Child Custody Rules: Why Counting Overnights for Custody Doesn’t Work in Nevada

In the often complex and emotional world of child custody decisions, there’s a need for clear and consistent rules. We have to remember that the child’s well-being is the Court’s priority.

But what happens when a parent wants primary custody (or even joint custody), by claiming the child spends most nights with them?

In Nevada, this has led to scrutiny over the method of counting overnights as a primary factor in custody decisions.

The case of Rivero v. Rivero plays a significant role in the understanding of this issue. And a new case from the Nevada Court of Appeals, Holman v. Serrano, says you can’t count overnight.

Let’s delve into why simply counting overnights is problematic.

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Custody is About More Than Just Time: It’s About a Child’s Whole Life

Sure, the amount of time a child spends with each parent is really important. But deciding who a child should live with is about way more than just counting sleepovers. It’s about what is best for the child in every way. 

Let’s break down why this is so important.

Emotional Bonding and Love

A child needs to feel loved and secure. Just because a child sleeps at a parent’s house doesn’t mean they are bonding and building a strong relationship. It’s the hugs, the talks, and the comfort that really count.

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School and Learning

Who helps with homework? Who goes to parent-teacher conferences? Who makes sure the child is doing well in school and learning what they need to learn? These things happen during the day, and they are super important.

Health and Wellness

Taking care of a child means more than just being there at bedtime. It means doctor’s appointments, cooking healthy meals, and making sure the child is active and healthy.

Fun and Social Life

Kids need to have fun and make friends, too! Which parent is involved in taking the child to playdates, sports, music lessons, or other activities? This helps kids grow and be happy.

Safety and Home Life

It’s not just about where a child sleeps. It’s about where they feel safe and cared for. A good home is clean, safe, and a place where a child feels they belong.

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Teaching Life Lessons

Parents are like life’s teachers. They teach us right from wrong, how to be kind, and how to take care of ourselves. This doesn’t just happen at bedtime; it happens all day, every day.

Each Day Offers More Than Just Nighttime Moments

Imagine if we only remembered the dreams we had at night and forgot everything that happened during the day. That wouldn’t capture our whole experience, right? In the same way, only counting the nights a child spends with a parent misses out on so much that happens when the sun is up.

Morning Routines

The morning hustle and bustle before school or on weekends set the tone for the day. From breakfast chats to tying shoes, morning routines with a parent can shape a child’s day, giving them confidence and warmth as they step into their daily adventures.

School Drop-offs and Pick-ups

These moments might seem brief, but they’re packed with emotions and meaningful exchanges. A quick hug before entering school or a chat about the day during the drive home can create lasting memories and feelings of support.

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Doctor Visits and Appointments

Being there for a child during check-ups, dentist visits, or any other appointment means the world. It’s a chance for a parent to show they care about their child’s well-being and to comfort them if they’re nervous.

Daytime Activities

From soccer practices to music lessons, dance recitals to playdates at the park – daytime activities are a huge part of a child’s life. The parent who is present during these moments gets to cheer them on, comfort them during disappointments, and celebrate their achievements.

Quality Time

It’s not about the quantity of hours but the quality of moments. A simple walk in the park, a trip to the library, cooking a meal together, or even just lounging on the couch talking about random things can be the moments that a child cherishes the most. These are the golden hours of bonding that don’t always happen after dark.

Teachable Moments

Daytime is when real-life happens. It’s filled with opportunities for parents to teach their child valuable life lessons, whether it’s how to deal with losing a game, how to be kind to others, or even something as simple as learning how to save money at a store.

Nights are just a small piece of the puzzle. The full picture of parenting comes from the entire day – from sunrise to sunset. Counting only overnights can miss out on these precious daylight moments, which can be some of the most important times in a child’s life. It’s these hours when memories are made, bonds are strengthened, and life lessons are taught.

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Overnights Can Be Misleading

When you count something, people often try to get more of it. It’s like when you get points for a game – you want to score as high as you can! But what if what we’re counting isn’t really the best thing to measure? When it comes to kids and who they stay with, only counting overnights can lead to some problems. 

Let’s talk about why.

The "Points" Mentality

If parents think of overnights as “points,” they might try to get more nights with their child, even if it doesn’t make the most sense for the child. It’s like trying to win a game – but decisions about kids shouldn’t be about winning or losing.

Competition Instead of Teamwork

Kids do best when their parents work together as a team. But if parents are just trying to get more nights, they might end up competing against each other. This isn’t great for kids, because they need their parents to cooperate and make choices together.

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Quality vs. Quantity

Imagine if you had a big bag of candy, but all the candy was super sour or tasted bad. You wouldn’t care about having a big bag anymore, right? In the same way, having more nights with a child doesn’t always mean better time with them. It’s not about how many nights a parent has, but how good those nights are.

Stress for Kids

Kids can feel the tension if parents are fighting over nights. They might worry about making one parent sad or upset if they stay with the other parent. Instead of feeling relaxed and safe, kids might feel stressed or confused.

Best Interests Can Get Lost

The most important thing is what’s best for the child. But if everyone is just counting nights, they might forget to think about other important things, like where the child feels most at home, where they have friends, or where they do best in school.

Different Needs at Different Times

Kids grow and change, and what they need might be different from one year to the next. If parents are only focused on counting nights, they might not see that a child’s needs have changed.

Counting overnights can be like looking at a picture through a tiny hole – you miss a lot of important stuff. For kids to be happy and do well, it’s better for parents to look at the whole picture and make choices that are best for the child, not just for themselves.

Rivero v. Rivero: A Game-Changing Decision for Nevada's Kids

Every once in a while, there’s a court case that changes the way we think about things. In Nevada, one of those big cases is Rivero v. Rivero. This case really shook things up when it came to deciding where a child should live and which parent should take care of them. 

Let’s dive a bit deeper into why this case was so important.

No More Counting Hours

Some people might think, “Let’s count hours to decide custody. Whoever has more hours gets custody.” But the Rivero v. Rivero decision said no to that idea. In Nevada, parents can’t count the hours a child spends with them to decide custody. This is because life isn’t a stopwatch – what matters most is the quality of the time kids spend with their parents, not the exact number of hours or minutes.

Looking at the Bigger Picture

This case reminded everyone that kids aren’t puzzles to be solved by counting pieces. They’re real people with feelings, needs, and dreams. So when deciding where a child should live, courts and parents should look at the whole picture. This means considering things like school, friends, activities, and how the child feels.

A Focus on Teamwork

The Rivero v. Rivero case emphasized that parents should work together for their child’s best interests. Instead of competing for more time, parents should think about how to give their child the best life possible. This might mean different things for different families, but the main idea is that decisions should be made with love and understanding.

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Holmes v. Serrano: What Happened and Why It's Important

The Story

Allison Holmes and Felipe Serrano have a child together but were never married. Allison wanted to be the main person to take care of their child, while Felipe wanted them both to share this role equally. They tried to talk and find a solution, but couldn’t decide who should have the main role. A court in Washoe County made the decision for them.

The court said Felipe could have the child stay with him for 156 nights a year, which is almost half the nights in a year. So, the court thought Felipe and Allison should share the role equally. Allison didn’t agree with this and took the case to a higher court.

What the Higher Court Said

The higher court, called the Court of Appeals, said the first court made a mistake. They shouldn’t just count how many nights the child stays with each parent. They should also look at who takes care of the child’s daily needs, like feeding and schooling. Plus, the first court didn’t think about what’s best for the child, which is very important.

So, the Court of Appeals told the first court to look at the case again and make a better decision.

Why This is Important in Nevada

This case tells us that in Nevada, just counting how many nights a child stays with each parent isn’t enough. Courts should also think about the daily care of the child and what’s best for them. It’s a reminder that decisions should focus on the child’s needs and happiness, not just numbers.

Breaking It All Down For You

Making choices about who a child lives with is a really big deal. 

In Nevada, thanks to cases like Rivero v. Rivero and Holmes v. Serrano, the court knows it’s not just about counting nights, but what’s best for the kid. 

Remember, it’s about making sure the child is happy and taken care of, not just numbers.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why don’t courts count overnights to decide custody in Nevada?

In Nevada, courts don’t solely count overnights because custody decisions involve more than just nights spent. The Rivero v. Rivero case clarified that determining what’s best for the child requires considering various factors like school, social life, and overall well-being.

What did the Rivero v. Rivero case establish regarding counting overnights?

The Rivero v. Rivero case in 2009 determined that custody decisions can’t rely solely on counting overnights. Courts must look beyond quantity to assess the quality of time spent and the child’s best interests, including emotional bonds, stability, and developmental needs.

How did Holmes v. Serrano impact the counting of overnights for custody in NV?

In 2022, Holmes v. Serrano affirmed that overnights alone are insufficient for custody decisions. The court emphasized the need to consider factors beyond nights, such as daily caregiving duties and the child’s needs, highlighting the importance of focusing on the child’s well-being.

Why is counting overnights problematic when deciding custody?

Counting overnights poses several issues:

  1. It overlooks the quality of time and essential factors for the child’s well-being.
  2. Parents may compete for more nights rather than cooperate for the child’s best interests.
  3. Children may feel stressed witnessing parental conflicts over nights.
  4. Changing needs as the child grows may be disregarded.
  5. Best interests may be sidelined if the focus is solely on gaining more nights.

What should courts consider instead of just overnights?

Instead of solely counting overnights, Nevada courts consider the full scope of the child’s life and well-being, including emotional bonds with each parent, school performance and connections, social and extracurricular activities, health and developmental needs, wishes of the child, safety, stability, and home environment, daily caregiving duties like feeding and transportation, and any other relevant factors contributing to the child’s happiness and success. The objective is to establish a custody arrangement that serves the child’s best interests.

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Child custody: The legal decision determining which parent or guardian a child lives with and the allotment of parenting time and responsibilities. Types of custody include sole, joint, split, etc.

Counting overnights: A method sometimes used to help determine child custody based on counting the number of nights a child spends with each parent. This practice has faced scrutiny.

Primary custody: When one parent has the child living with them for a significantly more significant amount of time, like school days. The other parent typically has visitation rights.

Joint custody: Both parents share major decision-making, and residential time is somewhat divided. It can be 50/50 time or closer to primary with one and visitation with the other.

Split custody: Each parent has primary physical custody of one or more children. For example, the mother has custody of the oldest child, while the father has custody of the younger.

Best interests of the child: The standard courts use to make custody decisions based on what will best serve the child’s physical and emotional needs and well-being.

Rivero v. Rivero: A landmark 2009 Nevada Supreme Court case that ruled counting overnights alone is insufficient to determine custody, as the quality of time and the child’s overall welfare must be considered.

Holmes v. Serrano: The 2022 Nevada case reaffirming custody is about more than the number of overnights. Lower courts must examine factors like daily care, relationships, and needs.

Court of Appeals: The Nevada court that hears appeals from lower district courts. It ruled in Holmes v. Serrano that merely counting nights doesn’t determine best interests.

Why You Still Have Not Hired a Child Custody Lawyer

We’re ready to fight for the rights of your family if you hire us. We’re waiting to jump into action on the behalf of your family.

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Additional Resources for You

For those navigating the complexities of family law, Molly Rosenblum Allen, Esq, our lead attorney at The Rosenblum Allen Law Firm, has curated a suite of resources to support you during challenging times. Here’s a list of valuable resources and articles to guide you:

  • Las Vegas Custody Attorney: Find comprehensive support and legal advice on child custody matters in Las Vegas. Learn more.

  • Fathers Rights: Understand your rights as a father and how to navigate the legal landscape to maintain a meaningful relationship with your children. Explore your rights.

  • Supervised Visitation: Discover the ins and outs of supervised visitation and how to manage this sensitive area of child custody. Get informed.

  • Changing Custody Agreement: Learn how to approach modifying a custody agreement in Nevada, ensuring the best interests of your child are always the priority. Get the facts.

  • Grandparents Rights Nevada: Uncover the legal rights of grandparents in Nevada and how they can play a role in their grandchildren’s lives. Understand grandparents’ rights.

  • Long Distance Co-Parenting: Navigate the challenges of co-parenting across distances with practical tips and legal advice. Learn how to manage long-distance co-parenting.

  • How a Mother Can Lose a Custody Battle: Gain insight into the pitfalls that may affect a mother’s custody rights and how to avoid them. Read more.

  • Custody Battle Tips for Nevadans: Equip yourself with strategies to handle a custody battle effectively within the state of Nevada. Find tips here.

  • What Not To Say In Child Custody Mediation: Avoid common mistakes in mediation by understanding what not to say during the process. Educate yourself.

  • How Much is a Custody Lawyer: Get clarity on the costs associated with hiring a custody lawyer in Las Vegas. Learn about the costs.

  • Types of Custody: Understand the different types of custody to determine the best arrangement for your family. Discover the types of custody.

  • At What Age Can a Child Decide to Stop Visitation: Learn at what age a child can legally decide to stop visitation in Nevada. Find out more.

We encourage you to utilize these resources to empower yourself with knowledge and prepare for the journey ahead. The Rosenblum Allen Law Firm is here to help you every step of the way.

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Offsite Resources You May Find Helpful


  1. TurboCourt Custody Calculator: Custody time calculator for Nevada parents.

  2. FindLaw: FindLaw’s outline of Nevada child custody laws and factors.

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A Special Message from Our Lead Attorney

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Molly Rosenblum, Esq

Why Choose Us for Your Child Custody Needs in Nevada?

Deep-rooted Expertise: Years of hands-on experience in Nevada child custody cases have honed our knowledge, making us unparalleled experts in the field.

Customized Action Plans: Every family’s dynamic is unique, as should be the strategies to address them. We craft tailored approaches focusing on your child’s best interests and your parental rights.

Client-Centric Vision: From day one, we place your concerns at the forefront, ensuring that every step we take aligns with your objectives and comfort.

Local Mastery: Our firm’s deep ties within Nevada’s legal community give us an edge, from understanding local court idiosyncrasies to anticipating moves from opposing counsel.

Transparent Dialogue: With us, you’re always in the know. We pride ourselves on clear, open, and honest communication, demystifying the complexities of custody battles.

Accessibility and Fairness: World-class representation shouldn’t drain your wallet. We offer competitive rates and flexible plans to make our expertise accessible to everyone.

Proactive Stance: Our forward-thinking approach ensures we’re always prepared, always ready, and always acting in your best interest.

Empathy at Our Core: We understand the emotional intensity of custody cases. You’ll always find a listening ear, compassion, and unwavering support with us.

In the intricate landscape of Nevada’s child custody laws, having the right ally can make all the difference. Don’t leave your child’s future to chance.

Take action today!

Call us at (702) 433-2889 and let’s chart the best path forward for your family.

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