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.

What do judges look for in child custody cases In Las Vegas, Nevada

What evidence can help in a child custody case?

In a child custody case, various types of evidence can play a crucial role in influencing the outcome and assisting the court in making informed decisions that prioritize the child’s best interests. Here are several types of evidence commonly used in child custody cases:

1. Parenting Skills and Ability – Evidence demonstrating each parent’s parenting skills and ability to provide for the child’s physical, emotional, and psychological needs is highly relevant. This may include testimony from witnesses who have observed the parent interacting with the child, documentation of participation in parenting classes or counseling, and evidence of involvement in the child’s education and extracurricular activities.

2. Home Environment – Evidence regarding the stability and suitability of each parent’s home environment is crucial. This may involve testimony or documentation regarding the cleanliness, safety, and overall appropriateness of the living space for the child.

3. Child’s Well-Being – Evidence related to the child’s well-being and adjustment demonstrates each parent’s ability to meet the child’s needs. This could include testimony from teachers, counselors, or healthcare providers regarding the child’s emotional and behavioral development, academic performance, and overall adjustment to the custody arrangements.

4. History of Caregiving – Relevant evidence of each parent’s history of caregiving and involvement in the child’s life is required. This may include documentation of caregiving responsibilities, such as arranging medical appointments, attending school events, and participating in recreational activities with the child.

5. Parental Conduct – Evidence of each parent’s conduct and behavior, both past and present, may be considered by the court. This could include evidence of substance abuse, criminal history, allegations of domestic violence or child abuse, and any other conduct that may impact the parent-child relationship or the child’s safety and well-being.

6. Child’s Preferences – Depending on the child’s age and maturity, their preferences regarding custody arrangements may be considered as evidence. While the child’s wishes are not determinative, they can provide valuable insight into their preferences and feelings regarding the custody arrangements.

7. Expert Testimony – Expert testimony from psychologists, social workers, or other professionals may provide insight into the child’s needs and the potential impact of custody arrangements on the child’s well-being.

8. Documentation and Records – Documentation such as financial records, communication records between the parents, and any relevant court documents or orders may also be used as evidence in a child custody case.

Overall, the type of evidence that can help in a child custody case is diverse and multifaceted. This reflects the complex nature of custody determinations and the paramount importance of prioritizing the best interests 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.

The Best Interests of the Child

In family court proceedings, prioritizing the child’s best interests stands as the cornerstone of custody decisions. However, discerning these best interests is far from a one-size-fits-all task. Judges meticulously evaluate many factors and circumstances, all aiming to safeguard the child’s physical, emotional, and psychological well-being.

1. Stability and Continuity

Ensuring stability and continuity in a child’s life is paramount within the family court system. Judges meticulously scrutinize both parents’ living arrangements, assessing the stability of their respective homes, the consistency of the child’s routines, and the continuity of their relationships within the family, among friends, and across the broader community. A stable home environment fosters a crucial sense of security and predictability, which are fundamental for the child’s healthy development and well-being.

2. Parent-Child Relationship

At the heart of the custody system lies the quality of the bond between each parent and the child. The court carefully examines their engagement and interaction level, evaluating the parent’s skills in meeting the child’s needs, providing emotional support, and fostering a nurturing connection. A robust parent-child relationship is paramount for the child’s emotional well-being and sense of belonging within their home environment.

3. Parental Fitness

The court meticulously evaluates each parent’s fitness to fulfill their parental obligations within the system. This evaluation encompasses assessing their physical and mental health, skills in providing for the child’s basic needs, and willingness to facilitate the child’s relationship with the other parent. Parental fitness transcends biological ties; it includes creating a nurturing and supportive home environment conducive to the child’s growth and education.

4. Child’s Wishes

While the child’s preferences may be considered, they are not the only element in custody decisions. Judges consider their preferences based on the child’s age and maturity level. Finally, the child’s wants are assessed against other relevant criteria to ensure that custody arrangements are in their best interests, even if they may not always match the child’s wishes.

5. Co-Parenting Ability

The court places significant importance on the parents’ capacity to collaborate efficiently within the co-parenting system. Judges scrutinize the presence of transparent communication, cooperative decision-making skills, visitation, cooperation, and a steadfast dedication to prioritizing the child’s needs above personal conflicts. A harmonious co-parenting arrangement fosters stability, thereby reducing the emotional upheaval experienced by the child during the transition period.

6. History of Abuse or Neglect

Any history of abuse, neglect, or domestic violence is meticulously scrutinized by the court, with the paramount concern being the safety and well-being of the child. Judges take decisive action to protect vulnerable children, which may include restricting or denying custody to a parent with a documented history of harmful behavior.

7. Parental Stability

In child custody determinations, the stability of each parent’s life plays a crucial role. Judges carefully examine evidence such as employment status, housing stability, and overall lifestyle within the system. They acknowledge that a parent’s ability to offer a secure and nurturing home environment is paramount to the child’s welfare. A stable parental situation fosters a sense of security and consistency, which are essential for a child’s healthy development.

In conclusion, when navigating the intricacies of child custody proceedings, it’s crucial to prioritize the child’s best interests, especially considering factors judges consider, such as child support, financial differences, and each parent’s experience. 

What do judges look for in child custody cases In Las Vegas, NV

Navigating Child Custody Proceedings with Huggins Law Office

Navigating the intricate terrain of child custody proceedings requires a steadfast ally, and at Huggins Law Office, we stand ready to be that ally for you. With a deep understanding of the complexities involved, we offer compassionate guidance and unwavering advocacy every step of the way. 

Our experienced attorneys comprehend the nuanced dynamics of family law, including factors such as child support, parental access, and the unique needs of each family. We work tirelessly to ensure that your child’s best interests remain at the forefront of our legal strategy, prioritizing stability and nurturing environments. 

Whether negotiating custody arrangements, crafting parenting plans, or representing you in court, we provide personalized assistance tailored to your situation. With Huggins Law Office by your side, you can confidently navigate child custody proceedings, knowing that your family’s welfare is in capable hands.

Consult With Our Child Custody Lawyer Today!

Child custody battles can be emotionally charged and legally complex. At Huggins Law Office, we understand families’ challenges during these difficult times. Our team of experienced family law attorneys is committed to advocating for your and your children’s best interests.

Our professional attorneys work closely with our clients to navigate the intricacies of child custody proceedings, providing compassionate guidance and tenacious representation every step of the way. Whether through negotiation, mediation, or litigation, we strive to achieve favorable outcomes that prioritize the well-being of your family.

If you’re facing a child custody dispute, don’t navigate it alone. Contact Huggins Law Office today to schedule a consultation and learn how we can assist you in protecting your parental rights and securing the best possible future for your children.

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


Here are some frequently asked questions about what do judges look for in child custody cases:

Q. How do judges determine the best interests of the child?

Judges determine the best interests of the child by evaluating various factors such as stability and continuity in the child’s life, the quality of the parent-child relationship, parental fitness, the child’s wishes (considering age and maturity), co-parenting ability, any history of abuse or neglect, and the stability of each parent’s life, including employment status, housing stability, and overall lifestyle. Through a comprehensive assessment of these factors, judges strive to make decisions that prioritize the child’s physical, emotional, and psychological well-being.

Q. Do judges consider each parent's income and financial stability?

Yes, judges do consider each parent’s income and financial stability as part of the broader assessment of the child’s best interests in custody proceedings. Financial resources play a significant role in a parent’s ability to provide for the child’s needs, including food, clothing, shelter, education, and healthcare. Judges may examine factors such as each parent’s employment status, income level, financial assets, and ability to maintain a stable financial situation. However, it’s important to note that financial considerations are just one aspect of the overall evaluation, alongside other factors such as parental fitness, the quality of the parent-child relationship, and the child’s well-being.

Q. Is maintaining stability and continuity important to judges in custody cases?

Yes, maintaining stability and continuity is crucial to judges in custody cases. They recognize the significance of consistency in a child’s life for their overall well-being and development. Judges assess the ability of each parent to provide a stable environment, considering factors such as the home environment, routine, and relationships with family and community. Prioritizing stability and continuity ensures that the child can thrive in a secure and predictable environment, which is fundamental to their best interests.

Q. Are past behaviors or actions of parents considered by judges?

Yes, past behaviors or actions of parents are indeed considered by judges during custody proceedings. Judges carefully review any history of abuse, neglect, or domestic violence, as well as other relevant factors that may impact the well-being of the child. These considerations play a critical role in determining custody arrangements that prioritize the safety and welfare of the child.

Q. Can a judge consider domestic violence or abuse allegations in custody cases?

Yes, a judge can consider domestic violence or abuse allegations in custody cases. Protecting the safety and well-being of the child is paramount, and any history of domestic violence or abuse can significantly impact custody decisions. Judges carefully assess such allegations, considering their relevance to the child’s best interests. If substantiated, these factors may influence custody arrangements, visitation schedules, and any necessary protective measures to ensure the child’s safety.

Q. How does the quality of the parent-child relationship affect a judge's decision?

The quality of the parent-child relationship holds substantial weight for judges. They carefully evaluate the level of engagement, interaction, and emotional connection between each parent and the child. A robust and nurturing bond signals a healthy upbringing environment conducive to the child’s well-being. Therefore, judges prioritize custody agreements that facilitate positive parent-child relationships and support the child’s development.

Q. How do judges determine visitation rights in child custody cases?

In child custody cases, judges make custody decisions by meticulously considering multiple factors. These considerations encompass the best interests of the child, which entail assessing the child’s age, relationship with each parent, and the capacity of each parent to maintain a secure and nurturing environment during visitation. Moreover, judges take into account any history of abuse or neglect, the distance between parents’ residences, and their work schedules. The aim is to establish a visitation schedule via court hearing or custody battle that facilitates the child’s well-being and ensures meaningful relationships with both parents, as outlined in a comprehensive parenting plan or custody agreement.

Q. How do judges factor in the wishes of the child when deciding custody arrangements?

Judges consider the child’s wishes when deciding child custody arrangements by considering the child’s age, maturity, and expressed preferences. While the child’s desires are considered, they are not determinative. Instead, judges weigh the child’s wishes alongside other pertinent factors, such as the child’s best interests, parental fitness, stability, and safety concerns. The ultimate goal is to ensure custody arrangements prioritize the child’s well-being and foster a positive environment for their growth and development.

Q. How do judges make child custody decisions?

Custody decisions rendered by judges entail a meticulous examination of numerous factors. These encompass the stability of each parent’s life, the parent-child relationship quality, any history of abuse or neglect, the child’s preferences (considering age and maturity), and the parties’ capacity to co-parent effectively. Judges also consider evidence presented during court hearings, including affidavits, and prioritize the child’s best interests above all else. The ultimate goal of custody decisions is to safeguard the child’s safety, well-being, and healthy development, ensuring a positive outcome amidst the custody battle.

Q. Can a child choose which parent to live with?

In some cases, depending on the child’s age and maturity, the court may consider their preferences when determining custody arrangements. However, the child’s choice alone typically does not dictate the final decision. Judges weigh the child’s wishes against other relevant factors, such as the child’s best interests, parental fitness, and each parent’s ability to provide a safe and nurturing environment. Ultimately, the court strives to make decisions prioritizing the child’s well-being above all else.

Q. How to present evidence in a child custody case?

In a child custody case, presenting evidence effectively is crucial. Start by gathering relevant documents, such as school records, medical reports, and communication records. These can help support your case regarding the child’s well-being and your involvement in their life. Additionally, consider testimonies from witnesses who can attest to your parenting abilities and the child’s relationship with you. During court proceedings, present your evidence clearly and concisely, focusing on facts directly relating to the child’s best interests. Be prepared to explain how each piece of evidence supports your argument for custody. Working with an experienced family law attorney can help you navigate the process and present your evidence most compellingly.

Q. How do visitation rights work in custody cases?

Visitation rights in custody cases typically allow the non-custodial parent, who doesn’t have primary physical custody of the child, to spend time with them. The court usually outlines a visitation schedule detailing when and how often the non-custodial parent can see the child. This schedule can vary depending on the child’s age, the distance between parents’ homes, and the parents’ work schedules. Visitation rights aim to maintain a meaningful relationship between the child and the non-custodial parent while ensuring the child’s well-being and safety.

Q. What role does each parent's financial situation play in a custody case?

Each parent’s financial situation can significantly impact a custody case. Courts may consider factors such as each parent’s ability to provide for the child’s basic needs, including food, clothing, and shelter. Additionally, the financial stability of each parent may influence their ability to create a stable and supportive home environment for the child. However, it’s important to note that while financial considerations may play a role in custody determinations, they are just one of many factors that courts consider when deciding what arrangement is in the child’s best interests.

Q. What standards are used to assess allegations of abuse or neglect?

Allegations of abuse or neglect are assessed based on established standards aimed at ensuring the safety and well-being of the child. Judges and authorities consider evidence presented, including testimonies, medical reports, and any documented incidents. They also evaluate the severity and frequency of alleged abuse or neglect. Additionally, they take into account the child’s physical and emotional state, as well as any relevant factors such as the parent’s history or patterns of behavior. The primary concern is always to protect the child from harm and provide a safe environment for their upbringing.

Q. How do judges weigh allegations of domestic violence in child custody cases?

In child custody cases, judges take allegations of domestic violence very seriously. They carefully consider any evidence presented, such as police reports, medical records, witness statements, or photographs, to assess the validity of the allegations. The safety and well-being of the child are paramount concerns for the court. If domestic violence is substantiated, the judge may restrict or deny custody or visitation rights to the abusive parent to ensure the child’s safety. Judges may also order supervised visitation or mandate participation in counseling or anger management programs as part of the custody arrangement. Overall, judges prioritize protecting the child from harm when weighing allegations of domestic violence in custody cases.

Q. Who can provide statistics on the outcomes of child custody cases?

Statistical data on the outcomes of child custody cases can be provided by various sources, including government agencies, research institutions, and legal organizations. These entities collect and analyze data from court records, surveys, and studies to understand trends in custody arrangements and their impact on children and families. Additionally, family law attorneys and experts in the field may offer insights based on their experience and knowledge of prevailing custody arrangements. By consulting these sources, individuals can gain valuable information to better understand the landscape of child custody decisions and outcomes.

Q. What is the importance of child's best interests in custody cases?

The importance of the child’s best interests in custody cases cannot be overstated. It serves as the guiding principle for judges to make decisions that prioritize the well-being and safety of the child above all else. By focusing on the child’s best interests, courts ensure that custody arrangements promote stability, emotional support, and a nurturing environment necessary for healthy development. This approach considers various factors such as the child’s relationship with each parent, their living situation, and any history of abuse or neglect. Ultimately, centering on the child’s best interests helps create custody arrangements that foster a positive and stable environment for the child to thrive.