Do you have questions about paternity? Not sure what your rights are? Worried about how to establish paternity?
Paternity cases in Las Vegas can be confusing and downright gut wrenching. Let’s face it, Establishing paternity can come with a whole host of shared responsibilities including, but not limited to, child custody, child support and picking a school for the child!
While we still suggest you consult with a qualified Las Vegas Paternity Attorney before filing a paternity case, we have prepared this detailed guide to help you through the process of establishing paternity in Las Vegas and protecting your rights.
Paternity means fatherhood. Establishing paternity means making the biological father the legal father too.
Despite what some people may tell you, paternity can be established as soon as the child is born until any time before the child reaches 21 years of age.
By now you might be thinking: “why is establishing paternity important?” “The mother knows who the father is!” “Isn’t that enough?”
The short answer is that establishing paternity of a child is extremely important for many reasons.
First, establishing paternity is important so that the relationship between both parents and the child is established.
Second, a paternity action establishes both parents’ financial obligations to the child and ensures that your child has enough money to meet their needs.
Paternity actions also ensure your child has access to Social Security benefits, insurance benefits, inheritance rights, Veterans and other rights.
Finally, establishing paternity is important so that your child may obtain a complete medical history from the families of both parents. This could include hereditary health problems.
Now that you know what paternity is and why it is important, let’s look at how paternity is established.
There are a few different ways to establish paternity. Let’s look at each possibility below:
First, if the mother is married or widowed at the time the child is born, her husband will be presumed to be the father. This is the law and you should expect that if you are married, the hospital will put your husband’s name on the child’s birth certificate as the father unless you advise the hospital otherwise.
In cases where a mother is married, but her husband is not the father of the child, the mother will need to present a Court order or a Voluntary acknowledgement of paternity signed by the biological father. Without this, like we said above, by law, the mother’s husband will be considered the legal father of the child.
By now you might be asking “how is paternity established if the child’s parent are not married?”
If the parents are not married at the time of the child’s birth, paternity can be established in two ways:
One option is for the parents to sign a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity. The acknowledgement of paternity must be signed, witnessed and notarized. Most hospitals can assist in having parents fill out this document. Once the acknowledgement is signed, it needs to be mailed to the Department of Vital Statistics for the father’s name to be added to the child’s birth certificate.
Another way to establish paternity is through a Court order. Essentially, a judge will declare a man the father of a child after a court hearing or by default. Filing a paternity action can be complicated. Each step is addressed in more detail below. Just remember that once a court orders a father’s name added to the child’s birth certificate, a certified copy of the Court order must be delivered to the Department of Vital Statistics and a new birth certificate issued with the father’s name.
There are a few different components to bring a paternity case in Las Vegas.
In this section, we consider:
Let’s look at each below.
Believe it or not, many different people can file a paternity case in Las Vegas.
Obviously, the mother of the child may file a paternity action against the father.
Likewise, if a man believes he is the father of a child, he may sue the mother for paternity.
What is less obvious is that a child may bring a paternity action against a man the child believes to be the father. Like we stated above, the child, the mother or father may file a paternity action until the child is 21 years old. If the child is made a party to a paternity case, the child may be appointed a guardian ad litem by the Court to represent the child’s interests.
It is also possible for the District Attorney’s Office to file a paternity case against someone believed to be the father of a child. The District Attorney can file a paternity case regardless of whether the mother or child are receiving State assistance.
If there is already a divorce, annulment, custody, termination of parental rights or child support case already filed, a request to determine paternity may be made in the existing case. For example, if you are seeking an annulment and believe that your spouse is the father of the child you are pregnant with, you may also want to file a paternity action in the same case.
If you do not have an existing family court case, it is important to determine where a case should be filed. Let’s break this down and address each possibility in more detail:
First, if you have sex in Nevada, you have consented to jurisdiction and it doesn’t matter whether you live in Nevada or not. What does this really mean? If you father a child in Nevada, or are suspected of fathering a child in Nevada, you can be sued in Nevada for paternity.
Second, a paternity case can be filed in any Nevada county where the child, the mother or the father live. For example, if you are the presumed father and you live in Washoe County and the child lives in Clark County with the mother, a paternity case can be filed in Washoe County or Clark County. Likewise, if you live in New York and the child lives in Las Vegas, the paternity case may be filed in Las Vegas regardless of whether you live here or not.
If you are considering bringing a paternity case, or if you are the subject of a paternity action, it is best to consult with an attorney to discuss your options for jurisdiction and venue of the paternity case.
Keep in mind that if a paternity case is filed before the child is born, the case will be stayed until after the child is born. This means that there will be no decisions about paternity, custody, child support, visitation or any other matters until after the birth of the child.
Filing a paternity case in Las Vegas is similar to filing any other family law case.
First, you will need to complete a Complaint For Paternity. It is highly recommended that in the same Complaint, a request for custody, visitation and child support is also made. Because these are highly complex matters, it is strongly recommended that you consult an attorney for guidance on completing the Complaint.
If an acknowledgment of paternity has been completed or if the father’s name is on the birth certificate, you should proceed with having the complaint personally served on the other parent.
However, if paternity is not established with an acknowledgement of paternity or the birth certificate, or if the wrong father is listed on the birth certificate, you should absolutely request a DNA test in your Complaint for Paternity.
Once the Complaint is completed and filed, a Summons will need to be issued by the Clerk of the Family Court.
Next, you will need to have the other parent served with summons and complaint. If the case is strictly for paternity, the parent may be personally served by a process server, or other third party, who hands the papers to the non-filing parent OR the papers may be mailed, certified mail, restricted delivery, return receipt requested. Again, service can be tricky and we strongly recommend talking with an attorney about serving paternity actions.
After service has been complete, you will need to wait 20 days for the other party to answer. Failure to respond to the Complaint will result in the filing party winning the paternity case.
If the opposing party responds to the Complaint, there is a very good chance that the Court will order DNA testing before entering any other orders. If the DNA test proves paternity, the Court may establish child support, visitation and custody. If the DNA test does not prove paternity, it is still possible the Court will make a finding of legal paternity as opposed to biological paternity.
Again, paternity actions can become extremely complicated and lengthy. It is strongly recommended that a qualified family law attorney be consulted if you want to file a Complaint for Paternity or if you have been sued in a Paternity Action.
Filing a paternity case can be extremely complicated.
Even if you know who the biological father of the child is, obtaining paternity comes with many other rights and responsibilities.
Here are answers to some of your Frequently Asked Questions about Las Vegas Paternity:
This is the most frequently asked question we get when we work on paternity cases and it often creates many issues.
When a father is listed on the birth certificate, whether they are the biological father or not, that father is known as the legal father.
Removing a legal father from the birth certificate can be an extremely difficult process depending on the age of the child, the circumstances under which the father’s name was placed on the birth certificate and whether the legal father wants to continue to have a relationship with the child.
Basically, just because another father is the biological father of the child, it does not mean the legal father will be removed from the child’s birth certificate. The biological father will need to demonstrate to the Court why it is in the child’s best interests to have the legal father removed from the birth certificate and replaced with the biological father.
Again, these issues can become very complicated extremely fast. We strongly recommend consulting with an attorney if you are in this situation.
Being a parent comes with legal and financial responsibilities. There is a very good chance that once paternity is established, the father will also be responsible for paying child support.
If no child support has ever been paid, and nobody else has supported the child, the father should expect to pay child support moving forward but also constructive support since the time of the child’s birth.
This can be very expensive and quite costly. Again, we strongly recommend consulting with an attorney to discuss your rights and options.
Going back to court to litigate an undisclosed asset or renegotiate child support can be time consuming and very expensive. When both sides have lawyers, in most cases, these issues are resolved in the initial paperwork avoiding the need to return to Court.
This is another question our office handles frequently in Las Vegas paternity cases.
Changing a child’s last name is always based on the facts of each specific case. Just because paternity is established does not mean an automatic name change for your child. Instead, the Court may consider a number of factors including:
If you have been established as the biological father of the child, we strongly recommend you discuss your request to change the child’s last name with the mother first. If you two are in agreement, the Court will likely change the last name. If there is a disagreement, the Court might take testimony to make a finding about whether changing your child’s name is in the child’s best interests.
The fees and costs associated with filing a paternity action depend on whether or not the action is contested or uncontested and who is filing the case.
For example, if the case is being filed as part of a child support case brought by the District Attorney’s Office, chances are that it will not cost anything to establish paternity and child support.
However, if the case is initiated by a parent in family court, the filing fees alone are $299. This is the fee regardless of whether or not the mother or father files for paternity.
In addition, if you need to hire a process server to serve the paternity case, you should expect to spend another $200-$300 depending on where the non-filing party lives and how difficult they are to serve.
The bottom line?
It costs anywhere from $300 to $750 just to file the paternity case in family court. You should also consider the costs for a notary, copy costs and e-filing fees.
Just like in our other articles you should be extremely cautious of anyone telling you they can file a paternity case for $500 or less. Advertisers boasting about low cost paternity filings are either paralegals who should not be providing you legal advice, document service companies who are selling you documents you can easily obtain for free on-line, or companies that will have you do most, if not all, of the work yourself.
There is no doubt that hiring an attorney for a paternity case is costly.Most paternity matters are highly contested and often require several court hearings before the case is completely resolved. Other cases might involve multiple parties and complex legal issues. As such, if you hire an attorney you should expect to spend at least $2,000 or more in lawyer fees.
As with most cases, the total amount of fees and costs depends on the complex legal issues involved, how many court hearings are required, the amount of legal pleadings needed and whether or not you and the other party can resolve the case amicably. You can get more information about our fees for a Las Vegas Paternity Case by calling us at (702) 433-2889 or fill out our on-line form.
Deciding whether or not to file a paternity case can feel overwhelming. Likewise, being sued for paternity often results in panic, confusion and anxiety.
While there are lawyers around every bend, not all lawyers are created the same. And, as you’ve probably guessed from the information above, paternity cases are often extremely complex. Hiring a car accident lawyer to handle your paternity case on the side just won’t cut it.
If you are involved in a Las Vegas paternity case, we strongly recommend that you find an family law attorney with experience in paternity law matters.
Hiring the wrong attorney can result in you losing financially as well as your child being impacted for the rest of her life. There are just too many risks when you hire an inexperienced paternity lawyer.
Believe us. . .
It is critical that you find an experienced paternity lawyer from the beginning of your case to ensure your rights, and the rights of your child are protected.
So how do you find the right paternity lawyer?
Keep reading . . .
Well, you found this article on-line so chances are you know how to conduct on-line research.
Just in case you aren’t sure where else to look consider Avvo, Findlaw and even Yelp for ideas about paternity lawyers.
When researching lawyers on-line, keep in mind that not all family law attorneys handle paternity cases. Again, paternity is its very own narrow area of law. When looking at lawyers online, make sure they have a specific section of their website dedicated to paternity law.
If you believe you will be filing a Las Vegas paternity case, or if you are the subject of a Las Vegas paternity lawsuit, ask family and friends who live in Las Vegas for recommendations.
Remember to ask them for attorneys who specifically handle paternity cases. Again, there are tons of family law attorneys in Las Vegas, but not all family law lawyers handle paternity actions. When you get recommendations from family and friends, do a little research on your own to make sure the lawyers work on paternity cases.
Once you’ve identified some paternity lawyers, make sure to schedule an initial consultation to get more information about their experience. Keep reading for information about interviewing potential paternity lawyers.
Before you ever hire a paternity lawyer, ask them about your specific case. Give the lawyer the facts as best as you can, and ask the lawyer’s opinion about your case. Make sure the lawyer provides clear, straightforward answers specific to your case. Keep in mind that no lawyer can predict with certainty any outcome in any case, but the lawyer should leave you feeling more comfortable and with peace of mind.
Ask the lawyer questions: (1) how much do they charge; (2) what steps will the lawyer take on your behalf; (3) how confident is the lawyer in your case; (4) how much experience does the lawyer have with cases like yours.
If you find a lawyer you like, don’t forget to ask about fees and timelines. Finding a lawyer that is a great fit is fine, but if you can’t afford the legal fees, that lawyer will not work and you will need to continue your search.
If you have the lawyer that fits, that you trust and like and that fits in your budget, move forward and protect your rights!
For more information about our fees, our experience with paternity cases and information about how we can help you, call us at (702) 433-2889 or fill out our on-line form.