Unmarried Parents? Win Your Custody Battle Now!

Are you an unmarried parent worried about your legal custody rights?

Going through a custody battle?

Wondering if you have any custody rights at all?

Well, we’re here to help.

In this guide, we address the child custody rights of unmarried parents. Get answers to your most frequently asked questions.

Let’s get to it!

Not Married? Establish Parentage First!


In Nevada, the law assumes that when a couple is married at the time a baby is born, the husband is the father. Seems pretty simple right?

But what happens if a couple isn’t married at the time the child is born? Or what happens if the parents divorced before the child was born?

Before a father can have parental rights, the father must establish parentage or Las Vegas paternity.

Paternity can be established in one of two ways.

First, the father can sign a document known as an acknowledgment of paternity and have his name added to the child’s birth certificate as the father.

Keep in mind that this form needs to be completed by both parents, signed, notarized, and mailed to the Nevada Department of Vital Statistics.

The other way to establish paternity is to obtain a Court order declaring the father as a parent. This is usually done by filing a paternity case.

We won’t go into too much detail about paternity cases here since this guide is about the legal custody rights of unmarried parents.

For the purposes of this article, let’s just say that the first step to getting physical custody rights if you are not married is to establish parentage.

Custody and Visitation Rights Of Unmarried Parents

Unmarried Parents Custody

Nevada sole custody laws do not prefer a mother over a father.

Basically, both parents have equal rights to the child in custody court.

And . . . this is the same for married and unmarried parents.

So how does a judge determine who gets legal custody if parents aren’t married?

In every child custody case, the judge will consider the best interests of the child.

In Nevada, our laws say that when the parents come into court, married or unmarried, they start from a position of joint legal and joint physical custody.

The family court judge will then consider the best interest factors as follows:

  • The parents’ ability to cooperate to meet the child’s needs
  • Whether or not the child has half-siblings or step-siblings
  • How well and bonded the child is to each parent
  • What the child wants taking into consideration the child’s age and maturity
  • Any history of domestic violence or child abuse
  • Each parent’s willingness to foster a meaningful relationship with the child and the other parent
  • Whether any parent has abducted the child

The key takeaway here is that the child’s best interests come first. Married or unmarried parents makes no difference.

Child Support For Unmarried Parents

The child support calculation is the same for married and unmarried parents.

The two things to consider are the type of custody and the number of minor children.

When one parent has primary custody, the court uses the income of the non-custodial parent.

When parents share joint custody, the final amount is based on both parents’ incomes.

Remember that Nevada child support laws changed on February 1, 2020.

Check out our Child Support Guide here.

How Do I Establish My Custody Rights If I’m Not Married?

Unmarried parents have rights and responsibilities the same as married parents.

However, since there is no marriage, establishing legal custody rights and enforcing custodial obligations can become more complicated.

Therefore, it’s necessary to take steps to protect your rights.

First, you need to file a complaint about custody, your visitation schedule, and support. If you haven’t already established paternity, you need to include a claim for paternity in your complaint.

Next, you will need to serve the other parent with the court action. Do this by hiring a process server or have a friend, or family member, give the papers to the other parent.

Then you will wait for a court date. At the court hearing, you explain to the judge your side of the story. Show the judge that it is in your child’s best interests for you to have custodial rights.

If your case is really ugly, consider hiring a lawyer.

What Happens If The Parents Are Still Living Together?

Even if you live with the other parents, you still have legal custody rights.

It is important to establish rights if you know your relationship is ending.

On the other hand, establishing rights early on is good insurance in the event of a break-up.

Where both parents are living together with the child, the Court is unlikely to take action.

In that case, we recommend having a lawyer draft a parenting time plan that you can put in place once you are no longer residing under the same roof.

Don’t want to hire a lawyer? Find good parenting plans here, you can write up yourself.

Or . . . attend family mediation at the Family Court to have a mediator assist you in creating a parenting plan.

Do I Need A Lawyer For My Child Custody Case?

Custody Lawyer

It’s not necessary to hire a lawyer for every custody case.

There are tons of good resources available on-line in cases where both parents agree on a plan.

However, if your case is ugly and crazy contested, it is best to hire an attorney.

Finish Line


Unmarried parents have equal rights and responsibilities regarding legal custody and visitation of their children in Nevada.

The law does not favor the mother or the father based on marital status. However, unmarried fathers first need to establish paternity before pursuing custody.

Once parentage is determined, custody decisions are based on the child’s best interests.

Factors like parenting ability, sibling relationships, child preferences, and history of abuse/violence are considered. Child support is also calculated the same way, regardless of marital status.

Unmarried parents should take steps like filing a custody complaint and serving the other parent to secure their rights. Having an attorney can help navigate contested custody battles. But resources exist for amicable agreements, too.

The bottom line is that while establishing custody for unmarried parents involves some extra steps, both mothers and fathers have a legal right to custody and parenting time.

Focusing on the child’s well-being is vital to developing a successful co-parenting relationship outside marriage.

Ask an Attorney

Our lead attorney, Molly Rosenblum, Esq answers tough legal questions in these videos.

Does the Court Consider Domestic Violence in a Custody Case?

Play Video

Can a Child Have a Say in Custody Decisions?

Does a Parent's Sexual Orientation Affect Child Custody in Nevada?

What is a Parenting Plan?

Can Substance Abuse Affect Your Custody Case?


More Frequently Asked Questions

If the unmarried parents live together, does one still need to establish custody rights?

Yes, even if unmarried parents reside together, it’s advisable for each parent to take steps to establish legal custody rights in case the relationship ends. A parenting plan can be created to outline custody arrangements.

What if the unmarried parents don’t agree on custody?

If the parents cannot agree, one can file a custody complaint to have a judge make a decision based on the child’s best interests. Contested custody battles may require hiring an attorney.

Is there a preference for mothers getting custody over fathers if not married?

No, Nevada law does not prefer mothers for custody simply based on gender or marital status. Custody is determined by examining factors like parenting ability, bonding with the child, and safety/abuse.

How is child support determined for unmarried parents?

Child support is calculated the same way whether the parents are married or not. The calculation uses one parent’s income in sole custody cases, or both incomes for joint custody.

Can an unmarried parent take a child out of state without permission?

As long you do not intend to move out of state, you can take your children on vacation without the consent of the other parent. If you have custody orders already in place, this might be restricted or you may need to comply with certain provisions before you take a vacation.

Can unmarried parents make custody agreements on their own?

Yes, unmarried parents can create an agreement covering custody, visitation schedules, and child support. It’s best to put the agreement in writing and have it approved by a judge.

What if an unmarried parent doesn’t want custody or involvement with the child?

There is still a process to terminate parental rights if a parent wishes to give up custody permanently. Consult an attorney to understand those rights and responsibilities.



Acknowledgment of Paternity: A legal form signed by unmarried parents to establish the father’s paternity, added to the birth certificate.

Best Interests of the Child: The standard courts determine custody based on parental ability, safety, and the child’s preferences.

Child Support: Financial support paid by a parent to help provide for a child they do not live with full-time. Based on state guidelines.

Custody Complaint: Formal legal document filed with the court requesting orders related to child custody, visitation, and support.

Joint Custody: Custody arrangement where both parents share decision-making and physical custody.

Legal Custody: The right to make important life decisions for a child, like medical care and education.

Parentage: Legal status of being recognized as a child’s parent. Established by birth, adoption, or other court order.

Paternity: The state of being a child’s legal and biological father.

Physical Custody: Which parent a child lives with primarily or the parenting schedule for each parent.

Primary Custody: When one parent has the child the majority of the time, and the other parent has visitation rights.

Process Server: A person authorized to serve legal documents like custody papers formally.

Sole Custody: When one parent has full legal and physical custody rights to the exclusion of the other parent.

Visitation: Scheduled parenting time for the non-custodial parent to spend with a child.

More Resources for You

More Resources for You

Don’t miss out on our other informative posts as well:

  1. Do You Have Child Custody Questions?” – This post addresses common questions and concerns related to child custody, providing helpful information and guidance.

  2. Does My New Spouse Income Count for Child Support?” – This post explores the considerations surrounding the income of a new spouse and its impact on child support calculations, providing insights for individuals in such situations.

  3. Tips for Family Mediation” – This post offers valuable tips and suggestions for navigating family mediation effectively, promoting productive communication and resolution in custody and divorce cases.

  4. Supervised Visitation: The Good The Bad And The Truth [Updated 2022]” – This post provides insights into the concept of supervised visitation, discussing its benefits, drawbacks, and providing updated information for readers.

  5. Las Vegas Paternity Law” – This post focuses specifically on paternity laws in Las Vegas or similar jurisdictions, offering information and guidance on legal aspects related to establishing and determining paternity.

  6. Divorce, Custody & Your Child’s Education” – This post explores the intersection of divorce, custody, and a child’s education, providing insights and considerations for parents navigating these complex dynamics.

  7. When Can a Child Decide They Don’t Want to See a Parent” – This post examines the circumstances in which a child’s preferences may be considered in custody matters, shedding light on the factors involved and legal considerations.

  8. Fathers Rights: 95 Horrific Mistakes Men Make During Custody Battles” – This post addresses common mistakes that fathers may inadvertently make during custody battles, offering important insights and guidance to protect their rights and interests.

  9. How to Get Child Support Arrears Dismissed” – This post provides information and strategies for individuals seeking to have child support arrears dismissed, offering guidance on the legal processes involved.

  10. Tips For Modifying Nevada Child Support” – This post offers tips and considerations for modifying child support in Nevada, providing guidance to individuals seeking changes to their existing child support orders.

We encourage readers to explore these resources to gain valuable insights and guidance.

Offsite Resources

Offsite Resources You May Find Helpful

Here are some resources that can provide more information and support for unmarried parents navigating child custody issues:

  1. American Bar Association (ABA) Family Law Section: The ABA’s Family Law Section provides resources on divorce, child custody, and other related topics.

  2. Our Family Wizard: This co-parenting tool can help reduce conflict and improve communication, which can be essential for managing custody arrangements.

  3. Child Welfare Information Gateway: This site offers resources on child welfare, child abuse and neglect, out-of-home care, adoption, and more.

  4. Avvo: Avvo offers a Q&A forum where users can ask legal questions and get answers from lawyers, as well as a directory of lawyers by specialty.

  5. FindLaw: FindLaw provides free legal information, a lawyer directory, and other resources related to family law.

Ask an Attorney

Our lead attorney, Molly Rosenblum, Esq answers tough legal questions in these videos.

Does the Court Consider Domestic Violence in a Custody Case?

Play Video

Can a Child Have a Say in Custody Decisions?

Play Video

Does a Parent's Sexual Orientation Affect Child Custody in Nevada?

Play Video

What is a Parenting Plan?

Play Video

Can Substance Abuse Affect Your Custody Case?

Play Video

Can Mediation Affect Your Custody Case?

Play Video

What is Custody Evaluation

Play Video

Can My Criminal Record Affect My Custody Case?

Play Video

The Reason You Haven't Hired A Child Custody Attorney Yet​

We’re ready to fight for the rights of your family if you hire us. We’re waiting to jump into action on the behalf of your family.


A Special Message from Our Lead Attorney


Molly Rosenblum, Esq

Hello, I’m Molly Rosenblum, managing attorney at The Rosenblum Allen Law Firm.

I hope you found the information here helpful in understanding your child custody rights as an unmarried parent.

Going through a custody battle can be difficult, but you have legal rights regardless of marital status. The most important thing is to focus on what is best for your child.

My team and I have extensive experience handling complex custody cases for unmarried mothers and fathers. We are here to protect your rights and guide you through this process.

If you need legal representation for your child custody matter, I invite you to call our office at (702) 433-2889 to discuss your situation.

We’ll review your case details and explain how we can help you reach the best outcome.

WE PROVIDE AFFORDABLE PAYMENT PLANS, but I can’t offer a free consultation.

Don’t go through this alone.

Call us today so we can start working to secure your custody rights and achieve the arrangements you want regarding your child.

I look forward to helping you.


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