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 children financially and otherwise. (Neb. Sup. Ct. Rule § 4-201.) 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 on Nebraska'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.
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. (Neb. Sup. Ct. Rule §4-204.)
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. (Neb. Sup. Ct. Rule § 4-205.)
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. A court can impute income, meaning, come up with an amount that this parent should be earning 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. (Neb. Sup. Ct. Rule § 4-207.)
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. (Neb. Sup. Ct. Rule § 4-211.) If the parents have joint physical custody, where the child lives an equal amount of time with each parent, use Worksheet 3. (Neb. Sup. Ct. Rule § 4-212.)
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 child care tax credit).
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:
In situations where the parents' total net income exceeds $20,000 per month, then a court could 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. 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%. (Neb. Sup. Ct. Rule § 4-203.)
Once a child support order is in place, it's 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 the application of the guidelines, would change by 10% or more, but not less than $25. (Neb. Sup. Ct. Rule § 4-217.)
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.
In addition to the links above, you can visit Nebraska's Department of Health and Human Services child support website 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.