Court of Appeals:

Snyder v. Walker, No. 85088-COA, Order of Affirmance (Unpublished Disposition, March 24, 2023)

Mary Snyder appealed a district court order denying her request to relocate and awarding primary physical custody to Matthew Walker.

Mary and Matthew were never married. They have one child together, and while still living together, Mary became pregnant with a second child. Mary and Matthew lived together until October 2019, when Marry moved in with her current husband, Hal. In December 2019, Mary and Matthew entered into an informal joint custody arrangement without court assistance.

In July 2021, Mary and Hal got married in Ohio.  When they returned from Ohio, Matthew filed a complaint for custody seeking joint legal and joint physical custody of both children.  In August 2021, Mary filed an answer, counterclaim, and third-party complaint seeking joint legal custody of the eldest child and primary physical custody for the purpose of relocation.  In her third-party complaint, Mary identified another man as the younger child’s putative father, sought DNA testing to confirm her claim, and requested primary physical custody and permission to relocate to Maryland.

Through a paternity test, Matthew learned that he was not the biological father of the younger child. Mary “did not have an issue” with the court treating Matthew as the younger son’s legal father because the man she believed was the biological father failed to take a paternity test or otherwise participate in the case.

In June 2022, the district court found that Mary had not met her burden under Nevada law to warrant relocation to Maryland, under either NRS 125C.007(1) (the threshold test) or NRS 125C.007(2) (the six relocation factors) and denied Mary’s motion to relocate.  In addition, the district court considered each of the best interest factors contained in NRS 125C.0035(4), and awarded Matthew primary physical custody of both children. The district court also made a preliminary ruling that Matthew “shall be awarded reasonable attorney fees pursuant to NRS 18.010 and [NRS] 125C.200.”

The Court of Appeals found that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Mary’s motion to relocate. The court restated NRS 125C.007(3) which holds that the relocation parent has the burden of proving that relocating with a child is in the best interest of the child. The court found that the district court’s finding were supported by substantial evidence in the record, and were not persuaded by Mary’s vague and unsupported claims of judicial bias.

The Court of Appeals also found that the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding physical custody to Matthew.  The court made it clear that the sole consideration of the district court in custody determinations is the best interest of the child. The district court did not find Mary’s or Hal’s testimony to be credible, nor did Mary identify any improper evidence that came in during the court’s questioning.

The Court also went through a number of the best interest factors and found they favored Matthew. Further, the court found that Mary did not demonstrate that if any individual factor had not been decided in Matthew’s favor, the result would have been different. Mary did not show reversible error. The judgment of the district court was affirmed.


Pavon v. Pavon (Wallace), No. 83376-COA, Order of Affirmance (Unpublished Disposition, March 24, 2023)

Jose Pavon appealed a district court order denying his motion to modify custody and a post-judgment order awarding attorney fees and costs.

Upon Jose Pavon and Zully Pavon’s divorce, the district court entered a divorce decree awarding Zully sole legal and physical custody of the parties’ minor children, and also allowed Zully to exercise her own discretion as to whether Jose would be able to exercise any parenting time with the children. Jose filed a motion for visitation with minor child, for joint legal custody, and for measures to protect against flight with the child. Zully opposed the motion. The district court found that a change to Jose’s parenting time schedule would not be in best interest of the minor child. The court also awarded Zully attorney fees and costs.

On appeal, Jose argued that the district court’s findings related to the best interest factors were not supported by substantial evidence.  In so doing, Jose correctly notes that Nevada considers pleas entered pursuant to Alford as pleas of nolo contendere which should not be used against the party in civil actions.  In response, Zully argued that the district court appropriately considered the best interest of the child factors and did not abuse its discretion when it denied Jose’s request for parenting time.

The Court of Appeals concluded that the district court’s parenting time determination was supported by substantial evidence and that the district court addressed each of the best interest of the child factors under NRS 125C.0035 in its 18-page order. Further, the district court relied on testimony from the parties.

However, the Court of Appeals found that the district court erred when it considered evidence of Jose’s Alford plea, which is impermissible under Nevada law (Gomes, 112 Nev. at 1479 n.2, 930 P.2d at 705 n.2; NRS 48.125(2)), but that this error was harmless given the district court’s findings regarding the other best interest factors which were supported by substantial evidence and thus support the district court’s order denying Jose’s request for parenting time.

Jose’s challenge to the district court’s award of attorney fees and costs was not considered by the Court of Appeals because the court determined that Jose failed to present a cogent argument as to that point. The judgment of the district court was affirmed.


Pinto v. Guardado-Pinto, No. 84909-COA, Order of Affirmance (Unpublished Disposition, March 24, 2023)

Vanessa Pinto and Francis Guardado-Pinto were married in February 2007 and had two surviving minor children at the time of trial. Vanessa and Francis maintained separate bank accounts where they deposited their earnings. During their marriage they acquired three properties.

After a three-day trial, the district court found that one property was Vanessa’s sole and separate property, as she asserted and Francis conceded.  But it found that the other two, purchased during marriage, were community property.  It made no difference that Vanessa transferred one of them to her mother just before divorce.  And the other was found to be community property, despite a quit-claim signed by Francis, as his testimony and limited English skills were found to rebut the presumption of gift to Vanessa by clear and convincing evidence.

The district court found that Vanessa had presented no evidence that any student loan debt existed, but if it did exist it was Vanessa’s sole and separate debt because there was no evidence of a community purpose in the debt and Francis would not benefit from the education she received.  Likewise, she presented no evidence beyond her own testimony that $20,000 in jewelry existed or that Francis took it, or that Francis owned property in Honduras or had sent $40,000 there.

As to custody, the district court ordered joint legal custody and joint physical custody with a week on/week off based on the parties’ conflict and inability to co-parent, finding that each could care for the children in parallel parenting.  Vanessa appealed.

The Court of Appeals affirmed.  The district court acted within its discretion when it found Francis’s testimony credible and sufficient to rebut the presumption of gift.

Despite having separate accounts, the parties’ income was community property because Vanessa failed to produce a written agreement that her earnings were her sole and separate property (NRS 123.220(1)).

The district court did not abuse its discretion when it determined that Francis had sent $20,000, not $40,000, to Honduras during the marriage, as no evidence was introduced at trial to corroborate the statements of either party and credibility will not be re-weighed on appeal.

Vanessa failed to provide any legal authority or cogent argument in support of her position that the student loans were incurred for community purposes, and provided no evidence beyond her testimony that $20,000 of jewelry existed, was missing, and that Francis had it.

The child custody determination was not an abuse of discretion as the district court supported its decision with adequate findings and determined that the level of conflict between the parties was high and that both parents failed to communicate with one another. Therapy records were properly excluded when no witness was called to authenticate or admit them, and Vanessa failed to prove on appeal that a different result would have occurred if they had been admitted.


Martinez v. Martinez, No. 84148-COA, Order of Affirmance (Unpublished Disposition, March 23, 2023)

Jennifer and Paul Martinez were divorced in California; Jennifer received physical custody of their minor child L.M. and permission to relocate with L.M. to Nevada.

Paul moved in Nevada for primary physical custody of the minor child; Jennifer filed an opposition and counter-motion requesting that Paul’s parenting time be supervised until such time as he received a neuropsychological evaluation confirming his ability to care for the child without such supervision.

The district court denied Paul’s motion for primary physical custody but altered the parties’ parenting-time schedule to give Paul more time, and denied Jennifer’s request for Paul’s time to be supervised. The district court applied Nevada child support regulations, but ordered Jennifer to pay all costs of transportation.  Jennifer appealed.

The Court of Appeals affirmed, denying Jennifer’s claim that under Anastassatos v. Anastassatos, 112 Nev. 317, 320, 913 P.2d 652, 653-54 (1996), the district court exceeded its jurisdiction and violated her due-process rights by awarding Paul additional time that he did not request, finding that unlike in Anastassatos the issue of the parties’ parenting-time schedule was before the court.

Finding that the parties’ agreement as to summer visitation was that their proposed “timeshares aligned in certain respects,” the COA found that the district court was free to establish a timeshare inconsistent with the parents’ agreement because Nevada law requires evaluating the best interest of the child in custody actions under NRS 125C.0035(1).

The COA found no issue in the district court allowing the evidentiary hearing to go forward despite Paul’s supposed failure to turn over medical records as ordered.

The COA agreed with Paul that the district court’s ruling on travel costs was not an adjustment of child support, as the district court set the amount of child support in accordance with the regulatory base obligation and separately ordered Jennifer to pay travel costs.

Last, the court found Jennifer’s argument that the district court erred in declaring Paul a prevailing party entitled to an award of attorney fees and costs premature because the district court had not yet made that determination.


Sheehan v. Manty, No. 84125-COA, Order of Affirmance (Unpublished Disposition, March 16, 2023)

Brittany Sheehan and Justin Manty have one minor child, T.S. The facts as to where the parties and child were located for what periods are not well explained in the decision, but Brittany filed for custody in Nevada, after which Justin filed a custody action in California, and then filed a motion in Nevada to dismiss Brittany’s complaint for lack of jurisdiction.

Brittany went to California, removed the child from her school, and took her to Nevada.  Criminal charges were subsequently brought against Brittany in California in connection with the incident. Following a Nevada hearing on Justin’s motion to dismiss, the district court ordered Brittany to return the child to Justin, and dismissed the Nevada action under NRS 125A.365 on the grounds that California is a more convenient forum, as most of the relevant evidence and witnesses were in that state. Brittany appealed.

The Court of Appeals affirmed, rejecting Brittany’s contention that the district court violated Rule 2.3 of the Nevada Code of Judicial Conduct and finding no words or conduct that manifested bias or prejudice; Judge Butler’s arguably hyperbolic language simply stated a matter of fact that she was not aware of the child’s location because Brittany refused to reveal that information.

Brittany failed to cite any relevant authority about jurisdiction stating that an evidentiary hearing was required, or any disputed factual issues that the court needed to decide.

The district court properly ordered Brittany to return the child to Justin without considering the factors for determining the best interest of the child under NRS 125C.0035(4), given that the circumstances under which the child was removed from California by Brittany resulted in Brittany being criminally charged and had an active warrant out for her arrest and that Brittany would not reveal where the minor child was; the trial court properly exercised emergency jurisdiction to make this determination.

Marshal S. Willick
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