Rule 12-14. Dissolution / Legal Separation Actions / Custody Orders

Rule 12-14. Dissolution / Legal Separation Actions / Custody Orders

   A. Leaving the State. Every order for child custody, temporary or permanent, shall contain language substantially as follows:

   A party exercising custody of a minor child is ordered not to move the child outside the State of Nebraska. Anyone intending such a move must first:

   (1) Make written application to the court, including proposed changes in the visitation schedule and costs of transportation;

   (2) Give notice of the application and hearing to the other party; and

   (3) Establish that the move is in the child's best interests.

   B. Supplemental Child Custody Orders. In all cases where custody of children is ordered, a "Parenting Guidelines," obtainable from the office of the judge assigned to the case, shall be attached to and made a part of the custody order.

   C. (1) Joint Property Statements. Where the action involves a division of property, both parties shall prepare a single joint property statement setting forth assets, liabilities, and any other information concerning property germane to the case at bar. The plaintiff shall have 40 days from filing the action to prepare the property statement and furnish a copy to the opposing party. The defendant shall then complete the property statement by adding any additional property/liabilities and the defendant's estimates of the value of all property and the amount of all liabilities listed by the plaintiff. The defendant shall complete the property statement and serve a copy on the plaintiff within 30 days after the plaintiff served the initial statement. The property statement shall then be finalized, signed, and a copy delivered to the judge at least 10 days prior to trial. A model property statement form can be obtained from the court.

   (2) Extensions and Pretrial Filing Deadline. Either party may obtain an extension of the time for filing or completing the property statement on written motion for good cause shown. Except by agreement of the parties or by order of the court, amendments to the property statement shall not be permitted unless filed at least 10 days prior to trial.

   D. Temporary Hearing. Unless otherwise ordered, all applications for temporary custody, support, maintenance, or other relief shall be governed by Neb. Ct. R. § 6-1504. Evidence shall be submitted by affidavits, which shall be exchanged by the parties at least 24 hours prior to the hearing. Except for good cause shown, no more than 5 affidavits or, alternatively, no more than 20 affidavit pages (excluding exhibits attached thereto), will be considered by the court at the time of the temporary hearing. Pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-2930, each party to a contested proceeding for a temporary order related to parenting functions or custody shall offer a Child Information Affidavit as an exhibit at the hearing.  Where child support is an issue, counsel shall also prepare and exchange Nebraska Child Support Guidelines worksheets 24 hours prior to the hearing.

   E. Rule for Mediation in Domestic Relations Cases.

   (1) Parties to domestic-relations matters involving children are required to attend the district court-approved parent education program within 60 days from receipt of service of process. This includes filing for dissolution of marriage, legal separation, and determination-of-paternity cases, which involve issues of custody and/or visitation. Effective on January 1, 2008, motions to compel existing orders which involve parenting issues, applications to modify decrees of dissolution which involve parenting issues, and applications to modify decrees of paternity which involve parenting issues shall be subject to the requirements of this rule, and both parents are required to attend the parent education program.

   If the court deems it advisable, the parties may be required to complete a second level parenting class or the children of the parties may be referred to a class.

   Prior to July 1, 2010, the parties shall submit a parenting plan to be approved by the court. The parenting plan shall be developed by the parties or their counsel, an approved mediation center, or a private mediator. When a parenting plan has not been developed and submitted to the court, the court shall either create the parenting plan in accordance with the Nebraska Parenting Act or refer the case to an approved mediator. At any time in the proceeding, the court may refer a case to an approved mediator in order to attempt resolution of any relevant matter. Until July 1, 2010, either party may terminate mediation at any point in the process.

   On or after July 1, 2010, all parties who have not submitted a parenting plan to the court within 5 months after the matter is filed shall be required to participate in mediation services to complete a parenting plan, including child custody, visitation schedule, grandparent visitation, and any other issues relating to the children that may be susceptible to mediation. No trial date will be scheduled until attendance at the required parent education seminar has been completed and mediation to resolve custody and/or visitation issues has been attempted. Provided, however, that failure or refusal to participate by a party shall not delay entry of a final judgment by more than 6 months. It is further provided that, notwithstanding the language in this paragraph, domestic violence issues may, upon consideration by the trial court, disqualify the parties from mediation.

   On or after July 1, 2010, a party may not terminate mediation until after an individual initial screening session and one mediation or specialized alternative dispute resolution session are held.

   (2) The court shall prepare an order, for distribution by the district court clerk, advising the filing parties and their attorneys that attendance at a parenting seminar is mandatory and must be completed within 60 days from the filing of the complaint. The order shall also advise the parties and counsel: (a) that the parenting plans and visitation schedules may be referred for mediation; (b) that no trial date will be set until attendance at the required parent education seminar has been completed and, if required, mediation to resolve custody and/or visitation issues has been attempted; (c) that failure or refusal to participate by a party shall not delay entry of a final judgment by more than 6 months; and (d) that domestic violence issues may, upon consideration by the trial court, disqualify the parties from mediation. The district court clerk shall include this order with the filing and service packets distributed by the clerk.

   (3) When a judge refers a case for mediation, the judge will indicate the issues to be mediated, as well as any choice of a mediator if the judge has a preference.  The attorneys for the parties may mutually agree upon the choice of a mediator and may indicate whether they wish the parties to mediate any issues other than custody and parenting or visitation plans. If financial issues are to be mediated, the case may be assigned to an attorney mediator.

   (4)(a) If the parties reach an agreement through mediation, the agreement shall be reduced to writing. Copies shall be provided by the mediator to the parties and their attorneys, together with a notice informing the parties and their attorneys of their right to express their objections to the written agreement. The notice shall inform the parties and their attorneys that they have 21 days from the date of the notice to notify the mediator of any written objections to the terms of the agreement. Such objections shall be specific. All matters not specifically objected to shall be deemed final.

   (b) Upon the filing by either party or attorney of objections to the agreement, the mediator shall forthwith schedule a re-mediation session on the disputed issues identified in the objection. The mediator may charge additional fees for the re-mediation session and related expenses.

   (c) Agreements or amended mediation agreements shall be forwarded, along with the appropriate certificate of readiness form, to the judge to whom the case is assigned and to the court file. For cases involving parties with no counsel, the parties shall complete and file with the district court clerk a "Certificate of Readiness" indicating that the case is ready to be set for an uncontested final hearing. Such certificates will be in a form acceptable to the court.

   (d) Prior to setting a case for an uncontested final hearing, the parties shall file a "Certificate of Readiness" with a copy of the parenting plan with the court. In Scotts Bluff County, only counsel or pro se parties shall also contact the judge for a trial date.

   (e) The "Certificate of Readiness" for final hearing shall contain the following information:

   (i) The full names of the parties;

   (ii) The case number of the case;

   (iii) The names, addresses, and bar number of counsel;

   (iv) The date on which the complaint was filed and the date of service on defendant or the date of filing of the voluntary appearance by the defendant;

   (v) That the parties have agreed to a parenting plan;

   (vi) That the parties have attended the parent education seminar required by the court;

   (vii) That the parties have completed child support calculations pursuant to the Nebraska Child Support Guidelines and have agreed to all financial matters contemplated by the guidelines;

   (viii) That the parties have entered into a written and signed property settlement agreement; and

   (ix) That the parties have or have not attended mediation.

   (f) If the parties have not agreed to any of the following: parenting plan, child support calculations, or a property settlement agreement, they should not file a "Certificate of Readiness." They should contact the bailiff to schedule further hearings.

   (5) Parties that either have terminated mediation unsuccessfully or have been determined to not qualify for mediation services shall have their case set for final trial before the court as soon as possible.