Establishing Paternity, Custody, Parenting Time, and Child Support

Establishing Paternity, Custody, Parenting Time, and Child Support

Each district court has specific local rules that may apply in your case. Check with the clerk of the district court in your county. If you fail to follow the local rules, you may not be able to finish your case.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: IF YOU DO NOT KNOW WHERE YOUR CHILD(REN)’S OTHER PARENT IS DO NOT USE THESE FORMS.  INSTEAD, PLEASE ASK FOR HELP FROM A LAWYER.

YOU MUST FILE A COMPLAINT FOR PATERNITY WITHIN 4 YEARS OF A CHILD’S BIRTH. 

NOTE: There are circumstances where a paternity action may be filed if a child is over 4 years of age.  You should consult an attorney.

YOU SHOULD UNDERSTAND THAT THESE FORMS AND INSTRUCTIONS ARE INTENDED ONLY FOR:

  • a case in which there is no existing court order for child support (NOTE: if paternity was already established through a case that was initiated by the Department of Health and Human Services on behalf of your child(ren), STOP– you may already have an active case, and will need to file a different type of complaint);
  • a case in which the child(ren)’s other parent will be able to be personally served with a copy of the Complaint or will sign a Voluntary Appearance; and
  • a case that is being filed within 4 years of a child’s birth.

UNLESS YOU MEET THESE REQUIREMENTS YOU SHOULD NOT ATTEMPT TO ESTABLISH PATERNITY USING THESE FORMS AND INSTRUCTIONS. INSTEAD, PLEASE ASK FOR HELP FROM A LAWYER.

Another option is to hire a lawyer to do only part of your case. This is called Limited  Scope Representation. You can find out more about Limited Scope Representation here  https://supremecourt.nebraska.gov/limited-scope-representation or here  http://nefindalawyer.com/.

Introduction

A substantial amount of personal information is REQUIRED when completing the forms for paternity, custody, parenting time, and child support. It is best to gather all of the information you

will need before you begin the process. Use the Paternity, Custody, Parenting Time, and Child Support Worksheet (DC 6:8(2)) to gather your information.

A case for paternity includes:

  • A finding that a specific person is the child(ren)’s father;
  • An order for custody of the child(ren);
  • An order for parenting time with the child(ren);
  • An order for child support; and
  • An order for health insurance.

A case for paternity may also include an order for childcare and health care expenses.

Facts about Establishing Paternity in Nebraska

  • You must file your Complaint within 4 years after the child’s birth. If you file 4 years and 1 day after the birth of the child, it is too late.
  • The child(ren) must have lived in Nebraska at least 6 months or since birth before you file the Complaint for Paternity, Custody, Parenting Time, and Child Support.
  • You start the legal process by filing a Complaint for Paternity, Custody, Parenting Time, and Child Support with the clerk of the district court in the county where you live.
  • If you are proceeding without a lawyer, you must complete all the necessary forms. The clerk of the district court cannot help you prepare any legal documents. The clerk can provide only limited information about the process.
  • There is a cost to file a Complaint for Paternity, Custody, Parenting Time, and Child Support.
  • After you have filed the Complaint for Paternity, Custody, Parenting Time, and Child Support, it is important that you tell the clerk of the district court if you change your address. If your address is confidential under Nebraska or Federal law, provide only the county and state where you live and provide an address where the clerk can send you notices.
  • There are two types of custody defined by statute - legal and physical. One or both types of custody can be awarded jointly to the child(ren)’s parents or solely to one or the other.
  • You must submit a Financial Affidavit for Child Support when you file the Complaint. You must give the court a proposed Child Support Calculation at the time of the final hearing.
  • Health care costs include coverage for medical, dental, orthodontic, optometric, substance abuse, and mental health treatment.
  • A parent’s support, childcare, and health care obligation shall not reduce his or her net income below the poverty guidelines.
  • In very low income cases, a minimum support of $50, or 10% of the obligor’s net income, whichever is greater, per month may be set.
  • You must comply with the Nebraska Parenting Act and both parties must complete a parenting education class. This link will take you to a listing of the approved classes.
  • You must have a written Parenting Plan to submit to the court at the final hearing. The Parenting Plan must address the issues of legal custody, physical custody and parenting time.
  • If you and the other party in this case have not been able to agree to a Parenting Plan, you may be required to participate in mediation.
  • The Parenting Act Information brochure contains helpful information about the court process and parenting issues. The clerk of the district court will give you a copy of the brochure.

Forms and Filing

Forms

Complete list of forms and instructions.

Filing the forms

You start the legal process by filing a Complaint for Paternity, Custody, Parenting Time, and Child Support.

What must you take to the clerk of the district court to file a Complaint for Paternity, Custody, Parenting Time, and Child Support?

What Happens Once the Forms Are Filed?

Once you

  • file the Complaint,
  • give the clerk of the district court the Confidential Employment and Health Insurance Information and Social Security Number, Gender and Birth Date(s) forms, the Financial Affidavit for Child Support, and
  • either pay the filing fee or have the fee waived by the judge,

the clerk will then create a file for your case and give you a case number. You must use this number on every document you file with the clerk of the district court. When the file is created, a judge will be assigned to your case.

Then you must tell the other party you have filed the Complaint. This formal notice is called “service" or "service of process." If you know what method you want to use to give notice to the other party, you can prepare the paperwork and take it with you when you file the Complaint.

NOTE: YOU MUST SERVE THE OTHER PARTY (OR FILE A VOLUNTARY APPEARANCE SIGNED BY THE OTHER PARTY) WITHIN SIX (6) MONTHS OF WHEN YOU FILE YOUR COMPLAINT FOR PATERNITY, CUSTODY, PARENTING TIME, AND CHILD SUPPORT. IF YOU DO NOT SERVE THE OTHER PARTY OR FILE A VOLUNTARY APPEARANCE SIGNED BY THE OTHER PARTY WITHIN SIX (6) MONTHS OF THE TIME YOU FILE YOUR COMPLAINT, YOUR CASE WILL AUTOMATICALLY BE DISMISSED AND YOU WILL HAVE TO START OVER AGAIN.

You can give notice to the other party in one of the following ways: Voluntary Appearance or Praecipe for Summons. Each method is discussed in more detail below. Usually, it is best to try the Voluntary Appearance first. If that does not work, then try the Praecipe for Summons.

Voluntary Appearance (DC 6:8(6)) - the other party can accept service by signing a Voluntary Appearance. Here is the procedure.

  1. Prepare a Voluntary Appearance form for the other party to sign using the Instructions for Filling out the Voluntary Appearance (DC 6:8(6a))You may also give the other party the Voluntary Appearance Letter (DC 6:8(5)) that you fill out using the Voluntary Appearance Letter Instructions (DC 6:8(5a)) in order to explain what it is they are receiving.
  2. Give the other party the Voluntary Appearance and a photocopy of the Complaint you filed with the clerk of the district court.
  3. Have the other party sign the Voluntary Appearance and return it to you. (Tell the other party to keep the photocopy of the Complaint.)
  4. Take the signed Voluntary Appearance to the clerk of the district court and file it.

Praecipe for Summons (DC 6:8(7)) - You can have the other party served by the sheriff in the county where the other party lives. Here is the procedure.

  1. Prepare a Praecipe (pronounced "pray-si-pee") for Summons, using the Instructions for Filling out the Praecipe for Summons (DC 6:8(7a)).
  2. File the Praecipe for Summons with the clerk of the district court where you filed your Complaint for Paternity, Custody, Parenting Time, and Child Support. The Praecipe is a request that the court issue a Summons to be served on the other party by the sheriff. The Summons tells the other party that you have filed the Complaint and the time by which a response to the Complaint is due.
  3. If the judge waived the filing fees for you, be sure to attach a copy of the Order to Proceed in Forma Pauperis signed by the judge so the county will pay the sheriff’s bill for serving the summons on the other party. If you did not ask the court to waive the filing fee, you will have to prepay the sheriff for service of process. Call the sheriff in the county where the other party will be served. Ask the sheriff how much it costs to serve a Complaint. Ask what form of payment the sheriff will accept.
  4. You should list all addresses in the Praecipe where the sheriff might be able to find the other party, including the other party’s home and/or work addresses. If the other party is usually at a location during certain hours, you can list that in the Praecipe.

Service in the Same County

  • If the other party is living or working in the county where you file your Complaint, the sheriff of that county will pick up the summons and copy of the Complaint and serve it on the other party at the address you list in the Praecipe. The sheriff will then file papers with the court indicating that the other party was served.
  • If the sheriff cannot serve the other party, you can file another Praecipe with the courtasking the sheriff to try again.

Service in a Different County or State

  • Service of process is a little different if the defendant lives in another Nebraska county or in another state. You - and not the clerk of the district court - may have to get the summons to the sheriff. Be sure to ask the clerk of the district court whether the clerk will send the summons to a sheriff in a different county.
  • If not, you must pick up the Summons from the clerk once it is ready. (You can ask the clerk when you file the Praecipe about how long it will take to prepare the Summons and how to find out when it is ready.)
  • Once you pick up the Summons, find out the address and phone number of the sheriff’s office where you must mail the Summons.
  • Before you mail the Summons, call the sheriff’s office and discuss how they expect to be paid for serving the Summons on the other party. Some out-of-county sheriffs and most out-of-state sheriffs want payment in advance.
  • Once you make arrangements with the sheriff, mail the Summons and a copy of the Complaint to the sheriff. Include a letter explaining to the sheriff that the Summons and a copy of the Complaint must be personally served on the other party before the "return date" on the Summons (the date by which the Summons must be served in order for service to be effective).
  • When the sheriff serves the other party, or if the sheriff is unable to serve the other party, the sheriff will return documents to you with a "return of service." The return of service will indicate whether or not the other party was served. You must file all of this paperwork with the court, even if the other party was not served.

What Happens after You Give Notice to Your Child(ren)’s Other Parent?

  • The other party has 30 days after being served to file a written response to your Complaint. The written response is called an “Answer.” (If the other party signed a Voluntary Appearance, the 30 days begin to run the day after you file the Voluntary Appearance with the court.) The other party does not have to file an Answer, but is entitled to do so if the other party so chooses.
  • Both parties must take a parenting education class. Once the course has been completed, each party shall prepare the Certificate of Completion of Parenting Education  Course (DC 6:5(5)) using the Instructions for Filling out the Certificate of Completion of  Parenting Education Course (DC 6:5(5a)). Remember to attach to the Certificate a copy of all of the paperwork you receive from the provider showing that you completed the Parenting Education Course. After you have completed the Certificate, make one copy to keep for your files and file the original with the clerk of the district court.
  • Get a paternity test done! You cannot establish paternity just by saying someone is the child(ren)’s father. This is true even if both the mother and the father say under oath that a particular person is the father. Contact your local child support enforcement office for information of where to obtain genetic testing.
    • You will have to take the test results with you to the final hearing.
    • The court will accept the test results only if the test results are certified and there is a “chain of custody.”
    • A “chain of custody” shows who took the samples; who gave the samples; how the lab doing the testing handled the samples; and the test results.

 When you get genetic testing done, make sure you ask the lab or testing facility for the results and the chain of custody.

Requesting a Hearing Date

You must contact the clerk of the district court to ask about how to get a hearing date and time in your paternity case, since different courts have different procedures.

Preparing for the Hearing

A.  Notice of Hearing to the other party

Once you are given a hearing date and time you must tell the other party when the hearing will be held. Prepare a Notice of Hearing and Certificate of Service (DC 6:8(9)) using the Instructions for Filling out the Notice of Hearing and Certificate of Service (DC 6:8(9a)). When you havecompleted the Notice of Hearing, follow these steps:

  • You must sign the original Notice of Hearing and file it with the clerk of the district court. Make sure to fill out the information in the Certificate of Service at the bottom of the Notice of Hearing.
  • Sign the Notice and the line under the Certificate of Service before you file the original Notice of Hearing with the clerk of the district court.
  • Make two (2) copies of the Notice of Hearing after you sign it. File the original with the clerk, send one copy to your child(ren)’s other parent by first class mail, and keep the other copy for your records.

B.  Financial Information

The court must decide how much child support, if any, should be ordered. In Nebraska the courts use Child Support Guidelines to figure out how much child support to order. Before using the Guidelines a court must have financial information about each parent. The Financial Affidavit for Child Support will give the court that information.

  • Review the Financial Affidavit for Child Support (DC 6:5(2)).
  • If you or the other party is asking for child support, you must bring a completed child support calculation to the final hearing. A Nebraska lawyer has developed a child support calculator and has given permission for individuals representing themselves to use the calculator free for 5 days. Click here to access the calculator. (http://ne.childsupportcalculator.com/?_p=subscribeForm). Users will have to create a password and agree to the “terms of use” before using this calculator.

C.  Bring to the Hearing

You must bring the following paperwork with you to the final hearing:

  • Joint Legal and Joint Physical Custody (DC 6:5(37))
    • For use when both parents voluntarily and willingly agree to share joint legal and joint physical custody.
    • Joint legal custody means mutual authority and responsibility of the parents for making mutual fundamental decisions regarding the child(ren)'s welfare, including but not limited to choices regarding education, health, and spiritual or religious upbringing.
    • Joint physical custody means mutual authority and responsibility regarding the child(ren)'s place of residence and the exertion of continuous parenting time for significant periods of time.
  • Joint Legal and Sole Physical Custody (DC 6:5(38))
    • For use when both parents voluntarily and willingly agree to share joint legal custody and one parent will have sole physical custody.
    • Joint legal custody means mutual authority and responsibility of the parents for making mutual fundamental decisions regarding the child(ren)'s welfare, including but not limited to choices regarding education, health, and spiritual or religious upbringing.
    • Sole physical custody means authority and responsibility lies with one parent only regarding the child(ren)'s place of residence and the exertion of continuous parenting time for significant periods of time.
  • Sole Legal and Sole Physical Custody with One Parent (DC 6:5(39))
    • For use when one parent has sole legal custody and sole physical custody.
    • Sole legal custody means the authority and responsibility lies with one parent only for making fundamental decisions regarding the child(ren)'s welfare, including choices regarding education and health.
    • Sole physical custody means authority and responsibility lies with one parent only regarding the child(ren)'s place of residence and the exertion of continuous parenting time for significant periods of time.

To complete the Parenting Plan you have selected, you may use the Instructions for Filling out the Parenting Plan:

NOTE: If you and the other parent are unable to agree on a Parenting Plan you may be required to participate in mediation.

The Hearing

  • Arrive at your hearing at least 15 minutes before the hearing is scheduled. Once you arrive at the courthouse you should ask the clerk of the district court how to let the judge know that you are there for your hearing.
  • You must go to the hearing at the courthouse and testify (talk under oath) about the facts in your Complaint.
  • During or before your testimony, ask the court reporter to “mark” the genetic test results and chain of custody as well as the child support calculation as exhibits. You will offer these exhibits to the court during your testimony.
  • Once you have testified the judge will decide if it is going to make a finding of paternity and enter a decree for custody, parenting time, and child support, and will decide whether the Decree you prepared is done correctly.
  • If the judge signs the Decree it means that the judge has made a finding of paternity and entered a Decree for custody, parenting time, and child support. The judge usually will tell you on the day of the hearing whether the Decree will be signed.
  • If the judge signs the Decree, the judge also will sign the copies of the Decree and give them to you.
  • If you want an official (“certified”) copy, you should ask the clerk of the district court how to get one and what the cost will be to get one.
  •  If you do not appear at the hearing, your case could be dismissed and you will have to start over again. If you know in advance that you will not be able to make the hearing, contact the court to reschedule your hearing.