How is paternity (legal fatherhood) established?
The first thing that needs to happen before filing for child support is that the biological father needs to be recognized as the “legal father.” This is known as “establishing paternity.”
If you were married or widowed when you gave birth to your child, then your husband is automatically considered to be the child’s legal father (and paternity is automatically established). If you were unmarried when you gave birth to your child, paternity can be established in two ways:
- You and the father can sign form called a “voluntary acknowledgement of paternity” that must be witnessed or notarized and then filed with the Bureau of Health Planning & Statistics Office of Vital Records. Most hospitals can help with this process or you can get the voluntary acknowledgement form directly from the Bureau. The father can sign an acknowledgement of paternity even if he is married to someone else.
- If the father refuses to sign the form, you can file a paternity case in court. Once in court, if the father denies paternity, the judge would likely order genetic testing (a DNA test). The court decides who pays for genetic testing; generally the father pays the costs.1
If you cannot find the father, your local Child Support Office can assist you. They should help you in identifying and locating the father. You do not have to be on public assistance to get help from the Child Support Enforcement Program.
For more information on how to file a paternity case, you can contact your local courthouse. Please see our NV Courthouse Locations page for the contact information of a courthouse near you.
However, establishing paternity can also give the father the right to file for court-ordered visitation or custody. If this is a concern of yours, you might want to talk to a lawyer before filing a paternity case. To find a lawyer in NV, go to our NV Finding a Lawyer page.
1 This information was adapted from the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services website