Moving a child away from their other parent is one of the most contentious issues that arises in family law. The reason for high levels of disagreement between parents is obvious. Either one parent is going to be told that their child is moving away from them, or the other is going to be told that they cannot live where they wish. In such a scenario, it is all but guaranteed that one side will come out of the situation unhappy. In Nevada, confusion can arise in such cases due to the fact that there have been several changes to the law in recent years. We have, therefore, decided to write a guide regarding the legal requirements for moving a child out of Nevada. This guide will also discuss the process of moving a child within the state, if such a move will interfere with the other parent’s visitation. We are writing this guide in order to help parents to better understand their rights. If you are in need of assistance then contact our office today to speak with a Las Vegas child relocation lawyer.
This guide is being written to provide information regarding moving children out of Nevada as well as to provide information regarding in-state moves. Reading this guide should not be considered as a substitute for receiving legal advice. Relocation cases are extremely fact specific and how the Court will rule in any given case will always depend on the particulars of the matter. It is, therefore, suggested that you speak with a family law lawyer at your first opportunity. If you would like to schedule a consultation, then contact us online or by telephone today to speak with an attorney. The table of contents below lists the topics which will be discussed in this guide. To navigate to a particular area, simply click “jump to topic.”
Table of Contents
- Explanation of Nevada law regarding the moving of children (jump to topic)
- What constitutes “moving” with a child? (jump to topic)
- When parents are required to gain permission to move (jump to topic)
- The potential penalties for moving a child without permission (jump to topic)
- Factors the Court will consider when deciding if a child may be moved out of Nevada (jump to topic)
- Steps to take before requesting permission to move a child out of Nevada (jump to topic)
- Requesting permission to move your child out of Nevada (jump to topic)
- Dealing with a parent who has relocated a child without the Court’s permission (jump to topic)
- Parenting after a child has been moved out of Nevada (jump to topic)
Nevada law regarding moving children out of state, and within the state
Nevada is like other states in the country in that it generally does not permit a parent to move out of state without the other parent’s permission or a court order. This means that if you wish to move your residence out of Nevada, and take your child with you, then you must a) gain the written permission of the other parent, or b) gain permission from the Court. Also, depending on the circumstances, you may need written permission or a court order in order to move your residence from one part of Nevada to another. This section of our legal guide is meant to explain the nuances of our state’s relocation laws.
Nevada’s family statutes were amended in 2015 to update the requirements and standards associated with a parent moving out of state. Prior to these amendments, the standards of whether or not a parent could move out of state were largely determined by case law from the Nevada Supreme Court. Furthermore, the legal structure regarding relocation only applied to moving a child out of state. This means, for example, that a parent who wished to move a child from Las Vegas to Reno did not have to meet the same standards as a parent moving a child from Las Vegas to Arizona. The 2015 statutory amendments have added new standards. This section of our guide will, therefore, be used to discuss what it is that constitutes “moving” with a child. We will also discuss when one is required to gain permission to move. Finally, we will discuss the consequences of moving with a child without permission.
What constitutes “moving” with a child in the state of Nevada
Prior to the 2015 statutory amendments (discussed above), a parent was only considered to be “relocating” a child if they were permanently moving the youth’s residence outside of Nevada. Our current statutory framework modified this approach by also applying the relocation laws to problematic in-state moves.
Moving a child out of Nevada
Under NRS 125C.006 and NRS 125C.0065, a parent is required to gain permission from their counterpart or the court if they are relocating their residence “…to a place outside of this state.” In other words, a parent must be permanently moving their residence in order for Nevada’s relocation laws to apply. A parent will not be required to meet the relocation standard if, for example, they are simply taking a child on a vacation to California or some other place beyond our borders. This often causes confusion between parents as it is common for a party to believe that a child cannot be taken out of state at all without permission. This is not the case.
Moving a child within the state of Nevada
NRS 125C.006 and NRS 125C.0065 also apply our relocation framework to instances where a parent wishes to relocate the child “…to a place within this State that is at such a distance that would substantially impair the ability of the other parent to maintain a meaningful relationship with the child.” In other words, if a parent wishes to relocate the child to a location where visitation would be difficult, then they must go through the process of requesting permission to move. It is important to note that the standard for whether a parent must gain permission is based on whether meaningful visitation is practical. This is different from other states. Florida, for example, simply requires permission to be obtained if the parent is moving fifty miles or more. Under Nevada’s framework, each case will be situation specific. It is possible that one parent, who moves fifty miles away, does not have to request relocation while a parent who only moves forty miles away does. If you wish to move your residence, and maintain custody of your child, then it is strongly suggested that you speak with a lawyer to discuss the specifics of your case.
When Nevada parents are, and are not, required to gain permission to move with their child
NRS 125C.006 and NRS 125C.0065 require a parent to gain permission to relocate if custody “…has been established pursuant to an order, judgment or decree of a court.” In other words, Nevada’s relocation framework applies only if a court order has been issued in regard to custody. If, on the other hand, two unmarried parents do not have a custody order in place, a parent will not be considered as having broken the law if they move out of state with a child. It is worth noting that, when a child custody case is filed in Las Vegas, the Clerk of the Court will typically issue an injunction. This injunction will prohibit a parent from moving out of state with the child without the Court’s permission. So, for all practical purposes, a parent will also be required to gain permission to relocate if a child custody or paternity case has been filed, but no order has yet been issued by the judge.
Consider the following. Jack and Jill live in Las Vegas and have a child and there is a custody order in place which grants Jill primary custody of the child, with Jack receiving weekend visitation. Jill wishes to relocate to California with the youth. She will be required to either gain Jacks’ written permission for the move or she will need an order from the Court. Now suppose that the parties have always gotten along as unmarried parents who do not live together, and never saw the need for a custody order. When Jill moves to California without Jack’s permission and without a custody order, she will not be considered as having broken the law. Jack may, however, file a child custody case asking that he be granted primary custody of the child in Las Vegas.
The potential consequences of moving a Nevada child without permission
There are multiple problems which a parent may face if they move a child in violation of Nevada’s relocation framework. First, they may potentially be found in violation of NRS 200.359. This means that the offending parent can potentially be found guilty of a category D felony. It is important to note, however, that the bringing of criminal charges by a District Attorney are rare in such matters. With that said, there are other consequences which a parent may face. These can include being held in contempt of court (which carries a potential jail sentence of up to twenty-five days), having to pay the opposing party’s legal fees, and the Judge potentially changing custody in favor of the other party. It is important to remember that how the judge will respond in any given situation will always depend on the facts of the case. It is, therefore, important that you discuss your situation with an attorney.
Consider the following example. Jack and Jill have a child and a custody order is in place which states that Jill has primary custody. Jack receives visitation two days per week. Jill states that she wishes to move to California to be closer to her family. Jack states that he will not give her permission to leave. A week later, Jack receives a call from Jill stating that she has moved with the child and that they will have to “work visitation out.” Jack files a Motion to have the child returned to Nevada. Under these circumstances, the child would typically be returned rather quickly. The mother would likely be held in contempt of court. Whether she would serve jail time, for contempt, would depend on several other facts. The Court may also be inclined to grant Jack custody if he can show that it would be in the child’s best interests. The fact that Jill absconded with the child would likely weigh against her in any subsequent custody proceeding, as it demonstrates that she will not follow court orders. Again, this is just an example and it is best to discuss your particular situation with counsel.
Factors the Court will consider when deciding if a child may be moved out of Nevada
The factors which the Court will consider in a child move away case are found in NRS 125C.007. Pursuant to this statute, a parent who wishes to relocate and does not have the consent of their counterpart must meet a two-part test. First, they must demonstrate, pursuant to NRS 125C.007(1), that:
- There exists a sensible, good-faith reason for the move, and the move is not intended to deprive the non-relocating parent of his or her parenting time;
- The best interests of the child are served by allowing the relocating parent to relocate with the child; and
- The child and the relocating parent will benefit from an actual advantage as a result of the relocation.
If a parent cannot meet these three requirements, then their request will be denied. If they do meet these three requirements, then the Court will consider the following factors dictated in NRS 125C.007(2):
- The extent to which the relocation is likely to improve the quality of life for the child and the relocating parent;
- Whether the motives of the relocating parent are honorable and not designed to frustrate or defeat any visitation rights accorded to the non-relocating parent;
- Whether the relocating parent will comply with any substitute visitation orders issued by the court if permission to relocate is granted;
- Whether the motives of the non-relocating parent are honorable in resisting the petition for permission to relocate or to what extent any opposition to the petition for permission to relocate is intended to secure a financial advantage in the form of ongoing support obligations or otherwise;
- Whether there will be a realistic opportunity for the non-relocating parent to maintain a visitation schedule that will adequately foster and preserve the parental relationship between the child and the non-relocating parent if permission to relocate is granted; and
- Any other factor necessary to assist the court in determining whether to grant permission to relocate.
The Court is not required to give each of these factors “equal weight” when considering them.
We will now discuss sections (1) and (2) of NRS 125C.007 in more detail.
NRS 125C.007(1) and the best interests of the child
The first threshold a parent must meet when attempting to move a child out of Nevada is to establish that the move would be in the youth’s best interests. It must also be shown that the move is not simply “to get away” from the other parent and that an actual benefit will be obtained from the move.
When determining what is in the child’s best interests, the Court will consider a variety of factors. These include, but are not limited to:
- The developmental needs of the child
- The physical needs of the child
- The ability of a parent to meet the child’s needs
- The need of the child to maintain a relationship with siblings
- The physical and mental health of each parent
The Court is not required to weigh each of these factors equally. When weighing these factors, the Court will look at objective and verifiable facts as opposed to unfounded allegations. The following examples are meant to illustrate how the Court may apply these factors in a relocation case.
Suppose Jill has an accounting degree and works as a bookkeeper in a Las Vegas casino. She has primary custody of her son and the father has the child on the weekends. Dad regularly pays his child support. Jill is able to pay her bills each month, but there is little left over. The child is unable to engage in desired extracurricular activities due to financial restraints. Jill has looked for better jobs in Las Vegas, which match her skillset, but has not been able to find better employment. She receives a job offer from a Phoenix employer. The new job will mean much higher pay and a path for additional promotions. Furthermore, the child would be zoned for a Phoenix school which is better than the one he or she currently attends. Under this scenario, the Court may find that the increase in Jill’s pay, and the access to better schools, is in the child’s best interests. Also, the actual benefit from the move is obvious. Finally, given that Jill has looked for better opportunities in Las Vegas, as opposed to only looking in Phoenix, the Court would likely find that she is not attempting to frustrate visitation. As such, the Court would likely say that Jill has met the “threshold” test of NRS 125C.007(1).
Now suppose that Jill receives a job offer in Phoenix and asks the Court for permission to move with the child. This time, however, it is shown that Jill had made no effort to find better employment in Las Vegas. Also, it is shown that the job Jill will be accepting is a lateral move at best; the pay is the same as her current job and there is no greater chance for advancement than what she enjoys currently. Based on these facts, the Court may find that there is not an actual benefit to the move. Also, depending on other facts which need to be determined, the Court may find that the move is meant to frustrate the father’s visitation. This could, in part, be based on the fact that Jill made no effort to find employment in Nevada. If the Court were to reach these conclusions, Jill’s request would be denied. Again, how the Court will rule in any given situation will always depend on the specific facts of the case.
NRS 125C.007(2) in regard to child relocations
If the Court finds that a parent meets the requirements of NRS 125C.007(1) then it will analyze the factors listed in NRS 125C.007(2) to determine if a parent can move. Those factors, listed above, will be analyzed in the context of each case. While the discussion of how those factors are applied can be too lengthy for the purposes of this guide, there are considerations which will be common to each case.
First, the Court will look to objective facts when it is determining whether or not the move will improve the child’s quality of life. This means, for example, that the judge will look at whether an area has a better school system, etc. The Court generally will not concern itself with subjective issues which are more of a “value judgment.” As an example, suppose a new school system is consistently ranked higher than the system in Nevada. This would be an objective fact which the Court would consider. The Court would not consider factors such as whether a parent thinks the new location has a “better sense of community” than Nevada. In other words, objective facts are going to matter to the Court while personal opinions typically will not.
Second, many parents who oppose a move err by thinking that out of state visitation is automatically impractical due to distance, etc. This is not the case. Courts regularly order long-distance visitation. This can include a parent having the child for the entirety of school breaks and for other long stretches of time. Also, long-distance visitation will typically involve requirements for regularly scheduled phone calls, video chats, etc. To put it simply, those who think that they can defeat the requirement of a “realistic visitation schedule” requirement, simply because the child will be out of state, are generally incorrect.
Third, the Court will generally give substantial weight to a requesting parent’s history of complying with visitation orders. A history of following or not following visitation orders can, for obvious reasons, give the Court insight into whether the moving parent can be expected to follow through with long-distance visitation requirements. Suppose, for example, that a parent wishes to move but they have previously been held in contempt of court for violating visitation requirements. The Court may be less likely to grant the move. The Court will look to objective evidence in determining whether the moving party has complied with prior orders. The Court, for example, will likely disregard undocumented claims that “he or she is always late” dropping off the child. If, however, emails, texts, and other verifiable information documents a history of a parent not following orders, then the Court is more likely to be concerned.
It must be remembered that no two cases are the same and that you should discuss your situation with an attorney for insight as to how the Court may rule in your matter.
Steps to take before requesting permission to move a child outside of Nevada
An important consideration in any relocation case is the extent to which the requesting parent is providing detailed information regarding the nature and purpose of the proposed move. The more specific a request is, then the more likely the Court is to give it serious consideration. If, by contrast, the request is vague then the Court will be more likely to dismiss it quickly. This section of our guide will discuss the need for specific plans and how the Court will often respond to vague requests.
Nevada parents should develop specific plans when requesting permission to move their child out of state
A parent must provide as many specifics about a proposed move as possible when making a request to the Court. This, in turn, means that parents must have a detailed plan so they may submit specifics to the Court. When preparing a request, it is typically suggested that one know the city in which they will be living at a minimum. We suggest knowing the city at a minimum because it may not be possible for a parent to secure housing in a particular neighborhood until their move request is granted. It will also typically help if the parent has already secured employment. If employment cannot be secured then it helps to demonstrate that a) a parent has job interviews lined up or b) that there are substantial job openings in the proposed area which align with the parent’s line of work. Also, a parent should submit information in regard to the school system, if not the school itself, which the child will be attending. Again, the more specific these details are in the request, then the more likely the Judge is to take the matter seriously.
The Court will be understanding of the fact that some information cannot be known until permission for a move is granted. It goes without saying that a parent likely cannot sign a lease on an apartment if they do not know whether they will be permitted to move their child to the apartment. As such, a parent cannot necessarily give an exact address as to where they will be living. The same can be said for employment and other important considerations. It is important that one not make the mistake of thinking that every detail of a move must be confirmed before making the request to the Court. It must be understood, however, that the more details which you provide, the more likely the Judge is to consider the request.
How Nevada courts deal with vague child relocation requests
The more vague a parent’s request to move a child out of Nevada is, then the more likely a Court will be to dismiss it out of hand. The Court cannot properly consider a request to move a child unless it has information which can be used to determine how the move will improve the child’s life. The Court must also be able to make determinations related to the other relevant factors stated above. Suppose, for example, that a parent simply claims that they wish to move to state “X.” They are not sure as to which of the state’s cities they will live in. They also, for obvious reasons, cannot state which school, or even the school district, which the child will attend. They also have made no efforts to secure or even research employment in the new state. For obvious reasons, the Court would likely dismiss such a request rather quickly.
The level of specifics which the Court will require will vary from situation to situation. It is important to understand that there is no set amount of specificity which must be provided in a move request. Instead, the Court will view each matter on an individual basis and determine whether the amount of information provided is sufficient to go forward. In other words, the Court will not look at “could more information be provided” as much as it will consider whether the information provided is enough to hear the request. An experienced family law attorney can assist you in understanding whether you have enough information to move forward with moving your child away from Nevada.
Requesting permission to relocate your child outside of Nevada
There are two ways in which a parent can obtain permission to move outside of Nevada with their child. The first is a written agreement between the parents. The second is by gaining permission from the Court. Also, in situations where a parent needs to move immediately, the Judge may grant permission to move temporarily with a later decision to be made as to whether the move is permanent. This section of our guide will discuss each of these issues in turn.
Moving a child away from Nevada when the parents are in agreement
The first way in which a parent may legally move their child outside of Nevada, after custody has been established, is to obtain the written consent of the other parent. This written consent can take the form of a document signed by the two parties. Such a “writing,” does not need to be so formal however. The Courts will generally accept any written communication which expresses permission from the non-moving parent. Suppose, for example, the requesting parent sent a text message to their counterpart which stated:
“I would like to move to Arizona with our child.”
Now suppose the other parent responded:
If the requesting parent moved, and the other parent claimed she had taken the child without permission, the Court would likely find that permission had been granted.
Parents must understand that obtaining written permission to move is not the end of the issue. A new custody order should be put in place which spells out visitation, child support, etc. Problems are often quick to arise without a new order in place. Also, even if a parent grants permission, as in the example above, they can still ask the Court to change custody in their favor if details such as visitation cannot be worked out. Gaining written permission to move out of state with a child can insure a parent against claims of child abduction. It does not, however, mean that the situation will be permanently granted by the Court. The best step to ensure a stable situation is to retain a child custody lawyer to draft a stipulation and order reflecting your new situation as quickly as possible.
Moving a child away from Nevada when the parents are not in agreement
A parent wishing to move their child outside of Nevada must file a Motion with the Court in the event that they cannot reach an agreement with their counterpart. A Motion is a formal document in which the party states what relief they are requesting from the Judge, the facts in support of that relief, and the law supporting their position. The Motion will be filed and the other party will have a chance to respond. A hearing will typically be held within four to six weeks after the Motion is filed. This initial hearing is not a trial. The Judge will hear a brief oral argument from each side and determine whether a trial date should be set to reach a final determination. If the Judge decides to set a trial then each side will be given the opportunity to conduct discovery (the process by which information is gained in a lawsuit). If the Judge decides that the information provided does not warrant a trial then they will deny the Motion and the case will be closed.
The typical relocation case will require either a trial or a settlement in order for a party to be able to move out of state with the child. In some instances, however, the Court may rule that a parent can relocate at the initial hearing and close the matter. Suppose, for example, that a mother has primary physical custody of a child and the father only has supervised visitation due to substance abuse issues. The mother is told by her job that she must move to California. In other words, the mother is moving and has little choice in the matter. In such a situation, the Court may very well award the relocation at the initial hearing as, for obvious reasons, the alternative would be to leave the child with someone who requires their own supervision. Again, it must be remembered that most relocation requests can only be granted through a trial or a settlement.
Requesting permission to immediately relocate a child outside of Nevada
There are situations in which a parent can gain permission to move immediately with a child. Such moves will typically be considered “temporary” and the parent will need to attend a trial to determine if the move should be made permanent. Such temporary moves may be necessary if waiting for permission to relocate cannot wait. An example of this can be a parent who is told to transfer by their job and they must start the new position, in the new location, within a few weeks. While the Court is open to such immediate moves, a judge’s preference will typically be to follow a lengthier process. As such, the Court will only grant such temporary relocations when the situation cannot wait.
The first step in requesting an immediate move is to file a Motion with the Court. It will also be necessary to file a request that the Court hear the matter on an expedited basis. This is known as a request for “Shortened Time.” The Court will hear the Motion. There are three possible outcomes at the hearing. First, the Court may state that the parent has permission to move immediately and a trial date will be set to determine if the move should be permanent. Second, the Judge may state that the parent cannot move immediately, but that a trial date will be set for a later time to determine if the parent can relocate then. Finally, the Court may deny the Motion outright and end the matter. It is best to discuss your situation with a lawyer to determine how a judge may view your case.
Dealing with a parent who has moved a child outside of Nevada without the Court’s permission
A parent has recourse if their counterpart has moved a child outside of Nevada without permission. The first step in such a situation is to file a Motion with the Court asking that the child be returned to Nevada. Such Motions can typically be filed Ex Parte, meaning that the Court will grant them without a hearing. This will typically occur within a few days of the time that the Motion is filed. The Court will typically grant an Order stating that the child is to be returned to Nevada, that law enforcement is to assist with retrieving the child, and that the offending party should “show cause” as to why they should not be held in contempt. Also, if the Court finds that the offending party was in the wrong, then the Judge may order that they pay your legal fees.
Depending on the facts of the case, a judge may be inclined to change custody if it is found that a parent wrongfully attempted to move out of state with a child. Whether or not the Court will go forward with changing your current order, or whether they will simply admonish the offending party, will depend on the specifics of the case. It must be understood that a request to change custody will look at the totality of the family situation and not simply on the violation itself. It is best to speak with a lawyer to best understand how the Court may rule in your particular case.
Life after moving out of Nevada with a child
It will be vital that a parent follow all orders of the Court after they have been granted permission to move out of state with a child. This will include ensuring that all visitation orders are complied with, that the other parent has regular contact with the child, that information is shared, etc. Failing to follow these orders can give the other parent grounds to seek a modification of the order or, if the violations are severe enough, to change custody back in their favor. The best way to protect against ongoing legal disputes is to make sure that the Court’s orders are followed to the letter.
Contact a Las Vegas attorney regarding cases which involve moving a child away from Nevada
Contact my office today to speak with a Las Vegas attorney if you are involved in a case which involves moving a child away from Nevada. My office practices solely in the area of domestic relations law and we understand the contentious nature of such situations. We have extensive experience in both the requesting of moves and defending against such requests. We pride ourselves on providing excellent service and will ensure that you know what to expect as the matter moves forward. Contact us online or by telephone today to get started.