Children and their parents share a special bond, one that is formed usually right when the child is born. This relationship is important considering that children rely on their parents for care and upbringing in their first several years of life. Because a parent’s role in a child’s life is so important, many states, including the state of Nevada, have created family laws protecting a child’s right to being supported as well as parents’ right to have a relationship with their child. We most often see these issues arise when parents are divorcing and having disputes over custody of their child.
Effect of a Father in a Child’s Life
We most often view a child’s mother as the most important person in his or her life – tradition has seen mothers staying home to raise and care for children while fathers go out into the workforce to financially support the family. While this is still the way in many families, we are seeing more emphasis placed on the role a father plays in a child’s life, especially when it comes to matters in the courtroom. Fathers have been proven to be equally capable caregivers as well as effective disciplinarians for children, not to mention that children who have loving and involved fathers tend to do better in school and have an easier time adjusting through the different social stages of their lives.
Establishing Paternity in Nevada
When a father goes to court to enforce his parental rights, one of the most important steps in this legal process is establishing the child’s paternity. In the state of Nevada, when a child’s parents are married, it is assumed under the law that the mother’s husband is the child’s legal and biological father. For unmarried parents, there are two methods that can be used to establish paternity including a voluntary method or an involuntary method.
The voluntary method of establishing paternity is by using voluntary acknowledgment of paternity, which is also the easiest method for establishing paternity. When parents are in agreement as to who the child’s biological father is, both parents can choose to sign a “Voluntary Acknowledgement Form.” This form should be signed by both parents in the presence of a notary public and then filed with the State Registrar of Vital Statistics for the state of Nevada. Once this process has been completed, the father’s name can be added to the child’s birth certificate and the child’s paternity is established.
The involuntary method of establishing paternity involves engaging the court system. This method of establishing paternity is most often used when parents do not agree about who the child’s father is or if the father is denying paternity. This process is started when one party files a paternity case with the court – a case can be filed by the child’s mother, any man who believes he may be the child’s father, the child’s legal custodian or legal guardian, or a representative of the Nevada State Welfare Division if the child in question is receiving any form of state assistance.
Once the paternity case has been filed and the alleged father has denied the child’s paternity, the judge may require the child, the mother, and the alleged father to take part in genetic testing. This is also the case when the mother is uncertain of who the father is and two or more men could potentially be the child’s biological father. Should the alleged father refuse to submit to genetic testing, the judge assumes his noncooperation as evidence of paternity and rules as such. At this point, the father’s name can be added to the child’s birth certificate, and he or she can begin benefitting from the father.
Father’s Rights to Child Custody and Visitation
Once a paternity case has been settled, it is not uncommon for the judge to then move into the child custody phase of the case. In the state of Nevada, child custody cases are guided by the “best interests of the child” standard. Under this standard, the judge is to consider what child custody arrangement best supports the child’s needs, and although the parents’ preferences are considered, it is ultimately the child’s best interests that drives the decision making. Courts consider factors that are relevant to parenting, and these factors fall into the following categories:
- The child’s health and safety
- The child’s developmental and emotional needs
- Communication between parents
- Both parents’ co-parenting capabilities
- Each parent’s home stability
- Each parent’s financial ability to care for the child
The state of Nevada separates custody into two categories – legal and physical custody. Legal custody refers to a parent’s right to be involved in important decisions regarding the child’s upbringing including health, education, medical care, social upbringing, and religious upbringing. Physical custody refers to parents’ rights to have the child reside with them and be in their care. Joint custody is preferred under Nevada state law, meaning both parents have equal legal and physical custody of the child – this is preferred to help keep both parents involved in the child’s life.
However, in cases where joint custody is not an option, the judge chooses a primary custodian based on what is in the child’s best interests. Should the father be a better candidate, it is not uncommon for the father to be awarded primary custody, meaning he has the child reside with him and be in his care the majority of the time. In these cases, the mother may or may not be awarded visitation with the child based on the circumstances surrounding the case.
Father’s Right to Child Support in Nevada
In cases where the father is awarded primary custody, it is also not uncommon for the mother to be ordered to pay child support. Child support is paid between parents as a means to help pay for the costs associated with raising the child, which include financial support to provide shelter, clothing and food for the child, as well as help to pay the expenses related to the child’s education, medical care, and other needs. Fathers in the state of Nevada have an equal right to collect child support as mothers would in the same situation – they also have equal access to child support enforcement services.
How a Father’s Rights Lawyer Can Help
Facing paternity, child custody, and child support issues in court can be an overwhelming process for any father. For those fathers who are facing these types of legal issues, a lawyer specializing in father’s rights can be an invaluable resource. These legal professionals are able to explain in detail how the family court system works in the state of Nevada and are also able to explain the rights fathers have to a relationship with their child. Additionally, father’s rights lawyers are able to best position their client to receive a favorable judgement in either their paternity, child custody, or support case.