Grandparents' Rights in Nevada Custody Cases

Last week, I declared my candidacy for the Nevada State Assembly. Among the various areas I’ve identified that motivated me to run for office, two are direct products of my work as a family and estate planning attorney: protecting our seniors, and working toward reform of our family law statutes. Other than the issue of adult guardianships, perhaps no topic better illustrates the intersection of these two political issues than that of grandparents’ rights in child custody cases.

I frequently receive calls from grandparents seeking to have custody of – or, at the very least, a legally enforceable relationship with – their grandchildren. No one can deny that most grandparents feel a strong bond of affection with their grandchildren, but unfortunately, that bond is not immune from the damage that divorce or other family upheavals can cause. Many of the grandparents with whom I speak are initially surprised to learn that, under Nevada law, a grandparent has no “right” to be in the grandchildren’s lives under most circumstances. That is, unlike a parent, whose custodial and visitation rights are generally assumed under Nevada’s law, a grandparent is typically left in the awkward position of convincing the courts that he or she should be in the child’s life.

While Nevada law does not currently provide any absolute “rights” to grandparents with respect to their grandchildren, the question of grandparent visitation is still subject to Nevada’s overarching family law standard, namely, the “best interest” of the child. In other words, if a grandparent can demonstrate that it would be in the child’s best interest for the court to require visitation between grandparent and grandchild, then – at least in theory – the court may order such an arrangement. However, while it is presumed to be in a child’s best interest to have a relationship with both of his or her parents, Nevada law affords no such presumption when it comes to grandparents. In some cases, strikingly, there is even a presumption that grandparent visitation is not in a child’s best interest, which presumption the grandparent must then try to overcome in court.

As with any family law question, the issue of grandparent visitation is fact-specific – and fact-intensive. Sadly, when parents are bitterly fighting with one another in a divorce, the grandparent-grandchild relationship can become a casualty of war, and Nevada’s current law often doesn’t help to heal the wound. At The Law Office of Sean D. Lyttle, we are happy to talk to grandparents about the specific circumstances in which they find themselves and, whenever possible, to work on behalf of grandparents seeking visitation with their grandchildren. If you are a grandparent on the sidelines of a divorce or custody battle, please give us a call.

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