Father kissing daughterThis is the third post in a series of articles discussing establishing paternity for Las Vegas fathers. My previous post addressed the importance of legally establishing paternity to protect a father’s parental rights. Until paternity is established, a father will not have any legal rights to access a child, including visitation. Once paternity is determined, the court can issue a custody order and a framework for the father to enforce his rights as needed. Consulting with an attorney with experience in family law matters can help guide you through the process. This article will address the initial steps necessary to establish paternity and custody. If you need assistance with a child custody matter, contact my office today to speak with a lawyer.

When a father’s paternity is in dispute, it will likely become necessary to file a petition and accompanying motion with the court to establish paternity and child custody. At the initial hearing, the Clark County Family Court will order the father and child to undergo a DNA test at a court sanctioned facility. At the same time, the judge will schedule a return hearing, normally within 2-3 weeks, to review the test results. At the return hearing, if the DNA test is positive, paternity will be established and the judge will begin to address child custody. If deemed to be in the best interest of the child, the court may issue a temporary custody order setting forth initial visitation schedules and support requirements. A trial date will be scheduled, at which the parties will present their positions to the court regarding a permanent custody and support arrangement.

It is important to understand that when evaluating the temporary and permanent custody arrangement, the court will make its decisions based upon what is in the child’s best interest. This multi-factor standard reviews, among other things, the existing relationship between the child and both parents, each party’s ability to care for the child, the health and well-being of the child, relationship with siblings, etc. A common factor in newly established paternity cases is the age of the child. For example, if a father discovers he has a child and establishes paternity when the child is 10, the court may not consider it to be in the child’s best interest to grant customary visitation immediately. It may be more appropriate to slowly introduce visitation so that the child’s normal routine and home life with his mother is not interrupted. If the child is a newborn and paternity is quickly determined, the court may be more willing to establish a joint custody arrangement right away.

It is essential for fathers to protect their parental rights. Establishing paternity is the first step in that important process. My office represents Las Vegas fathers in paternity and custody matters. If you are an unmarried father and wish to establish paternity for your child, contact my office today to speak to a lawyer.