Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What does Pro Se mean?
A: Pro Se means that you are representing yourself in a court of law.
Q: What is a Dissolution?
A: Dissolution is the term that Nebraska Courts use for a divorce.
Q: What is the difference between Legal Separation and Divorce?
There are two key factors that differentiate Legal Separation and Divorce in Nebraska.
In order to Petition for Divorce, the State of Nebraska requires that at least one party has lived in the state for one year immediately prior to filing for divorce. Legal Separation has no such requirement.
Filing for Legal Separation decides custody, support, division of property and debt, etc. It mirrors divorce proceedings, but the parties remain married to each other.
Q: How do I determine the best type of custody agreement?
A: There are four types of custody agreements: Joint Legal Custody, Joint Physical Custody, Split Custody, and Sole Custody.
Joint Legal Custody allows the children to live permanently with one parent and grants the other parent visitation rights or “parenting time”. This scenario is best suited for parents who are able and willing to work together when making decisions that involve the children. However, if the parents cannot reach an agreement together, the parent who has permanent custody of the children will decide.
To move forward with this type of agreement, both parents must testify before the court that they are able to cooperate with one another on decisions that influence the children’s medical, educational, and spiritual needs.
In a Joint Physical Custody situation, the children live with each parent for a specified amount of time (for example, alternate weeks with each parent). Again, this scenario will require that the parents are able to agree upon decisions regarding the children’s well-being.
Split Custody means that the children are separated and do not live together with the same parent. The court system often raises concerns about shuffling and separation of the children, which can impact the ruling for Joint Physical Custody and Split Custody.
In order to determine which custody agreement is best for your situation, it is important to assess your ability to cooperate with your spouse in matters related to your children.
Q: My spouse was awarded custody and plans to move out of Nebraska. What are my rights?
A: In Nebraska, the parent who has custody must get permission from the court before moving the children out of the state. If the parent who does not have custody objects to the move, there will be a hearing.
The purpose of the hearing is to determine that (1) there is a good reason for the children to leave the state and (2) it is in the children’s best interest to live with the parent in spite of the move.
Commonly raised reasons for leaving the state include: the parent’s occupation or a career improvement and the parent’s remarriage. In the instance of a career-related move, the state of Nebraska typically considers whether there are similar opportunities available in the state.
To determine if the move is in the children’s best interests, the Court will look at a number of factors:
- Will the move improve the quality of life for both the children and parent?
- What are the parent’s motives surrounding the move?
- How will the move impact the other parent’s visitation or “parenting time”?
- Can reasonable visitation schedules be made?
Simply wanting to move to more interesting or attractive surroundings is not a valid reason to move with the children.
Q: Is it possible to split custody so that no child support is ordered?
A: The Nebraska Supreme Court has developed Child Support Guidelines to ensure that child support is calculated and dispersed in a uniform manner. The Nebraska Supreme Court strives to ensure that both parents are responsible for supporting their children and because of this Courts tend to avoid minimizing a parent’s child support obligation, regardless of custody structure.
The Court considers each parent’s income minus health insurance premiums paid for the minor children and other court-ordered child support payments for other children to determine each parent’s income after taxes. The Guidelines outline a calculation to settle on what percentage of the combined total each parent should be required to pay.
In Nebraska, the monthly child support payment is based on a court-created equation of combined income after taxes on one side and the number of minor children on the other. The child support payment is divided proportionately by requiring each party pay the same percentage of their combined income after taxes. The Court oversees this calculation to ensure that each parent fulfills their respective support obligation.
To deviate from standard child support payment structure, enough evidence must be presented to the Court to support the requested change. A number of factors may influence the Court’s decision, like: the amount of time the minor children spend with the parent who does not have custody, and whether the parent who does not have custody provides childcare for the minor children in question.
The Court regulates child support payments through the State Disbursement Unit. In some cases, the paying parent will have child support payments directly withheld from wages. This must be set up through the employer of the paying parents and it is the responsibility of the paying parent to ensure that the payments are forwarded to the State Disbursement Unit on time.
Q: What if I cannot locate my spouse?
A: Nebraska law requires that you serve a copy of your Petition for Divorce to your spouse. Service is often obtained by having the sheriff give a copy of the petition to the other party either at home or at work.
Service may also be obtained by “publication” with the Nebraska Court’s approval. This means a notice will run in the local newspaper that you have filed for divorce. In order to gain the Court’s approval for this publication, you must prove that you have proactively tried to locate your spouse. An affidavit will be completed documenting your efforts to locate your spouse. The Court will not allow you to publish a notice unless they feel you have exerted reasonable effort to locate your spouse.
Some reasonable efforts include:
- Contacting friends or family for assistance
- Internet queries
- A letter sent to your spouse’s last known residence that is returned undeliverable
If granted a service by publication, the Court is not permitted to enter any orders related to child support, alimony, or debt division. In the future, if you are able to locate your spouse, the Court can revisit these issues.