Child holding fathers armThis is the next post in a series of articles discussing separate maintenance, also known as legal separation, in Las Vegas, Nevada. My previous post discussed the process for couples wishing to obtain a legal separation. While the terminology used in separate maintenance proceedings are different than those in divorce cases, the processes are relatively similar. When couples agree to all of the terms of their separate maintenance, for instance, the process will be similar to an uncontested divorce proceeding. Couples who do not agree on one or more of their separation terms, on the other hand, follow a path similar to a contested divorce, involving hearings and a potential trial. If you are contemplating a legal separation, an experienced family lawyer can help you navigate each step of the process. In this article, I will discuss how child custody issues are handled in separate maintenance cases. If you need assistance, contact my office today to schedule a consultation with an attorney.

As I have previously discussed in this series, the practical effects of obtaining a legal separation in Nevada are similar to the effects of divorce. The primary difference is that, under the law, a couple is still legally married if they are legally separated. This is also true for matters involving child custody. Spouses with children who are seeking a separate maintenance arrangement will require a custody order addressing matters such as joint or primary physical custody, visitation, and child support. The custody determination will be made as part of the separation proceedings. When spouses agree on all terms related to custody, they will include those terms in their proposed separation agreement. If they do not agree on each relevant aspect of the arrangement, however, the Judge will likely require them to attend court-ordered mediation through the Family Mediation Center in an attempt to resolve the open issues. After the mediation, if issues are still unresolved, the case will proceed to trial. Both parties will have the opportunity to present evidence in support of their respective positions and the Judge will ultimately decide the outcome.

As with other court orders, custody agreements imposed through separate maintenance proceedings are permanent and legally binding on both parties. Parents should make every effort to comply with their terms. Failure to do so may lead to the noncompliant parent facing enforcement actions, being held in contempt of court, or the reduction or loss of their custody rights. Like custody orders issued in divorce or other contexts, modifications to existing custody orders issued in a legal separation may be requested under certain circumstances. It is important to understand what situations may justify the Court’s approval of such requests. When parents agree to the change, they may file the modification with the Court for approval. If a dispute exists, the requesting parent must demonstrate that a change in circumstances has occurred since the current order was issued and the current agreement is no longer best for the child. Before initiating legal action to change a custody order, it is important to discuss your case with an experienced attorney. Judges do not look favorably on parents who initiate legal proceedings related to minor disagreements that may have been resolved out of Court. Your lawyer will review your situation and help determine whether the Court will consider granting a modification under such circumstances.

I understand that child custody issues can be emotionally charged and contentious when parents are separating. I take pride in treating my clients’ cases with sensitivity and respect. My office is ready to assist you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with a child custody attorney.