Your rights as a father do not depend on being the biological father of a child. Nor do they depend on being married to the child’s mother.
You have the right to custody or visitation if you are legally the father. A man can become a father by:
- having a child during:
- a Nevada marriage,
- a domestic partnership, or
- while you and the mother are living together;
- legally adopting a child; or
- 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:
- 1. Who is a father under Nevada law?
- 2. What rights do fathers have in Nevada?
- 3. Do I have rights if I am an unmarried father?
- 4. Can a father get sole or primary child custody?
- 5. Can I get visitation?
- 6. Can I get temporary custody or visitation during a divorce?
- 7. Can I get custody or visitation if I am not the child’s legal father?
- 8. Do I have rights if my child was the result of sexual assault?
- 9. How long does a father have to be absent to lose his rights in Nevada?
1. Who is a father under Nevada law?
Nevada has a complex set of laws for determining when you are a child’s father. Legal paternity does not depend on biology. Rather, Nevada law usually considers you your child’s father when:
- Your child is born while you are married to the mother or within 285 days after the marriage ends;
- You and your child’s mother lived together for at least six months before the child was conceived;
- You and your child’s mother thought you were married (even though the marriage was invalid);
- A blood test establishes that you are the father;
- You legally adopt the child; or
- You and the mother sign a voluntary declaration of paternity in a cohabitation agreement or other contract.1
At times, one or more men may have competing paternity rights. To learn more about whose claim is greater, see our article, “How is Paternity Determined in Nevada?”
2. What rights do fathers have in Nevada?
As the father, you have the following rights:
- Access to your child’s educational information, including school records;
- Participation in making important medical decisions for your child;
- Attendance at public events and extracurricular activities involving your child; and
- Cultivating a close relationship with your child without the other parent interfering.
In the event you and your child’s parents are not together, the court’s preference is to award you and your co-parent:
- joint physical custody (where the child lives with you at least 40% of the time); and
- joint legal custody (where you and the other parent together make important decisions about the child’s medical care, education, religion, etc.)
Even if the other parent has primary physical custody (where the child lives with them more than 60% of the time), the court’s preference will still be to award you joint legal custody. You also have the right to:
- custody decisions by the court made without gender bias;
- enforcement of custody and visitation orders;
- primary physical custody if the court finds it is in your child’s best interest; and
- child support if you have primary physical custody or if you have joint physical custody and earn less than your co-parent.
Note that if your co-parent violates the custody agreement, they can be held in contempt of court. Plus it can be grounds to get you a better custody arrangement.2
3. Do I have rights if I am an unmarried father?
Yes. Even if you are unmarried, you are legally considered your child’s father if:
- You and the child’s mother lived together for at least six months before the child was conceived;
- A blood test establishes that you are the father; or
- You and the mother sign a voluntary declaration of paternity in a cohabitation agreement or other contract.3
If the mother is contesting your paternity, you can ask the court for a blood test.
4. Can I get sole or primary child custody?
Although there is a presumption of joint custody, a Nevada court may award you sole or primary custody if it is in your child’s best interests.
Judges may not favor a mother over you when deciding physical custody in Nevada. Nevada is not a “mother state.”4
5. Can I get visitation?
If you do not have physical custody of your child, the judge will grant you visitation if it is in the child’s best interests.
Reasons a court might deny you visitation include:
- You have a history of domestic violence;
- You abused or neglected your child;
- You tried to abduct your child; or
- Your child was conceived as the result of you raping your child’s mother.5
Alternatively, the court can permit supervised visitation only.
6. Can I get temporary custody or visitation during a divorce?
After filing for divorce, you can and should ask the court to issue a temporary custody order giving you as much custody and/or visitation that you hope to have after the divorce is final. (The default rule is joint physical and legal custody).6
Temporary orders do not affect the final outcome. Though by adhering to a temporary schedule, you can show the judge your interest and reliability. Plus if the judge sees that you are an involved father during the divorce, the judge will likely make the temporary order permanent after the divorce is final.
You may be tempted to give your soon-to-be-ex spouse and child space after filing for divorce. Though to a judge, this can make it seem that you are not involved in your child’s life.
So it is important to request a formal custody order at the beginning of a separation that will allow you to show your involvement as a parent.
7. 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 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.
8. Do I have rights if my child was the result of sexual assault?
You usually have no right to custody or visitation if your biological child was conceived as the result of a rape you committed unless:
- The mother consents, and
- The court agrees it is in the best interest of the child.8
Note that being convicted of sexual assault which results in a child’s conception is sufficient grounds for the court to terminate your parental rights.9
If you are in this situation, we highly recommend you speak to a Las Vegas family law attorney before petitioning the court.
9. How long does a father have to be absent to lose his rights in Nevada?
Courts can terminate your parental rights if you leave the child without provisions for the child’s support and without communication for six months.10
Need help with father’s rights in Las Vegas? Call us…
If you are looking to protect your relationship with your child, we invite you to contact us.