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Judicial debate: Clark County Family Court, Dept. M: Candidates tackle custody battles, domestic violence

Four candidates vying for a seat on the Clark County Family Court bench discussed custody battles within households that endure domestic violence.

Attorneys Lynn Hughes, Robert Kurth Jr., Amy Mastin and Mandy McKellar want to replace Judge William Potter, who is not seeking re-election. The candidates met via videoconference for a debate hosted by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Debate moderator Steve Sebelius asked the candidates about child custody in cases where domestic violence has been alleged.

They agreed that children should be allowed to maintain contact with both parents, and explained how they would work to facilitate safe meetings.

“The needs of all parties involved have to be addressed,” Mastin said, “including the need of that child to maintain a safe relationship with the parent, the perpetrator of the domestic violence.”

Mastin, who has been licensed in Nevada since 1997, pointed to her experience as a hearing master in civil domestic violence court.

Hughes, who was licensed in 1997 and focuses on family law and guardianship, called children “the biggest victims” of domestic violence, adding that “whether it occurs in front of them or not, it affects them. You have to address exchanges. You have to address the way they communicate with each other.”

Kurth, who has practiced for 28 years, including as an arbitrator for District Court and as a child support hearing master, said he would try to set up supervised visitations.

“Make sure those children are still seeing the other parent, as long as those children are in a protective environment,” he said. “If the parent is not doing the domestic violence to that child, the parent needs to see that child.”

McKellar, who was licensed in Nevada in 2007 and established a family law practice in 2011, vowed to analyze each case individually.

“Just as we need to protect the victims of domestic violence, we also have to think about pathogenic parenting and when certain things come up when people are trying to keep a child away,” she said.

When Sebelius asked about access to justice, each of the candidates pointed to self-help centers and other legal aid programs established throughout the county.

If a candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote in the June primary, the candidate will win the election. In primary races where no candidate captures a majority of votes cast, the top two finishers will advance to November’s general election.

The debate was among 23 scheduled events for more than 70 candidates in judicial primary races for the Supreme Court, District Court and Family Court.

While the debates can be found on reviewjournal.com, they air Wednesday and Saturday nights on Cox Cable’s YurView Channel 14 as part of a video partnership between the media companies.

Contact David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Follow @randompoker on Twitter.

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