soccer Dads.

The general population’s view on parenting has yet to fully catch up with the changes. It is considered cute when a dad takes his little girl to school with cereal in her hair and socks that don’t match. But when a mother does that, people judge her in all kinds of ways.

Mothers will often bring up such issues in court. The Moms prepare suitable meals while the Dads just give the child a bag of Cheetos if they feel hungry. What kind of judge would deem it right to grant custody to a person who allows their child to eat a full bag of Cheetos?

Mothers are often of the opinion that the judge should base their decision on how well a parent handles motherhood. This includes things like taking them to music lessons, cooking for them, shopping for them, and knowing all their teachers.

What Things Do the Courts Consider When Making a Decision on Primary Custody?

Under the law in Nevada, Courts are required to consider “Best Interest Factors.”

Chapter 445, AB 263, Section 8 of the Statutes of Nevada outlines the following 12 Best Interest Factors:

– What the child wishes, if they are of capable age, and have the capacity to make an intelligent choice on their physical custody.

– The parent that is more willing to let the child have regular associations and an ongoing relationship with the noncustodial parent.

– Any recommendations of a guardian for the child by a parent

– The conflict level between the two parents

– The emotional, developmental, and physical needs of the child

– The parents’ physical and mental wellbeing

– The willingness of the parents to work together to cater to the child’s needs

– The relationship dynamic between the child and each parent

– The child’s ability to sustain a relationship with all siblings

– Any records of parental neglect or abuse of the child or sibling of the child

– If any of the parents or any other party requesting physical custody has committed any acts of domestic violence against the child, parent of the child, or any other person in the household

– If any of the parents or any other party requesting physical custody has engaged in any acts of abduction against a child


As you can see, none of the above factors target either gender.

The courts in Nevada will direct joint custody whenever possible. Even in the case of primary custody, the guidelines focus on the children having a healthy and continuing relationship with both parents.

Section 8, Point 2 of the same part of the Statutes stipulates that preference shouldn’t be given to any of the parents solely based on the fact that the said parent is the mother or father of the child.


Understanding Primary, Sole, and Joint Custody

After going over the Best Interest Factors, it is important to clearly distinguish between the types of custody. There is often confusion over the sort of custody the parents are fighting over. Most people often assume that “Sole” custody and “Primary” custody are the same thing. Or that “Primary” custody restricts the father’s visits to their discretion, or “Primary Physical” custody and “Primary Legal” custody are the same thing. Even worse, there are some clients that want “Full” custody. However, under Nevada law, there isn’t any type of custody referred to as “Full.”

There are two primary types of custody, legal and physical. Then for each type of custody, there is primary, sole, and joint custody . Primary physical is 60% or more, joint physicals is 50%, and sole physical custody is 99%.

While both joint legal custody (NRS 125C.002) and joint physical custody (NRS 125C.0025) is usually the default, a litigant seeking primary custody will need to prove that it is in the best interests of the child or children, using the factors above, to prove that that parent should be awarded primary custody. Sole custody, on the other hand, is very difficult to obtain and is usually only given if there is a significant problem such as drugs, abuse, etc. with one of the the parents.

Huggins Law Office has been helping people with child custody matters for over twenty years. To learn how Mr. Huggins and his team can assist you with your child custody case please explore more of the website here https://www.hugginslawoffice.com/, or call for a free consultation.

Huggins Law Office can be reached here:

Huggins Law Office

8683 W Sahara Ave #180, Las Vegas, NV 89117

(702) 387-4014

Child Custody Lawyers Las Vegas