This is the next post in my series discussing “teenage discretion” in Las Vegas, Nevada child custody cases. My previous post explained when the Court will consider who a child wishes to live with and the weight which will be given to those wishes. The doctrine of teenage discretion, gives Clark County Family Court Judges the flexibility to defer to a child’s preference on a custody matter when the child has reached sufficient maturity to make intelligent decisions. While there is no precise age that triggers this deference, the older the child and the more rational the basis for their decision, the more likely that a Judge will consider their position when deciding the outcome. Every family and set of circumstances is different and, therefore, it is important to discuss your situation with an attorney to understand your legal rights and options. In this article I will discuss circumstances under which the Court will and will not defer to teenage discretion. If you need assistance with a custody issue, contact my office today to speak with a lawyer.
As stated previously, Nevada leaves the issue of whether or not to defer to “teenage discretion” in the hands of the Judge. This situation commonly arises when a child is the subject of a custody order that has existed unchanged for several years and is no longer appropriate given the child’s advancing age and circumstances. Parents may be in agreement that their child should be granted flexibility regarding their comings and goings between their homes and seek a modification of their custody arrangement to reflect the change. Under such circumstances, the Court will generally defer to an older child’s preference. When a child has been granted such discretion, the family may enter a modified arrangement or the child may be given the freedom to essentially choose their own schedule subject to a set of general guidelines. Abuse of this privilege or actions that are immature and irrational, however, can result in the Court revoking the flexibility.
Consider the following examples. Both parents share joint physical custody of their child. They have historically abided by a week-on, week-off schedule. The mother moves outside of the school district about an hour from the child’s school. The child is 17, has his driver’s license, and a job near his father’s home. Upon the agreement of the parents, the Judge grants the child discretion as to when he will visit his mother and father to accommodate his school and work schedule. While he does not spend exactly half of his time at his mom’s, he arranges his work schedule to spend two to three days a week with her. Under this scenario, the Judge would likely support a continuation of the new arrangement if the case returned to Court for any reason.
Now suppose, after a few weeks of fairly normal visitation with her son, the child completely stops visiting her through the week or on weekends. She learns that the child’s father has been actively encouraging him to spend more time at his residence and to limit the time with his mother. Under these facts, the Court would likely put a stricter arrangement in place. Depending upon the father’s level of interference, a Judge may even restrict his parental rights. The Court’s decision in every case will be based on the specific facts and circumstances. An experienced attorney can review your situation and explain your legal rights.
If you are a parent and unsure about how teenage discretion and visitation should be handled, contact my office today to speak with a Las Vegas lawyer. We are dedicated to providing the highest level of customer service to every client and are ready to assist you.