Gavel in judge's handThis is the next post in a series of articles discussing the importance of establishing paternity in Las Vegas, Nevada. Once paternity is established, if a child’s parents are not able to agree on custody and support terms, the court will schedule a trial at which the parties will litigate these issues. My previous post explained how the discovery process is used to gather evidence needed at trial to support a father’s request for custody or support. In this post, I will explain what Las Vegas dads may expect during the trial process. Legal proceedings, especially those that impact your parental rights, can be stressful and intimidating. I cannot overemphasize the importance of engaging an experienced trial attorney to help you navigate the process. If you need assistance, contact my office today to speak to a lawyer.

Family law trials in Clark County are bench trials. This means that the final decisions will be made by a judge rather than a jury. Each side will make an opening statement at the beginning of the trial, outlining the facts and legal theories that will be presented to the judge. The plaintiff will then present their evidence and, to the extent necessary, call witnesses. Once finished, the defendant will have the opportunity to present their own evidence and witnesses. Each party may cross-examine witnesses called by the other. The plaintiff may then “rebut” any claims made by the defendant. Following closing arguments, the judge will deliberate the information provided during the proceeding and deliver the final verdict.

As in any custody trial, the judge will review the specific facts of each situation to determine what outcome is in the best interests of the child. In a case where paternity has just been established, it may be important to present facts about any delays in establishing paternity. For example, was the father aware that he had a child? If so, for how long before he took action to prove paternity and seek a formal custody arrangement? If the father was aware that the child existed for a long period of time and took no action, what caused the delay? What circumstances caused him to establish paternity and seek a custody agreement now? One can imagine a situation in which dad was not aware that he was a father for a period of time and, after learning about the child, took prompt action to establish his parental rights and seek custody. Assuming a child has been raised by his mother for a period of time, the judge will review any objective evidence that may justify a change in the child’s current living arrangements.

In addition, the judge will be interested in the ability of either or both parents to meet the child’s needs, both physically and emotionally. Depending upon the child’s age and maturity, the judge may wish to know the child’s preferences pertaining to custody. Further, it will be important to explain whether either parent has a history of criminal activity, violence or abuse, mental health issues, or substance abuse problems. If the court is reviewing a request for back child support or support going forward, the judge will also review financial information of the parties to determine what amount, if any, is appropriate.

The parties will be required to follow specific court rules pertaining to the presentation of evidence. Information obtained during the discovery process such as text messages, phone records, medical reports, bank records, wage information or witness testimony may be essential to the success of a case. It is imperative to present admissible supporting information to the judge during the trial. A knowledgeable custody attorney can help Las Vegas fathers comply with the rules of evidence and make a compelling case to the judge. I have experience in child custody trials and am ready to assist you. Contact my office today to speak to a fathers’ rights lawyer.