How to Serve the Custody/Paternity Papers
After you open a custody or paternity case, the next step is to make sure the other parent is “served” with the papers. It is up to you to make sure that the other parent is served. Visit this section to learn about how to have the other parent served, and what to do if you do not know where the other parent can be found.
A copy of the summons and complaint (and anything else you filed) must be hand-delivered to the other parent (the “Defendant”). This is called "service of process." The Court does not serve the papers for you. It is up to YOU to make sure the other parent gets served.
Please read the information on this page very carefully. If the other parent is not properly served, your case could get dismissed and you will have to start all over!
You can find answers to more common questions about service on the Frequently Asked Questions: Service page.
The other parent must be served with the following:
- A copy of the filed Complaint for Custody/Paternity
- A copy of the Summons
- A copy of the Joint Preliminary Injunction (if you filed one)
You will still have the original Summons. Make a copy to serve on the other parent, and keep the original. The original will have to be returned to the court for filing after the other parent has been served.
Your documents must be served within 120 days after you file the complaint. If the other parent is not served within 120 days, your complaint will be dismissed and you will have to start all over.
If you cannot get the other parent served within 120 days, you can ask the Court to extend the time for service. You can use the following forms to ask the judge to extend the time to serve. File the declaration with the court, and submit the order to the judge for review.
The papers must be served by a "disinterested person." This means someone who is not a party in the case, not interested in the outcome of the case, and who is at least 18 years old. Family members and significant others (boyfriends/girlfriends) cannot serve the documents, as this could raise questions with the court. You can ask a neutral person to serve the documents, or you can hire the sheriff or a private process service to serve the documents for a fee.
Some judges require a licensed, professional process server to serve the documents. Find out from the department assigned to your case if the judge requires this. You can find a list of phone numbers to each judge's department by clicking here.
Visit the Sheriff’s Civil Process Section for more information on their fees and services.
You can serve the documents yourself ONLY IF the Defendant (or Defendant's attorney) is willing to waive formal service of the documents and will accept the documents from you. The Defendant will have to complete a "Waiver of Service of Summons and Complaint," and you must file the document with the court.
The other parent must be personally served with a copy of the documents. This means someone must hand-deliver the documents to the Defendant in person. The other parent can be served anywhere – at home, at work, etc. The person who serves the Defendant must complete an Affidavit of Service stating when, where and what documents were served on the Defendant.
The person who serves your documents must complete an Affidavit of Service that says when, where, and how the documents were served. The affidavit must be filed with the court to show that the other parent was properly served.
If you use the sheriff or a private process server, they may have their own form to complete as proof of service. If you have someone else serve the summons and complaint, they can download and fill out the Affidavit of Service below.
Bring the Affidavit of Service and the original Summons to the court for filing. Both must be filed.
You must do everything you can to locate the other parent. Contact friends, family members, employers, coworkers, or anyone who might know where the other parent can be found. Search for the other parent online through social networking sites and by email. You can also check the Post Office for forwarding information. Check with any source that might lead you to a good address for the other parent. This is called doing your “due diligence.” The Affidavit of Due Diligence (below) includes many suggested search sites. The judge will want to see you tried as many of those avenues as possible.
WARNING!Some judges require someone other than the Plaintiff to do the search for the Defendant. You may need to ask a neutral person to do the "due diligence" search and fill out the "Affidavit of Due Diligence" paperwork showing the places they searched. If you want a professional to do the search, you can look for people who offer "skip trace" services and they will try and find the Defendant for a fee. They should provide you with the required affidavit detailing their attempts to locate the Defendant.
If you still cannot find the other parent, you can ask the Court for permission to serve by publishing the summons in a newspaper and mailing a copy of the summons and complaint to his or her last known address. You will have to detail all of the efforts you made to find the other parent.
To ask the Court for permission to serve by publication, follow these steps:
- Mail a copy of the summons and complaint to the other parent's last known address. Mail this by regular mail (not certified mail). After mailing the summons and complaint, fill out a Certificate of Mailing indicating when, where, and to whom you mailed the documents. File this with the court.
- After mailing the summons and complaint, fill out the following forms. The Affidavit to Serve by Publication must be completed by you. The Affidavit of Due Diligence must be completed by whoever did the search for the Defendant. Complete everything in the Order to Serve by Publication except for the judge's signature line.
- File the two affidavits with the Court.
- Submit the proposed Order to Serve by Publication to the judge assigned to your case. You can bring it to the 3rd floor of the family court or mail it to the courthouse. The judge will mail everything back to you after the judge has had a chance to review your paperwork.
- Wait for your answer. If the judge believes that the other parent truly cannot be found after reviewing your papers, the judge will sign the order allowing you to serve by publication. If not, you will receive a memo from the judge's staff letting you know what needs to be fixed.
- If the judge signs your Order to Serve by Publication, contact a newspaper to arrange for publication. You will have to provide the newspaper with a copy of the Summons and the Order to Serve by Publication, and make sure the summons is published once a week for 4 consecutive weeks.
- Make sure the Affidavit of Publication is filed with the court. The newspaper usually files this for you, but if they do not, be sure to ask for a copy of the Affidavit of Publication and file it yourself.
FYI!The popular Clark County newspapers you may want to contact to arrange for publication are the
Nevada Legal News (702-382-2747) and the Las Vegas Review-Journal (702-383-0383).