Getting the Final Custody Decree
The final step in a custody case is having a judge sign a Custody Decree. This is the document that includes all of the final custody, visitation, and child support orders. Read on for more information on how to get a final Custody Decree.
FYI!If you have already had a court hearing and you need a final paternity order for the judge to sign, you can download the Paternity Order Packet (pdf fillable). The paternity order includes everything needed to have the child's birth certificate amended with the correct father's name and a new name for the child (if applicable). The steps on this page only apply if you are seeking a final custody order.
- Prepare The Paperwork
- File the Documents
- Set a Hearing (if needed) & Go to the Hearing
- Submit the Custody Decree to the Judge
- File the Notice of Entry of Order
- Serve the Other Party
There are three different ways that a final custody order is usually granted:
By Default: If the Defendant was served with the summons and complaint, but did not file any paperwork within 20 days, the Plaintiff can ask the court to enter a default and grant a final custody order. The Plaintiff will usually have to go to a short hearing with the judge to have the final custody orders approved. If granted, the Plaintiff will typically get a Custody Decree that includes everything asked for in the complaint.
By Agreement: If both parties reach an agreement on all terms after the case has been filed, they can prepare a final Custody Decree together with their full agreement included. Both parties must sign the Custody Decree, and can usually submit the Decree to the judge for approval without a hearing.
Granted at a Trial or Hearing: When the judge grants a final custody order at a trial or a hearing, the judge will decide all of the final orders. However, the case is not final until the written Custody Decree is signed by the judge. Usually, the judge tells one party to “prepare the decree.”
You are responsible for preparing the final Decree to finish your case. The steps below explain the different forms you must fill out and steps you must take in order to get the final Custody Decree approved.
All of the possible steps to get a final Custody Decree are explained below. You may not need to follow all of the steps depending on what happened in your case leading up to the final decree. Read each step carefully and follow the instructions if they apply to you.
The following forms must be completed to get your final Custody Decree:
Default. If you are seeking a Default Custody Decree (because Defendant did not file any paperwork), ask the Clerk of Court to enter a default against the Defendant.
FYI!If Defendant made an appearance in the case (in some way that would indicate Defendant planned to participate in the case), you must send the Defendant a Three Day Notice of Intention to Enter Default before submitting the default to the clerk. You must complete the form, file it, mail a copy to the Defendant, and file a Certificate of Mailing. If Defendant still does not file anything in the case, you can proceed to ask for a default.
A default can be issued by the Clerk of Court if the Defendant did not file any papers within 20 days of being served. The Plaintiff must complete the default and bring it to the Clerk’s Office for approval.
FYI!The default requires you to include the date that Defendant was served. Look on the Affidavit of Service to find this date. If Defendant was served by publication, the date of service is usually the last date listed under the publication dates on the Affidavit of Publication.
- Summary Disposition Request. If you want a Custody Decree without having a hearing, fill out the Request for Summary Disposition and an Affidavit in Support. These forms ask the judge to approve of the Decree without a hearing. Only one party needs to complete these forms (usually the Plaintiff).
- Child Support and Welfare Identification Form.
This form is required, and helps with child support enforcement in the future if needed.
Seminar for Separating Parents ("COPE") Certificate. Complete the seminar for separating parents and file a certificate of completion. You will receive a certificate of completion after you attend the class. For more information, see Seminar for Separating Parents.
The Custody Decree. The Custody Decree is the final order that includes all the final custody orders. How you fill out the Custody Decree will depend on how you are getting the final decree:
- If you are getting a Default Decree: Everything in your proposed Custody Decree should match everything you asked for in your complaint.
- If both parties are signing the Custody Decree: The Custody Decree must include all of the agreements between you and the other parent. You both must sign the Custody Decree.
- If you are submitting a Decree based on a hearing or trial: Everything in your proposed Custody Decree must match everything the judge ordered at your hearing. You should obtain a copy of the “minutes” from your hearing from the Court Records department. Make sure everything included in the minutes is included in the proposed Custody Decree.
If the judge approved of a Parenting Agreement that you and the other parent mediated at FMC, you may want to attach the Parenting Agreement as an “Exhibit” to the Decree instead of the blank visitation schedule that is included with this form. This will make sure your full custody and visitation schedule is included in your final custody decree.
File all the documents above, except the Custody Decree, with the court (the decree must be brought or mailed to the judge). Just like with your initial documents, you can file the papers in one of three ways:
- In Person at the Family Courthouse.
- By Mail (Family Court, 601 North Pecos, Las Vegas, NV 89101).
- Online through Wiznet (some confidential documents cannot be filed online and will need to be submitted in person or by mail).
Some judges want to see the parties in court before approving a final Custody Decree. A hearing is almost always required if a Default was entered against the Defendant.
If the judge wants you to appear in court before approving the final Custody Decree, you will need to set an "uncontested" hearing with the judge. You can do this by filling out a "Setting Slip" and bringing it to the Clerk's Office at the Family Courthouse. A clerk will be able to set a court date for you when you file the form.
An Uncontested Setting Slip is only used in cases where the judge just needs to approve final orders (because there is a default or there is a full agreement that both parties want to put on record). Do not use this form to set a hearing if there are issues with the other parent that you want the judge to settle. Instead, please visit Motions for Temporary Orders for information on what paperwork to file to get a hearing with the judge.
Bring your proposed Custody Decree and all of your other legal documents to the hearing. The judge will ask some questions to make sure the custody order is in the best interest of the children. If the judge approves, let the judge know that you have an order so the judge can sign the order immediately.
If you did not have a hearing (or forgot to bring a proposed Custody Decree to the hearing), bring your original Custody Decree and two copies to the Family Courthouse (or mail to 601 N. Pecos, Las Vegas, NV 89101). There are drop boxes for each judge on the third floor of the courthouse. Drop the Custody Decree in the box for your judge.
The judge will review the Custody Decree, and if everything is completed properly, the judge will sign the Decree. The judge's staff might call you when the Decree is ready so you can pick it up and file it yourself, or the judge's staff might send it to you in the mail (it is usually mailed to the person who filled out the upper left corner of the first page). Make sure the Decree is "filed" at the clerk's office, since that is the date the Decree becomes legally binding.
If there is a problem with the paperwork, you will receive a memo from the judge’s staff letting you know what needs to be fixed. You will have to fix the problem and resubmit the Decree.
The date this form gets filed is the date that starts the timelines for anyone to appeal. After you receive the signed and filed final Custody Decree, you must fill out the Notice of Entry of Order and attach a copy of the Custody Decree.
File the Notice of Entry of Order (with a copy of the Decree attached) with the court. Be sure to fill out the Certificate of Mailing at the bottom, because you will have to mail a copy of this form to the other party the same day you file it.
Make a copy of the Notice of Entry of Order (with the Custody Decree attached) mail it to the other party. You can mail it by regular mail.