Both parents, regardless of their marital status, owe their children financial support to cover basic needs, such as food, housing, clothing, and education. Most states—including Nevada—have specific rules for calculating the responsibilities of parents and for ensuring that parents pay support.
Although parents can enter into agreements about child support, such agreements must meet the guidelines set by law and receive court approval. This is because the right to receive support belongs to the child—not the parents. Parents can't waive their child's right to support.
Parents have to support only their own children. That's why, before child support can be ordered, there has to be a legal decision about who a child's parents are. Identifying a child's mother is usually straightforward, but things can get more complicated when it comes to identifying a child's father (called "establishing paternity").
If the parents were married at the time of the child's birth, and are now separating or divorcing, this part is easy. Courts "presume" (make a strong legal assumption) that the parties to the divorce are the natural parents of any children born during the marriage. During a divorce, as long as there's no dispute over who the parents are, the court will move quickly to the next phase—deciding the amount of child support based on the information submitted to the court during the divorce. Usually, the court will issue a child support order as part of or along with a final divorce decree.
If you were never married, there are two ways to establish paternity in Nevada:
Paternity can be determined at any time until the child is 21. (Nev. Rev. Stat. § 126.081 (2023).)
Once paternity is established, the next step is to apply for child support services.
Which parent ends up being responsible for making child support payments depends on the custody arrangement. In general, the parent who doesn't have primary physical custody is responsible for paying child support. A person who is responsible under a court order for paying child support in Nevada is called an "obligor," and a person who receives the support is called an "obligee." (Nev. Admin. Code §§ 425.035, 425.037 (2023).)
If the parents have joint physical custody of a child, the court will determine each parent's share of the total child support obligation. The parent who has the higher child support obligation will pay support to the other parent.
When the parents have two or more children, and each parent has joint physical custody of at least one—but not all—of the children, the court will determine the total support needed based on the number of children each parent must support.
(Nev. Admin. Code § 425.115 (2023).)
The Nevada child support guidelines use complex formulas to establish a uniform support schedule. Parents can agree to pay more than the amount determined under the guidelines, but not less, and a court must approve the agreement.
To calculate a parent's child support obligation, the guidelines take into account factors such as:
The parents can stipulate (agree) on how much they each make on a monthly basis. When they can't agree, the court will determine their monthly gross income by considering all financial or other information relevant to their earning capacity. The judge may order one or both parents to provide financial information, including tax returns, to aid in calculations. (Nev. Admin. Code § 425.120 (2023).) "Gross income" includes income from salary, wages, investment income, social security disability benefits, and unemployment insurance. (Nev. Admin. Code § 425.025 (2023).)
When a parent is unemployed or underemployed (meaning they have the potential to make more), the court can impute (assign) a potential monthly gross income to the parent. Nevada law provides a long list of considerations for calculating potential income, including the local job market, local earnings levels, and the parent's:
(Nev. Admin. Code § 425.125 (2023).)
Under Nevada's current (2023) child support schedule, the base child support obligation depends on the number of children to be supported and the monthly gross income of the obligor.
For one child, the parent will pay:
For two children, the parent will pay:
For three children, the parent will pay:
For four children, the parent will pay:
For each additional child, the parent will pay:
(Nev. Admin. Code § 425.140 (2023).)
Note that these amounts are updated frequently, so you will always want to check the current schedule of child support when you're trying to estimate your potential responsibility. You can also use the Nevada child support guideline calculator to get an estimate. Parents who have low incomes might be subject to different rules—they can use the Nevada Schedule of Child Support Obligations for Low-Income Payers to estimate their child support responsibility. (Nev. Admin. Code § 425.145 (2023).)
The court may adjust the basic child support obligation after considering:
(Nev. Admin. Code § 425.150 (2023).)
Most parents manage to reach an agreement about child support rather than having a judge decide for them. If they agree on an amount of support that's different from what Nevada's guidelines recommend, their agreement must:
The parents must submit the signed agreement to the court. The judge will approve and adopt the agreement as a court order unless the agreed support amount doesn't meet the child's needs, or the judge concludes that the agreement was coerced. (Nev. Admin. Code § 425.110 (2023).)
Child support in Nevada is paid through the Department of Health and Human Services Division of Welfare and Supportive Services (DWSS). Most child support orders require the obligor's employer to withhold income from the obligor's paycheck to cover child support. If the court order doesn't require income withholding, obligors have many options for making payments, including by phone, mail, or electronic funds transfer.
DWSS is also responsible for making payments to obligees. Obligees can receive their child support payments through either direct deposit or the Nevada Child Support Debit Card.
Once a child support order is in place, it can be modified (changed) only when there is a change in circumstances. (Nev. Admin. Code § 425.170 (2023).) Typically, this means that a significant amount of time has passed since the order was issued or reviewed (usually three years), or that one of the parents' incomes has increased or decreased by 20% or more.
You'll need to file a motion to modify child support with the court. You probably will have to file a financial disclosure form, also. You can find detailed information on how to modify a child support order on the Nevada courts' self-help page.
Nevada child support orders end when the child reaches age 18 or, if the child is still in high school, when the child graduates from high school or reaches age 19, whichever comes first. (Nev. Admin. Code § 425.160 (2022).) Parents can agree to continue paying child support for longer—for example, until the child finishes an undergraduate degree or trade school.
As noted above, most child support orders in Nevada include an income withholding order. But that won't work for some parents, especially when the obligor is self-employed, works for cash or commissions, or changes jobs frequently. Nevada's child support enforcement agency can help go after parents who aren't keeping up with their support obligation. The agency can take a number of steps (without involving the courts) to collect overdue payments, including:
The simplest way to enforce child support is to contact the District Attorney Family Support Division (DAFS) near you or apply for child support services directly with DWSS.
You also have the option of filing a motion in court for an order to show cause. Ask the clerk of the court or visit the state's self-help center for a form motion you can use. After you file the completed forms, the court will set a date for a hearing.