Filing the Custody / Paternity Papers
If you want to get the court's help with paternity, custody, visitation, and child support, you can file a paternity or a child custody case. The instructions and all the forms needed to open a paternity or custody case are in this section.
Before you begin:
- Is this page for me? The information on this page only applies to unmarried parents who do not already have a custody order. If you are married, child custody matters will be decided as part of a divorce, separation, or annulment. Visit one of those sections to learn how to file the proper papers.
- What laws apply? Learn the basics of the laws that apply to custody cases on the Custody Overview page.
- Should I file in Nevada or somewhere else? Usually, children must have lived in Nevada for the past six months (or since birth if the child is not yet 6 months old) before a Nevada judge can issue any custody orders. There are some exceptions. If the children have not been in Nevada for six months, legal advice is strongly recommended before filing any paperwork. See Lawyers and Legal Help for more information on how to find a lawyer.
You can attend a FREE custody class where you can learn the basics of custody law and the court procedures you need to know. The classes are presented in both English and Spanish. You'll receive a class manual and some great tips to help you represent yourself. Visit Free Classes for more information.
Follow these steps to start a custody case:
1. Fill out the forms. You have to fill out 3 forms to start your case, and another optional form if needed.
2. File the forms. Turn in your completed forms by mail, efiling, or in person to the Clerk of Court.
3. Serve Defendant. You must have a 3rd person hand-deliver a copy of the filed forms to the Defendant.
4. Wait and see what happens. You will have more forms to file with the court no matter what.
Learn more about each step below.
To open a case you will need to file the forms below, or use the guided online interview to complete them electronically.
Automated Custody Forms Interview with Efile Available! (not available for paternity)
You can use an automated interview that will complete your forms for you after you answer some questions about what you want to request. To use the automated interview, click here and select the "CHILD CUSTODY: Complaint" interview. It is best to use Chrome or Firefox (Safari is not recommended and not supported).
At the end of the interview you can efile directly through the program or print/save your forms to file in person.
Family Court Cover Sheet - required
This form is REQUIRED. It lists basic information about you, the other parent, and the children. You are the Plaintiff and the other parent is the Defendant. The Clerk of Court uses this information to open your case.
Check the "child custody" box if you are primarily filing a custody case. Check the "paternity" box if you are primarily filing a paternity case. Do not check both.
Complaint for Custody or Paternity - required
This form is REQUIRED. The complaint tells the judge and the other parent what kind of orders you want. You are the Plaintiff and the other party is the Defendant. Fill out ONLY ONE complaint depending on the main issue you need addressed. Do not fill out both forms.
Complaint for Custody. This complaint assumes that the father is known and there is no disagreement about paternity. It allows you to propose what custody, visitation, and child support orders you want. You will check boxes and fill in blanks to tell the judge and the other parent things like:
- What kind of legal custody orders you would like;
- What kind of physical custody orders you would like;
- Your proposed visitation schedule;
- How much child support should be ordered; and
- How insurance, medical costs, and child care should be handled.
Complaint for Paternity. If you mainly need the court to determine who is (or who is not) the father of a child, you can file this complaint as long as the child is age 20 or younger. Any person who is named on the birth certificate or who claims to be a parent must be listed as a Defendant, so you may need to name multiple Defendants if there is more than one potential/named father.
You can ask the court to make custody orders as well once paternity is settled. The judge usually must set child support once paternity is established, even if you don't ask for it.
If you file a Complaint for Paternity, you are encouraged to also file a motion to set a court hearing where the judge can hear from all parties to try and figure out paternity. You can file a Motion to Establish Paternity and/or for DNA Testing, and you can learn more about that process on the Temporary Orders page.
Summons - required
This form is REQUIRED. This form tells the other parent that you have filed for custody/paternity. The form also tells the other parent that he or she must file a response within 21 days, or a default may be entered against them.
If efiling, use filing code SEI when uploading the summons to make sure it is processed correctly.
Joint Preliminary Injunction - optional
This is an optional injuction you can request when you file your papers. The injunction prevents both you and the other party from doing the following while the case is going on:
- You cannot cancel or change the insurance plans.
- You cannot harass each other, the children, each other’s relatives, or family pets.
- You cannot relocate the children out of Nevada without written permission.
You will be legally prevented from doing all of the above things as soon as the Joint Preliminary Injunction is issued by the Clerk. The other party will be legally prevented from doing these as soon as he or she is served with the papers.
If you would like this injunction issued, you must fill out and file the form below asking the Clerk of Court to issue one.
The papers above will open a case, but they will not set a court date. You do not have to set a court date at this point. If you don't think Defendant will respond to the case, you probably don't need a court date. If Defendant does file a response, the judge will automatically set a court date and notify you both.
However, if there are ongoing issues with the other parent and you need to see a judge to set temporary visitation, custody, and/or child support, you can fill out a Motion for Temporary Orders and file it with these papers to get a court date set sooner. The motion asks the judge to put temporary orders in place while your case is pending.
The fee is $259 to file a Complaint for Custody, and $270 to file a Complaint for Paternity. You can pay by cash, money order, or most major credit/debit cards. If you cannot afford the fee, visit Filing Fees and Waivers to find out how to ask the court to waive the fee.
You can file your papers one of these ways:
- Online: You can file online through the court's e-filing system, eFileNV. There is a fee of $3.50 to upload your documents, in addition to the regular filing fee. You must register for an account, you must provide a valid email address, and you must be able to scan and upload your documents as separate pdfs.
Do not upload one pdf with all of the forms included - this will significantly delay the processing. Each form needs to be filed as its own pdf, but you can upload all of them in one submission.
The Summons must be uploaded with the filing code SEI or it will not be filed correctly. Carefully follow the E-Filing Guide to avoid mistakes.
- In person at the Family Courthouse (check our How to File page for hours and more information).
By Mail: (mail takes about 6-8 weeks to process) Mail your forms and the filing fee (with check or money order made out to Clerk of Court) to:
Family Courts and Services Center
Attn: Clerk of Court
601 North Pecos Road
Las Vegas, NV 89101
The Court does not serve the papers for you. It is up to YOU to make sure the other parent gets served after you file for custody or your case could get dismissed.
After you complete the steps on this page, you must find a neutral 3rd person to hand-deliver a copy of the summons and complaint (and anything else you filed) to the Defendant. There are other options if the Defendant cannot be found or served in person. Learn all about how to have the other parent served by visiting the Serving the Custody Papers page.
You will have more forms to complete and file with the court to continue the custody case. The court will not notify you of your future steps. Visit the Now What? page to learn the different things you might have to do depending on what Defendant does after being served.