The parents of a child have a responsibility to care for and support their child. Even if they are not together, it is expected that they both make meaningful contributions to the child’s upbringing. To help with this, child support laws have been established to ensure that the costs associated with raising a child are not left for one parent alone to bear.
Child Support Process
Child Support in Nebraska is a family health program offered by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Custodial parents who desire to apply for child support services can apply online at https://dhhs-rmnpa.ne.gov/RMNPAApp/index.xhtml or print a form from https://dhhs.ne.gov/Documents/APPLICATION%20FOR%20CHILD%20SUPPORT%20SERVICES.PDF. A $35 annual service fee is charged per case on all cases where at least $550 has been disbursed to the custodial parent. However, parents who receive or have received Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) support are exempted from this fee. In the application form, parents are required to fill in their details, as well as those of the noncustodial parent from who they are requesting child support. The details of the child will also be required in filling out the application. Some of the information needed about the noncustodial parent includes name, residential address, telephone number, employment status, employer’s details (name and address), race, height, etc. Custodial parents who already have an established court order would need to provide details of their court order.
The information supplied during the application is used to locate the other parent and serve a notice of child support. It is therefore important that as many accurate details as possible are provided about the noncustodial parent during the application. The Social Security Number (SSN) of the parent is particularly helpful when a locator service must be used.
If the parents were married when the child was born, the husband is presumed by law to be the father of the child. However, if the parents were not married, they can fill and submit an Acknowledgement of Paternity form to DHHS Vital Records Management. If the paternity of the child is disputed, the parents may request that a genetic test be carried out. The results of this test are usually conclusive in determining the biological father of the child; however, a court order must be legally established naming the man as the child’s father. Parents who are not receiving public aid may be asked to reimburse the cost of the test to the state.
With the establishment of the child’s paternity, child support cases that previously did not have a court order can now go for a hearing in court to establish the support order.
How Do You Receive Child Support?
There are two ways for custodial parents to receive their child support payments:
- Direct Deposit: The payments are electronically paid into a savings or checking account registered by the custodial parent for this purpose. No extra costs are charged to the parent, apart from the normal account fees already being paid.
- Electronic Payment Card (EPC): Also known as the ReliaCard, the EPC is a Visa debit card issued to parents who do not opt to receive their child support payments as direct deposits. The EPC eliminates the need for the parent to operate a bank account as the card has an account of its own. The ReliaCard can also help parents separate their child support expenses from regular account expenses.
For more information on the means of receiving child support payments, visit https://dhhs.ne.gov/Pages/Child-Support-Receiving-Payments.aspx
Maximum Amount Receivable as Child Support
In determining the amount to set in the child support order, the court considers several factors. A major consideration is the income of both parents. This gives a general idea of their financial standing and how much can be conveniently and reasonably charged from the noncustodial parent. Parents who are voluntarily unemployed or underemployed may have income imputed for them. This imputed income would then be used to calculate the child support payments, rather than their actual. Incarceration/imprisonment, however, does not count as voluntary unemployment. Other factors considered in establishing the child support order are the number of children, healthcare costs, custodial arrangements (if there is split custody between the parents), etc.
While there is no absolute maximum that can be ordered as child support, Nebraska law requires a minimum child support payment of $50. Some of the details used in establishing the support order can be found at https://supremecourt.nebraska.gov/supreme-court-rules/chapter-4-children-families/article-2-child-support-guidelines.
Enforcement of Child Support
Some parents default on their child support payments, paying only a fraction, or refusing to pay anything at all. For this reason, some actions may be taken to enforce compliance with a child support order. Many child support orders are followed up with an accompanying Income Withholding Order (IWO). This is an order issued to the employer of the noncustodial parent to hold back a certain percentage of the noncustodial parent’s income. This percentage is then applied towards settling the child support obligations. Default parents may have their licenses suspended and passports revoked or denied. R Tax refunds and lottery winnings can be intercepted, or reports sent to credit reporting bureaus, thus affecting the credit rating of the parent. These actions are applied automatically until the noncustodial parent settled their arrearage. Outstanding child support must be paid, even if the child has passed the age of emancipation.