The idea of a family setup is often accompanied by the image of a husband and wife and their biological children. However, many families are more complicated than that these days. Unlike in the past, where divorce was somewhat frowned upon, today, it is a common occurrence. This is because people are more inclined to preserve their mental and physical health than endure a bad marriage.
Nonetheless, the divorce rates are much higher than one would expect. According to the American Psychological Association, 40 to 50% of marriages in the US end up in divorce. With such divorces, the notion of an ideal family setup is broken as parents are separated. Depending on the couple, this can result in child custody battles.
To make matters even more complicated, one or both of the parents can remarry, bringing a stepparent into the picture. Approximately 11.6 million children in the US, which is 16% of all kids, have a stepparent. Along with their marriage, stepparents also take up a parenting role with their stepchildren. Unfortunately, such setups can even become more complex when a second divorce occurs or if the biological parent passes on.
As a stepparent, where does that leave you? Do you automatically lose the rights and responsibilities for the child you have been caring for? If no, what rights do you have as a stepparent, especially if the other biological parent wants custody rights?
Divorce or the death of a spouse is painful and stressful. Losing a child you love in the process can be heart-wrenching. Despite playing a significant role in raising children, stepparents often feel powerless in such situations. Though family law exists, it has been designed with the traditional family setup in mind. However, this does not mean that you do not have any rights to child custody or visitation as a stepparent.
Undoubtedly, many factors come into play when determining what rights people have with children. This is especially so when it comes to matters of custody and visitation. In this article, you will learn more about the rights you have as a stepparent in Nevada.
Are Stepparents Entitled to Visitation Rights in Nevada?
When it comes to visitation rights in Nevada, such privileges are often reserved for parents. The definition of parents is not only limited to biological parents. It also includes:
- Individuals who are married or in a domestic union when the child is born such as in same-sex marriages
- People who legally adopt a child
- Individuals in a co-parenting or cohabitation agreement
However, in special circumstances, people who are not parents may also get child visitation rights in Nevada. Along with stepparents, this group also includes siblings, grandparents, and great-grandparents.
Thanks to the precedent set by the Truax vs. Truax case, Nevada courts no longer assign custody to the mother just because they are the mother. The best interests of the child are taken into account. As such, beyond visitation rights, stepparents can also be awarded full custody of a child.
For a court to grant a stepparent such rights, it must be demonstrated that the child has lived with the person for a significant period and developed a meaningful relationship with them.
Is It Necessary to Go to Court to Determine Visitation Rights?
As with other states, divorcing or separating parents in Nevada can discuss and come up with an amicable custody and visitation arrangement. Though such arrangements can be made informally, it is best to do so with writing. However, such arrangements can only be approved by a court of law if:
- They are in line with state custody and visitation laws.
- It is in the best interest of the child.
Unfortunately, there are situations where parents cannot come up with an agreeable custody and visitation solution. This is especially likely to happen in cases where a stepparent wants such rights. Where an agreement cannot be reached, the matter can be handled in court.
What Do Las Vegas Courts Consider When Determining Visitation Rights In Nevada?
When it comes to court cases, child custody and visitation hearings are as complicated as they come. There are many factors to consider, and when a stepparent is involved, it becomes even more complicated. In Nevada, the guidelines for such cases are outlined in NRS 125C, regarding custody and visitation.
Such considerations include:
- Parents’ preferences
- The child’s desire if they are old enough to make such a decision
- The physical and mental health of both parents
- The physical, emotional, and developmental needs of the child
- Nature of the relationship between the child and each parent
- Level of conflict between the parents
- The likelihood of each parent to allow the child to have a continuing relationship with the other parent
- The child’s ability to maintain relationships with siblings
- History of abuse or parental neglect on the child or their siblings
- History of domestic violence
- Whether there are abduction cases by either of the parents on the child or child’s siblings
The above guidelines are primarily focused on parents. However, stepparents can also gain custody and visitation rights.
How Can a Stepparent Gain Visitation Rights?
As a stepparent, a court can grant you visitation rights if you can prove:
- The parent has denied you or placed unreasonable restrictions on accessing the child, and
- It is in the best interest of the child for you to get visitation rights.
To succeed, you must produce clear evidence to demonstrate the above. Courts assess the following when determining such cases:
- The stepparent’s ability to love and guide the child
- Ability to provide clothing, shelter, food and other needs during visitation
- The past and present relationship between the stepparent and child
- The stepparents physical and mental health
- Whether there’s a history of financial support by the stepparent
- The child’s preference
- Any medical needs the child may have
- If the stepparent will encourage the child’s relationship with the parents
- Evidence relating to the safety and welfare of the child
Terms of Child Visitation
There are no specific visitation times and schedules imposed in Nevada, as each case is unique. However, some guidelines stipulate that the visitation schedule must be:
- In the child’s best interest, and
- Specific enough to be enforceable by a court
How to Safeguard Your Rights as a Stepparent
Divorce or other matters that affect the family setup can make parenting and child custody and visitation complicated. This is especially so for stepparents. However, it does not mean that you have fewer rights to the child you have taken care of and adore.
If you find yourself with unreasonably limited or no access to the child, it’s best to pursue legal options. Willick Law Group is a law firm specialized in divorce and child custody matters. Reach out to us today to gain child custody or visitation rights as a stepparent.