Fathers' Rights Under Nevada Law


In Nevada, fathers have the same rights as mothers when it comes to their children. These rights include custody and visitation after the break-up of a Nevada marriage or domestic partnership.

A father's rights do not depend on being the biological father of a child. Nor do they depend on the father being married to the child's mother.

A man has rights to custody or visitation if he is legally a father. A man can become a father:

  • By having a child during:
    • A Nevada marriage,
    • A domestic partnership, or
    • While the couple is living together;
  • By legally adopting a child; or
  • By agreement with the other parent.

To help you better understand a father's custody and visitation rights in Nevada, our Las Vegas family law attorneys discuss:

smiling father with young son on his shoulders on a sunny day

1. Who is a father under Nevada law?

Nevada has a complex set of laws for determining who is a child's father. Legal paternity does not depend on biology. Rather, Nevada law usually considers a man a child's father when:

  • The child is born while he is married to the mother or within 285 days after the marriage ends;
  • He and the child's mother lived together for at least 6 months before the child was conceived;
  • He and the child's mother thought they were married (even though the marriage was invalid);
  • A blood test establishes that he is the father;
  • He legally adopts the child; or
  • The parents sign a voluntary declaration of paternity in a cohabitation agreement or other contract.1

At times, one or more man may have competing paternity rights.

To learn more about whose claim is greater, please see our article, “How is Paternity Determined in Nevada?”

2. When can a father get child custody in Nevada?

Under Nevada NRS 125 a father has the right to custody of a child in two situations:

  1. When both parents agree, or
  2. When a court determines it is in a child's best interest.

A court can award sole or shared physical and /or legal custody to either parent.

Physical custody involves living with and taking care of the child.

Legal custody involves making important decisions for the child.

A parent does not need physical custody in order to share legal custody. 

If both parents are qualified and interested, the court will usually award joint legal custody to both parents.

It may also award shared physical custody if it is in the child's best interest. If the child spends at least 40% of the time with each parent, the parents share physical custody.2 

3. Can a father get sole or primary child custody?

Judges may not favor a mother over a father when deciding physical custody in Nevada. They can only do what is in the child best's interest.3

As a practical matter, it may be in the child's interest to reside primarily with the mother. This is especially true when a child is very young or has very young siblings.

If a child lives with a parent at least 60% of the time, that parent has “primary physical custody.”

A court may also award sole custody to a parent if it is in the child's best interest.4

For more information on how a court determines custody, please see our article on "Nevada Child Custody Laws."

Young girl with teddy bear holding a man's hand and looking up at him, smiling

4. Visitation rights for fathers in Nevada

A judge may grant visitation rights to a parent who does not have custody. The court will usually allow visitation unless doing so is not in the child's best interests.

Reasons a court might deny visitation include:

  • The father has a history of domestic violence;
  • The father has abused or neglected a child; 
  • The father has tried to abduct a child; or
  • The child was conceived as the result of the father raping the child's mother (discussed below).5

Alternatively, the court can permit supervised visitation only.

To learn more about when a court will grant visitation to a father, please see our article on "Visitation Rights in Nevada."

5. Temporary custody and visitation rights during a divorce

Until a court determines custody, parents have joint legal and physical custody of their children.6 At the beginning of a divorce case, your lawyer can ask the court to issue a temporary custody order.

The order does not affect the final outcome. But it can help a father's chances of gaining custody and visitation rights.

Fathers sometimes try to appear understanding by giving the mother and children space. But to a judge this can make it seem that the father is not involved in the child's life.

By adhering to a temporary schedule, a father can show the judge his interest and reliability. This can help his chances when it comes to the final custody determination.

So it is important to request a formal custody order at the beginning of a separation.

This will ensure your right to maintain a relationship with your child no matter how your case.

6. Can I get custody or visitation if I am not the child's legal father?

If you have lived with a child but are not the father, you may still be able to get visitation rights. You may even be able to get custody if the mother is not capable.7

The outcome depends on many factors, including the mother's situation.

 An experienced Las Vegas family law attorney can help you put together a case.

7. Does a father have rights if the child was the result of sexual assault?

A father usually has no right to custody or visitation if his child was conceived as the result of rape unless:

  • The mother consents, and 
  • The court agrees it is in the best interest of the child.8

Note that the conviction of the natural parent of a child for a sexual assault which resulted in the conception of the child is grounds for terminating the parental rights of the natural parent.9

If you are in this situation, we highly recommend you speak to a Las Vegas family law attorney before petitioning the court.

Need help with father's rights in Las Vegas? Call us…

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If you are looking to protect your relationship with your child, we invite you to contact us.

Our caring Las Vegas family lawyers fight for the rights of fathers and mothers throughout Nevada.

Your initial consultation is free and completely confidential.

Call us at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) to discuss your case with an experienced family lawyer.

Or complete the form on this page and a lawyer will contact you at your convenience.


Legal references:

  1. NRS 126.051.
  2. NRS 125C.0025; NRS 125C.0015.
  3. NRS 125C.0035.
  4. NRS 125C.0035 (4).
  5. NRS 125C.0035..
  6. NRS 125C.0015.
  7. NRS 125C.004.
  8. NRS 125C.210;.
  9. NRS 128.105.

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