Divorce in Nebraska Part IV: Child Custody and Support

June 12, 2015

There’s no getting around it: Divorce can be unpleasant and daunting. For most people, the legal process of divorce is especially foreign and scary. In our (Almost) Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Divorce series, we’ll try to take away some of that fear by answering some of the most frequently asked questions we get from our clients about divorce in Nebraska.  

Divorce in Nebraska Part IV: Child Custody and Support

In part one, we answered questions about getting started with a Nebraska divorce. In part two of the series, we talked about what to expect after filing for divorce in Nebraska. Part three of our series covered some divorce basics, including qualified domestic relations orders (QDROs). This time, we give you the basic info you need to know about child custody and support. 

Q: I’ve heard about a divorce parenting class. Will I have to take one?

A: Yes. It’s required by the Nebraska Parenting Act in any case involving access to a child (parenting time and grandparent visitation). Every adult involved in the case must take an approved class.

Q: What will I learn at the parenting class?

A:Nebraska court approved parenting classes, mandated by the Nebraska Parenting Act, cover Nebraska’s legal process, divorce timeline, requirements of the Parenting Act, contents of a parenting plan, the mediation process, helping children during transitions, and other resources you might find helpful.

Q: Are there options for online parenting classes for divorce? 

A: Maybe — there are Nebraska online parenting classes, but there are two levels of parenting class – Basic & Second Level. The basic class is what is required in most cases, and it can be taken online. However, if Nebraska Law requires the parties to take the Second Level class, or if the judge orders it, the class must be taken in person with a Nebraska provider. More information is available at the Nebraska Supreme Court website.

Q: How much do parenting classes cost? 

A: Fees vary by provider. Most basic classes cost around $50. If you cannot afford to pay for the class, you may ask the judge to waive the fee. 

Q: What happens if you refuse a parenting class during divorce?

A:In Douglas County one party takes the class, then the other party is sent a notice to take the class. If he or she fails to take the class, that person will get a second notice. In the event the party still does not take the class the matter is closed by Conciliation Court. The matter then goes into default or will be set for trial. In all other Nebraska counties, if either party fails to take a parenting class the matter is set for trial or goes into default. 

If you have an attorney, he or she should advise you to take the class as soon as the case gets started – regardless of whether you are the plaintiff or the defendant. Failing to take the parenting class may hurt your claim for custody or parenting time and just doesn’t look very good to the court.

Q: What is the difference between legal and physical custody?

A: Physical custody means physical possession of the child, while legal custody means authority to make decisions for the child about things like where they will go to school, what sports or activities they participate in, and what religion they will observe.

Q: What is a parenting plan?

A: A parenting plan is a document that sets forth who has physical and legal custody of the child and who has the child when (parenting time). It will also specify things like who will spend which holidays and birthdays, vacation time, or other special occasions with the child. It can also include any other provisions necessary to your circumstances to provide smooth, stable relationships related to parenting after divorce or separation.

Q: How is child support determined?

A: The Nebraska Supreme Court has developed a Nebraska child support calculator and child support guidelines based on the custody arrangement and the income and obligations of each party. However, there may be circumstances that warrant a deviation from child support guidelines. If child support is an issue in your case, it’s important to have an attorney who is knowledgeable about this specialized practice area so he or she knows how to spot circumstances that may be appropriate for a deviation. 

Q: Can the other parent and I agree to an amount of child support different from that required by the Nebraska Child Support Guidelines?

A: Maybe, but the court will have to approve it. Child support is for the benefit of your child. It is up to the discretion of the judge to grant a request for deviation, even if the parties have an agreement. The judge will base his or her decision on the best interests of your child.

Q: How long does child support last?

A: In Nebraska cases, it will be until your child reaches the age of 19. There are some circumstances when support may terminate at a different time, but they are relatively uncommon.

Q: Will my wages be garnished to pay child support? Can my unemployment benefits be garnished for child support?

A:In Nebraska it’s mandatory that your child support is withheld from your paycheck. If you are self-employed or have other employment arrangements where you are not paid through a regular payroll, you will pay through the Nebraska Child Support Payment Center.

Q: Is there a minimum child support level?

A:Yes. In cases involving extreme circumstances like poverty, the court may order the minimum support of $50 per month.

Next time in the series

Close out the series with Part V of (Almost) Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About DivorceAfter the Ink Dries.

In the meantime, if you need help with a divorce, call Hightower Reff Law at 402-932-9550, or contact us online. We are experienced Omaha area attorneys who can help you through this difficult process.

This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts. 

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