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Do Unwed Fathers Have Custody Rights in Nevada?

If you’re an unmarried father in Nevada who has questions about your rights and obligations to your son or daughter, you have plenty of company. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of 2018, a whopping 39.6% of all births in the United States are to unmarried women.

According to the report (March 17, 2016), “Trends in Attitudes About Marriage, Childbearing, and Sexual Behavior: United States, “The composition of families in the United States has changed significantly over the past 50 years. These changes have resulted from a delay in the age of first marriage (1), a steep rise and then decline in the divorce rate (2), a lower fertility rate (3), an increase in cohabitation (4–7), a higher proportion of births occurring outside of marriage and within cohabiting unions (8–10), and an increasing number of first births to older women (11).”

With the dramatic shift in American families in the last 50 years, but especially in the past 25 years, a lot of questions have been raised about an unmarried father’s rights, and reasonably so. Read on as we shed light on this hot topic.

When Paternity Has Not Been Established

When an unmarried mother gives birth, she automatically has sole physical and legal custody of her baby. The child’s biological father has zero rights and responsibilities toward his child until paternity is legally established.

In Nevada, there are two ways to establish paternity: 1) both parents sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) form, or 2) through a court-ordered DNA test. If there is any doubt over who the father is, the parents should NOT sign an AOP form. Instead, one of them should petition the court for a paternity test. Once paternity is confirmed, the court can issue child custody and child support orders, but until then, the court’s hands are tied.

If you’re an unwed mother and you expect the father to want to be in his child’s life and he does not endanger your child’s safety and well-being, it’s wise to let him visit with his child, even though a court order has not been issued yet.

On the other hand, if you’re a father who intends to seek custody or visitation, we recommend trying to have frequent contact with your child now, and doing what you can to help financially support them until the court officially issues child support and child custody orders. When mothers and fathers follow this advice, it shows the court that they have their child’s best interests at heart, and it will help them in court down the road.

Need legal assistance with paternity, child custody, or child support case? Contact Leavitt Law Firm to get started.

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