Child Support in Nebraska

Information about child support laws, modification and enforcement in Nebraska.

Both Parents Provide Child Support

Child support is a monthly payment that parents make to help cover the costs of raising a child. In Nebraska, parents have an equal duty to support their child financially and otherwise. Generally, however, the parent who lives with the child most of the time (called the  custodial parent) tends to receive child support payments. This is because the law assumes that the custodial parent already spends money directly on the child. The parent with less parenting time (called the  non-custodial parent) usually makes the payments, but a court could order either parent to pay child support.

Typically, parents must pay child support until the child turns 19. The amount of these payments depends onNebraska’s child support guidelines. These guidelines are the rules for calculating child support. Primarily, they are based on the number of children needing support, the income of both parents, and the custody arrangement. Parents can agree to pay an amount different from the guidelines’ standards as long as a court approves it. Likewise, a court could adjust the amount of support up or down if certain exceptions apply.

Estimating Child Support Payments

To help you estimate your fair share of support, the Nebraska courts have developed a Basic Net Income and Support Calculation Worksheet (or  Worksheet 1). Before you can use it, however, you will need to do some homework to determine the parents’ combined net income.

Net income  is gross income minus deductions like state and federal income taxes, mandatory retirement payments, and support already paid for other children. If you have your own business or farm, you can also deduct the depreciation of necessary assets.  Combined net income  is simply both parents’ net incomes added together.

Gross income, on the other hand, includes everything from salaries and commissions to unemployment and social security benefits. Most other income sources, even from regular overtime and spousal support (alimony) received, also count as income. You can exclude child and spousal support payments actually paid and money from means-tested public assistance programs.

A parent who tries to avoid paying child support by refusing to work or working less rarely gets away with it. This is because a court can impute income, meaning, come up with an amount that this parent should be making based on factors like employment history, education, and training. The state’s intent is to hold a deadbeat parent accountable to the family, not punish the parent who stayed home with young children.

Once you calculate the parents’ combined net income, use  Table 1  (Income Shares Formula) to see the basic amount of child support due. Each parent takes a proportionate share of this amount, based on individual income. In addition to the basic support, one or both parents must provide the child’s health insurance and childcare costs, and may need to pay for like those for the child’s transportation or education, among other expenses.

Depending on parenting time, you may need to take some additional steps to determine your child support payment. If the parents split custody, meaning, one child lives with one parent and a second child lives with the other, then also use  Worksheet 2. If the parents have joint physical custody, where the child lives an equal amount of time with each parent, use  Worksheet 3.

You may find other worksheets helpful too. Here are the links to  Worksheet 4  (Number of Children Calculation),Worksheet 5  (Deviations to Child Support Guidelines), and  Worksheet 6  (Imputation of childcare tax credit).

Adjusting Child Support Payments

Although a court presumes that the number given by the guidelines is the appropriate amount of child support, occasionally the result can be unfair. Before the order is in place, parents can ask the court to increase or reduce the amount based on the following circumstances:

  • when there are extraordinary medical costs of either parent or child
  • when the child has special needs
  • if total net income exceeds $15,000 per month
  • where the child has been placed in foster care, and
  • whenever the application of the guidelines in an individual case would be unjust or inappropriate.

In situations where the parents’ total net income exceeds $15,000 per month, then a court could order support by the guidelines up to the first $15,000. Then, for all income above $15,000, 10% goes towards child support if there are one to three children. For four children, the standard jumps to 12% of the additional income to child support. For five children, it increases to 13%, and for six children, it is 14%.

Modifying Child Support  

Once a child support order is in place, it is not necessarily set in stone. A parent can request to modify (or change) the order after experiencing a material change in financial circumstances for at least three months. Also, this 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 application of the guidelines, would change by 10% or more, but not less than $25.

Some common reasons for modifying support are when a parent loses a job, is making less or more income, or if there is a shift in parenting time-share. Other good reasons for changing a child support order are when a parent has another child, or loses or gains health benefits.

Resources

In addition to the links above, you can visit Nebraska’s Department of Health and Human Services  Child Support Enforcement  for more on establishing and enforcing child support orders. You can also read the law on child support guidelines in  Nebraska’s Supreme Court Rules Sections 4-201 through 4-222.

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