In a Nevada divorce that involves minor children, the issue of custody is normally apart of the case. The issue of paternity is rarely argued in a divorce with children because most often one of the spouses is listed as the biological father on the birth certificate of the children. In the case of unmarried couples, there are situations where there isn’t a biological father listed on the birth certificate and when a custody case is filed, paternity must be established.
This is where the services of an experienced paternity lawyer will come in handy. In Nevada, a contested custody case is opened when one of the parents files a Petition to Establish Paternity, Custody, Child Support, Visitation and Other Relief. The name of the petition itself can vary, depending on the situation, but the result of the filing will be the same.
In this blog post, we will walk you through the basics of a Nevada custody case, as well as detail just how your paternity lawyer will fight for your rights as a parent.
The Filing of the Petition
As mentioned, unlike a divorce, the very first thing that must be done is to establish paternity. In most cases this can be as simple as attaching the child’s birth certificate to the petition. If the father is listed on the birth certificate, this is normally enough for the courts to find that the father is the biological father. In a case where the mother contests the paternity, the results of a DNA test will be needed.
The petition itself will plead with the court to order who gets what kind of custody, who will be paying child support if any, what visitation will look like for the non-custodial parent as well as any other issues depending on the particular situation.
The Types of Custody in Nevada
When you petition the court to establish custody, you will be asking for two different types of custody to be ordered upon.
- Physical Custody. Physical custody is what most people will think of when they hear the word “custody.” This type of custody involves having the physical presence of the child with you. This means when you have physical custody, the child lives in your house with you, and you are responsible for the daily supervision and care for the child.
- Legal Custody. Legal custody is defined in Nevada as a parent having the ability to make major life decisions for the child. This means the parent with legal custody can decide which school the child will attend, which doctors the child will see as well as any churches or extracurricular activities that the child may participate in.
If one parent has Primary (full) physical custody that means that the child lives with that parent full time, outside of any specified “reasonable rights of visitation” with the non-custodial parent. This visitation can be specified in any way that is ruled by the courts or agreed upon by the parties. Visitation can be a couple weeks a year, normally during the summer break from school, or even every weekend while the child is out of school.
There are many situations where joint physical custody will be granted. This is where both parents equally share (50/50) the physical custody of the child. The most common form of joint physical custody is each parent having the child living with them for one week, and then the child will live with the other parent for a week.
It is very rare for one parent to be granted primary/full legal custody of a child. Not having legal custody of your child is very similar to having your parental rights removed. That is why that it is most common, that if one parent is granted primary physical custody, a good paternity lawyer will make sure the other parent has joint legal custody. This way that parent will still be able to have a say on the child’s upbringing. Also, it is important to note that if the parents share legal custody, each parent must have the consent of the other parent to take the child out of state. Failure to do so can result in being charged with a felony.
Nevada Child Support Laws
Child support in Nevada is governed by Nev. Admin. Code § 425.140 (2022) and must be paid if a parent does not have primary physical custody, or has joint physical custody and makes more than the other parent. Nevada courts consider child support to be the child’s money, and the amount cannot be negotiated or used as a bartering chip in settlement negotiations.
The amount of child support paid in Nevada is based on a “tiered income calculation,” as follows:
Monthly Income is from $0 to $6,000, the child support paid will be 16% for one child, 22% for two children, 26% for three children. 28% for four children, and up.
Monthly Income is from $6,000 to $10,000, the child support paid will be 8% for one child, 11% for two children, 13% for three children. 14% for four children, and up.
If monthly income is greater than $10,000 per month, the child support paid will be 4% for one child, 6% for two children, 6% for three children. 7% for four children, and up.
There are many different considerations that can allow the court to make adjustments to the above formula. Certain situations may call for a lowering of someone’s child support obligation due to the costs of childcare that is being paid by that parent, and any sort of health care expense that is being paid as well as a number of specific economic circumstances.
How Your Paternity Lawyer Can Win You Custody
During the Nevada custody case process, your paternity lawyer will gather and submit evidence that supports your right to have custody of your child. In Nevada, it is said that nobody has to be a “great parent” in order to have custody. Unfortunately, us as humans are far from perfect and as a result neither is our parenting styles. While all us parents try our best to be perfect, we will consistently fall short.
The Nevada family courts knows and understand this. If not being perfect parents resulted in a loss of child custody, then our foster care system would be more overwhelmed than it is are now. As a result, all your paternity lawyer will have to prove in court is that you are a “passable” parent, and that your child will be taken care of and is not in danger while in your custody.
This means that your lawyer will have to present all of the evidence that supports your ability to parent your child, while refuting any evidence that is submitted to the contrary. Some of the situations that would make winning you custody difficult would be instances like having prior convictions of child abuse or neglect, recent drug charges or instances of domestic violence.
These situations would not automatically disqualify you from having custody, but would make your paternity lawyers job much more difficult. However, you may see the opposing parent try to make you seem like you are an unfit parent, when you are not. Then it is up to your custody attorney to convince the judge that you have just as much a right to custody as the other parent.
Josh is writer and paralegal, with over 10 years of experience in family law, personal injury, criminal defense and more.