In Nebraska, child support payments are based on state guidelines. You’ll need to familiarize yourself with these guidelines and several other pieces of information if you’re facing a child support issue. Here’s what you need to know.
- Who Pays Child Support?
- How is Child Support Determined in Nebraska?
- Is Health Insurance Considered a Part of Child Support?
- Deviating from Nebraska State Guidelines
- When Does Child Support End in Nebraska?
- How to Apply for Child Support
- Enforcement of Child Support Orders
- How to Change the Amount of Child Support
- Child Support and Taxes
- Establishing Paternity in Nebraska
- Which Agency Handles Child Support in Nebraska?
Who Pays Child Support?
Under the Nebraska Parenting Act, parents are legally obligated to care for their children, including paying child support. Typically, a non-custodial parent will pay the custodial parent child support because it is assumed the custodial parent will pay more expenses related to a child who spends the majority of time with them.
How is Child Support Determined in Nebraska?
Decisions regarding custody and child support are based on the best interest standard in Nebraska. That means decisions are made based on the child’s best interest, not what’s convenient or best for the parents. These best interests are delineated in the Nebraska Child Support Guidelines.
Support is calculated based on the number of children a couple has, the custody arrangement between the parents, and both parents’ incomes. Parents are allowed to agree upon a child support payment different than what is outlined by the state’s guidelines. A court must approve any agreement made by the parents, however.
Parents total income from all sources (wages, bonuses, tips, etc.) and subtract allowances such as state and federal income taxes, mandatory retirement payments, and support already paid for other children from their gross incomes. Parents must calculate their combined monthly net incomes to determine the amount of money paid in child support. That is known as the Income Share Method.
After combined net incomes are calculated, Nebraska child support officials provide a formula to parents allowing them to know the amount of support they must pay or will receive.
The amount of parenting time directly impacts the amount of child support owed in Nebraska. If two parents share an equal amount of parenting time, but one parent earns significantly more income than the other, the higher-earning parent may still owe child support.
Although there is no maximum amount of child support, Nebraska law requires a minimum child support payment of $50 or 10% of the non-custodial parent’s net income, whichever is greater.
Child support can be arranged out of court by a mutual agreement between the parents or can be decided in Nebraska family court through a child support order. In Nebraska, several factors are considered when determining the amount of child support to be paid in court. Here is an explanation of the two most common methods used to calculate basic child support amounts.
Payments are processed through Nebraska’s Child Support Enforcement division. There are two ways to receive your child support payment:
Direct deposit. With this free service, you receive your money up to 3 days sooner than if payment was sent by mail. Payments are automatically deposited into your checking or savings account.
ReliaCard (EPC – electronic payment card). Payments are deposited onto a bank card, which is used like an ATM card. It is a secure way to receive child support with the benefits of a Visa debit card, and there is no need for a personal bank account.
Is there a maximum dollar amount that can be withheld from a non-custodial parent’s paycheck?
All income withholdings are based on the Federal Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA). The federal withholding limits for child support and alimony are based on the employee’s disposable earnings. The Federal CCPA limit is 50% of the disposable earnings if the employee supports a second family and 60% if the employee does not support a second family. These limits increase to 55% and 65% if the employee owes arrearages 12 weeks or more past due.
What else do I need to know?
- Unpaid child support doesn’t go away when your child turns 19 or if you declare bankruptcy, go to jail or move to another state.
- There is no statute of limitations for collecting past-due support in Nebraska.
- If your child comes to live with you, your child support order does not automatically stop. A change of custody must be completed in court.
- If you hire a private attorney, Child Support Enforcement will discuss your case only with your attorney. When you no longer have an attorney, CSE will speak with you again directly.
- CSE does not have the authority to monitor how a custodial parent spends court-ordered child support.
- CSE cannot help parents with visitation or custody issues.
Read More: How to File for Divorce in Nebraska
When Does Child Support End in Nebraska?
The non-custodial parent must pay child support in Nebraska until:
- The child reaches the age of majority, which is 19 years old in Nebraska.
- The child marries. In Nebraska, children that are 17 years of age can marry, but they must first get consent from their parents.
- The child emancipates. A child can file with the court to emancipate themselves from the support of their parents.
- They join the Armed Forces.
- The child dies. When terminating your legal obligation, you must provide a death certificate to the court.
Even if a circumstance means you can legally stop paying child support, you will still need to take care of any past due amounts.
Nebraska has no explicit requirement for college expenses to be covered under child support. However, both parties can voluntarily agree to support for college expenses by the non-custodial parent, after which it is contractually enforceable.
How do I make child support payments?
All child support payments must be made to the Nebraska Child Support Payment Center. If you have an open child support case and are employed, court-ordered payments must be made through income withholding.
If you do not have an open child support case and are not subject to income withholding, you can arrange to pay online, in person, or by mail.
Read More: Divorce Laws in Nebraska
Deviating from Nebraska State Guidelines
In Nebraska, a court will order child support per state guidelines unless there is enough evidence to rebut this presumption. The court can deviate from the guidelines in the following circumstances:
- When either the parent or the child has extraordinary medical costs
- If the child is disabled and has special needs
- If the total net income for both parents exceeds $20,000 per month
- For juveniles placed in foster care
- Whenever applying the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate
A court can impute income when a parent tries to avoid paying child support by refusing to work or working less. That means Nebraska courts will determine the amount a parent should earn based on factors like employment history, education, and training.
When the parents’ total net income exceeds $20,000 per month, a court can order support by the guidelines up to the first $20,000. Then, for all income above $20,000, 10% goes towards child support if there are one to three children. The standard jumps to 12% of the additional revenue to child support for four children. It increases to 13% for five children, and for six children, it is 14%. (Neb. Sup. Ct. Rule § 4-203.)
What about joint or split custody arrangements?
When there is a split custody order (where each parent has physical custody of one or more of the children) or a joint physical custody order in place, family law courts will use worksheets in the guidelines to calculate how much child support is appropriate.
Worksheet 2 shows how to do this calculation for split custody situations,
Worksheet 3 applies to joint physical custody arrangements.
Can a parent refuse to allow visitation if child support is not paid?
Child support payments and visitation privileges are not tied to each other. If the custodial parent has not received child support payments, they cannot refuse the other from exercising any visitation rights.
Is Health Insurance Considered a Part of Child Support?
Health insurance must be considered in all Nebraska child support orders. It can be provided if either parent has reasonable access to health benefits, such as through an employer, or the court may direct the parents to an appropriate source.
Monthly health insurance is treated differently from a child’s extraordinary medical costs.
Nebraska has specialized guidelines for extraordinary medical care costs, including illnesses, hospital visits, or costly procedures such as getting braces.
Extraordinary medical care costs are considered a “mandatory deduction” for basic child support. That means if the non-custodial parent pays child care costs, the portion of the total monthly child care costs attributed to the custodial partner is deducted from the noncustodial partner’s monthly child support payment.
If the custodial parent pays for child care, the non-custodial parent must pay their share in addition to basic child support.
Nebraska also has specialized guidelines that consider child care costs separately from the general costs of raising a child to calculate child support payments.
The court also treats child care costs as a “mandatory deduction” for basic child support.
Child Support and Taxes
Child support payments are neither deductible by the payer nor taxable to the recipient. Don’t include child support payments received when you calculate your gross income.
However, you may be able to claim the child as a dependent. Generally, the custodial parent is treated as one who provides more than half of the child’s support. In some cases, the noncustodial parent may be treated as the parent who provided more than half of the child’s support.
Many agreements include a provision that each parent declares half the children as dependents when there is an even number of children. The parents alternate years claiming the child for an odd number of children. In this situation, parents may need to submit Form 8332, Release/Revocation of Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent, or a substantially similar statement.
How to Apply for Child Support in Nebraska
Oftentimes, you or the other parent will request child support as part of the process of filing for divorce in Nebraska.
There are also situations where child support may need to be addressed outside of divorce – if the parents were never married, for instance. You can apply for child support here.
The average time to complete an application is 20 minutes. The more information you provide, the easier and quicker it is to complete a request for services. At a minimum, you’ll need:
- Social Security Numbers and dates of birth for you and your child(ren)
- A copy of your court order for child support (if a court order has been established)
- Your child(ren’s) health insurance policy information
If you’re pregnant, you will need to wait until the child is born before you submit an application for child support services for the unborn child.
Enforcing Nebraska Child Support Orders
When the parent ordered to pay child support fails to pay their portion on time, the other parent has the right to take legal action against the parent who owes back child support.
There are many possible enforcement actions, such as:
- Income Withholding/Wage Garnishment. An Income Withholding Order is sent to the non-custodial parent’s employer, telling the employer to withhold support payments from the non-custodial parent’s paycheck. The portion of child support owed is deducted directly from the employer and sent to the Nebraska Child Support Payment Center.
- Court Enforcement. A parent can file a contempt action, which could lead to jail until the paying parent has paid or come up with a plan to pay past due expenses.
- Tax Refund Intercepts. If the amount of owed child support owed is more than three months and over $500, parents can be reported to federal and state tax agencies who will intercept tax return refund payments.
- Credit reporting. Negative reports can be sent to credit reporting agencies.
- Passport denial. If the amount owed exceeds $2,500, the State Department can deny issuing or using a United States passport.
- License Suspensions. The state can withhold, suspend, or revoke the driver’s license or any professional licenses of the parent who has not paid their child support.
- Liens. Placing a lien on any piece of property which may be sold to settle the debt.
Can visitation rights be used to enforce child support?
No. Visitation and financial support are independent from each other. This is meant to maintain the best interests of the child. Both parents are still required to comply with a court order regardless of the behavior.
Can you collect child support if the other parent lives in another state?
Yes. If the parent court-ordered to pay child support lives in another state, CSE will send a notice to withhold income directly to the parent’s employer or ask the other state to collect the child support.
Modifying Nebraska Child Support Payments
It is possible to seek a modification of an existing child support order. A parent can request to modify the order after experiencing a material change in financial circumstances for at least three months. Also, a parent must expect this changed circumstance to continue for an additional six months.
A material change in circumstances is one where the amount of child support, based on the application of the guidelines, would change by 10% or more, but not less than $25.
There are some specific reasons a parent can ask the court to reduce or increase an individual’s payments in child support. These reasons include:
- There are extraordinary medical and healthcare costs for the parent or child
- The child has physical or mental special needs
- If the total net income of the parents is more than $20,000 per month
- If the child has been placed in a foster care home
- If the amount of money paid or received is unfair and inappropriate
- A parental job loss
- A shift in parenting time-share
- A change in the number of other children living with the parent paying support
When a case is reviewed, the amount could go up, down, or stay the same. The review process may take up to six months.
If you do not have an open child support case, you will need to apply for child support services and request a review.
Complete the online review and modification application to apply for a review and modification.
Establishing Paternity in Nebraska
Legal paternity must be established to:
- Obtain a support order for the child
- Obtain an order for health care coverage or cash medical support
- Protect the child’s rights to benefits if the father dies, such as money or property left in a will, Veteran’s benefits, or Social Security benefits.
When parents are married to each other, the law presumes the husband is the father. When parents are not married, paternity may be established by submitting a notarized Acknowledgment of Paternity form to DHHS Vital Records Management or court order.
Nebraska hospitals have Acknowledgement of Paternity forms available to be completed at the time of the child’s birth. The completed form is filed with DHHS Vital Records Management.
If there is not a signed Acknowledgment of Paternity form, and the alleged father does not believe he is the biological parent, the CSEP will help take steps to determine whether he is the father. Genetic testing results may determine who the biological father is, but they do not legally establish paternity without a court order.
In most cases, the state is required to do genetic testing if the child’s father has not been legally determined. These genetic tests are simple and accurate, completed by swabbing the inside of the cheek. They can be requested by the mother, father, child, or the court.
For more information about genetic testing, call the Nebraska Child Support Customer Service Call Center at 1-877-631-9973.
Which Agency Handles Child Support in Nebraska?
Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, Child Support Program provides services to parents who pay child support and parents and caretakers who receive child support. The program ensures that children have the financial and medical support they need and fosters responsible behavior toward children.
Here’s important contact information based on your specific child support needs.
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services
301 Centennial Mall South,
Lincoln, Nebraska 68509
TDD (800) 833-7352
For paternity matters:
Child Support Enforcement Unit
P.O. Box 94728
Lincoln, Nebraska 68509-4728
Vital Records Management
1033 O Street – Suite 130
Lincoln, Nebraska 68509
If your child was born in Douglas County, contact:
Vital Records Management
Douglas County Health Department
402 Civic Center
Omaha, Nebraska 68183
If you want to modify an existing order (more on that below), call the Nebraska Child Support Customer Service call center at 1-877-631-9973, option 2.