Nevada high court upholds joint custody in case with 2 dads

The Nevada Supreme Court recently awarded paternity rights to a man who, with his then-boyfriend, adopted a son from a Catholic charity organization that did not permit joint adoptions by same-sex couples.

In a June 22 decision, the high court ruled in favor of 53-year-old Robert Boynes, who sought joint custody over the child he and Ken Nguyen adopted in 2012, when they were dating. The ruling marks the first time in state history that the high court applied the adoption statute in a case involving parenting rights of same-sex couples.

“We … conclude that the equitable adoption doctrine is applicable to enforce an adoption agreement under the unique factual circumstances of this case,” Nevada Supreme Court Justice Ron Parraguirre wrote in the majority opinion.

Boynes and Nguyen adopted their now 4-year-old son from Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada. At the time, Nguyen’s name was the only name listed on the birth certificate.

Their legal battle started after they broke up, when Nguyen tried to move across the country with the boy — and claimed that Boynes had no legal rights over the child because he was not listed on the birth certificate as a parent. It ended with the June ruling.

“In my heart, I felt that the Supreme Court would make the right decision, but there was still the chance that they could say it’s not your son,” Boynes said in a recent interview. “It wasn’t until two weeks ago that I could honestly say I went to bed and slept through the night. It was just the best feeling I could ever experience.”

‘Bun in the oven’

The decision marks the end of a volatile journey for Boynes, who first laid eyes on his son when a social worker dropped the 3-day-old baby off with the couple at a Panera Bread restaurant.

“The term ‘bun in the oven’ really fits because we picked up our bun at Panera Bread,” Boynes joked.

When the men adopted the child, they lived separately, as Boynes needed to take care of his disabled mother. The baby spent the first six weeks living with Boynes, and then they started alternating houses.

The trouble started after their sudden and unexpected breakup, which Boynes said resulted from an event unrelated to their son.

Several months after the breakup, Nyugen formally adopted the child — and said at the adoption hearing that he “would not place Rob’s name on the child’s birth certificate, nor would he allow a second parent adoption,” according to the majority opinion.

Still, the men kept up a joint parenting relationship for a year, until Boynes heard from a mutual friend that Nyugen was talking about moving back East.

“I confronted him with it, and he didn’t confirm it or didn’t deny it,” Boynes recalled. Boynes also remembered Nguyen saying, “You don’t have rights. This is my baby.”

Nguyen could not be reached for comment through his attorney.

“Long story short: He left the house that night with my son and said, ‘You’ll never see him again,’” Boynes said.

‘Huge step’ for gay community

The fight spurred Boynes to call an attorney, and several months later, after an unusually long Family Court trial, a Clark County judge awarded joint custody to Boynes. Nguyen appealed, and the case went to the Supreme Court, which upheld the lower court ruling.

“This is something that is becoming more and more the norm,” said Henderson attorney Jack Fleeman, who represented Boynes. “Courts are not looking at it as many courts have in the distant past — which is to say there’s no way we’re going to grant an adoption or find paternity to a same-sex couple when there’s already one male with the child. But that’s changed.”

The high court granted joint custody under the equitable adoption doctrine, a legal strategy that Fleeman said previously was used only to establish a parent’s obligation to pay child support. In this case, Boynes sought legal and physical custody rights, and the court granted them to him.

Nguyen ended up staying in Las Vegas. He and Boynes now share custody of the child.

“Some people asked me, ‘Would you do this all over again?’ because of the amount of money that it cost,” Boynes said. “I would spend my last dollar to keep this child in my life. I don’t even consider it a battle.”

When asked about the broader implications of the ruling, Boynes said he previously was not openly gay.

But, he said, “I feel like this case has been a huge step for the gay community, and I am proud to be a part of that. I feel like I’ve made a little history for the gay community.”

Contact Jenny Wilson at or 702-384-8710. Follow @jennydwilson on Twitter.

Downtown Summerlin hosts its annual Festival of Arts
People crowd to Downtown Summerlin for the 23rd annual Summerlin Festival of Arts in Las Vegas, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County educators debate alternative grading systems
Spring Valley High School principal Tam Larnerd, Spring Valley High School IB coordinator Tony Gebbia and retired high school teacher Joyce O'Day discuss alternative grading systems. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Grandparents on the fire that killed three family members
Charles and Doris Smith talk about the night an apartment fire took the lives of three of their family members. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
New York artist Bobby Jacobs donated a sculpture to the Las Vegas Healing Garden
Bobby Jacobs, an artist from upstate New York, has spent much of the past year creating a sculpture of two separate angel wings. He donated the sculpture to the Las Vegas Healing Garden. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Weather will cool slightly through the end of the week
The weather will cool slightly through the end of the week., but highs are still expected to be slightly above normal for this year. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Mayor announces new public-private partnership
Mayor Carolyn Goodman announced the creation of the Mayor’s Fund for Las Vegas LIFE, a public-private partnership that will allocate money to the city’s neediest.
Fremont9 opens downtown
Fremont9 apartment complex has opened in downtown Las Vegas. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Fall fairytale gets cozy at Bellagio Conservatory
Bellagio Conservatory introduces its fall-themed garden titled "Falling Asleep." (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
What the house that Ted Binion died in looks like today
Casino heir Ted Binion died in this Las Vegas home in 1998. Current home owner Jane Popple spent over $600,000 to restore and modernize the home. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Rescue Mission employees terminated
Don James, a former employee for the Las Vegas Rescue Mission, talks about the day his team was terminated. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Raiders Cupcakes at Freed's Bakery
Freed's Bakery will have Raiders-themed cupcakes available in store and for order during football season. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
51s fans say goodbye to Cashman Field
Las Vegas 51s fans said goodbye to Cashman Field in Las Vegas, Monday September, 3, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
51s owner Don Logan's last weekend at Cashman Field
Don Logan, owner of the Las Vegas 51s, gives a tour of Cashman Field before the team's final weekend using the field. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Metro Asst. Sheriff Brett Zimmerman on Aug. 8 officer-involved shooting
Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman met with media Monday to discuss the details of the 14th officer-involved shooting of the year. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program where community and business leaders joined to welcome students back with an inspirational welcome. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Star Trek fans on show’s enduring popularity
Star Trek fans at the Star Trek Convention 2018 talk about why they think the show has stayed popular across the years Thursday, August 2, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Nonprofit provides clothing for homeless
Sydney Grover of Can You Spare A Story?, talks about how she founded the non-profit organization. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like