Legal Information: Nebraska

Nebraska Custody

Laws current as of
November 10, 2022

What is custody?

Custody in Nebraska includes legal custody and physical custody for children under the age of 19.1 Legal custody means having the power to make important decisions regarding your child’s welfare, including choices about health and education.2 Physical custody means being responsible for where your child lives and having continuous parenting time for significant periods of time.3

Custody may be either sole or joint. Joint legal custody means that your ability to make important decisions  about your child’s welfare is equal to the other parent.4 Joint physical custody means you share responsibility with the other parent for where your child lives, and both parents have continuous blocks of parenting time for significant periods of time.5  

1 NE R.S. § 43-2922(4), (7)
2 NE R.S. § 43-2922(13)
3 NE R.S. § 43-2922(20)
4 NE R.S. § 43-2922(11)
5 NE R.S. § 43-2922(12)

What is a parenting plan?

A parenting plan is a plan that lays out guidelines for parenting your child that takes into account certain “parenting functions” that are defined by Nebraska law.1 Parenting functions refers to making decisions and performing actions for the care and development of your child, including but not limited to:

  1. maintaining a safe, stable, consistent, and nurturing relationship with your child;
  2. attending to the ongoing developmental needs of your child, including things like both physical care and emotional stability;
  3. providing for your child’s adequate education;  
  4. helping your child maintain a relationship with the other parent and family members; and
  5. minimizing the child’s exposure to parental conflict.2 

When you file a custody case, the judge may ask you and the other parent to submit a parenting plan that you agree upon, or the judge may send you to mediation to try to develop a plan together. If you cannot reach an agreement, the judge may write a parenting plan on his/her own based upon what s/he believes is in the best interests of your child, taking into account the child’s age, developmental needs, and relationship with each parent.3

1 NE R.S. § 43-2922(18)
2 NE R.S. § 43-2922(17)
3 NE R.S. § 43-2929(1)(a), (5)

What must be included in a parenting plan?

A parenting plan has to include:

  1. who is getting legal and physical custody of your child;
  2. a schedule of parenting time/visitation, including things like holidays and vacation time;
  3. a transition plan for when and where your child will be transferred between you and the other parent, including how you and the other parent will communicate;
  4. how day-to-day decisions about your child will be made;
  5. directions for how any future modifications to the parenting plan may be made; and
  6. arrangements to maximize safety for the parents and your child.1

1 NE R.S. § 43-2922(1)(b)

What is mediation?

Mediation is a process where a third-party mediator works with the parents to try to reach an agreement that is acceptable to both sides about a parenting plan or other family issue.1 A mediator is required to be trained and neutral, and the mediator has no decision-making authority to decide the conflict between the parties. Instead, the mediator works to provide a structured process in which the parties themselves can reach an agreement.1

1 NE R.S. § 43-2922(14)

What factors will a judge consider when deciding custody?

When deciding a case about custody and parenting time, the judge will consider what is in the best interests of your child, including:

  1. the relationship that your child has with both you and the other parent;
  2. your child’s preferences, if s/he is mature enough that his/her wishes are reasonably based;
  3. your child’s general health, welfare, and social behavior;
  4. any credible evidence of abuse of any family or household member; and
  5. any credible evidence of child abuse/neglect or domestic violence by either parent.1

If you can prove to the judge that the other parent committed domestic violence against you, the judge is required to ensure that any parenting plan provides for your safety.2  See Can a parent who has committed violence or is a registered sex offender get custody? for more information.

1 NE R.S. § 43-2923(6)
2 NE R.S. § 43-2923(2)

Can a parent who has committed violence or is a registered sex offender get custody?

If the evidence leads the judge to think that any of the below acts may have happened, the judge must decide whether a parent who is entitled to custody, parenting time, or visitation under the parenting plan has:

  1. abused or neglected your child;
  2. abandoned your child;
  3. committed domestic intimate partner abuse; or
  4. consistently interfered with your access to your child, other than to protect the child.1

If the judge finds that the abuser has committed one of those acts, the judge can add limitations to the parenting plan to protect you and your child, such as:

  1. changing the custody plan, including by giving sole legal or physical custody to you;
  2. supervising the abusive parent’s time with your child;
  3. requiring that a third party manage the exchange of the child between you and the other parent;
  4. limiting how you and the other parent can communicate;
  5. requiring the other parent not to use drugs or alcohol while with your child;
  6. denying the other parent overnight parenting time;
  7. ordering that third parties not be present during parenting time; and
  8. requiring the other parent to post a bond to ensure your child is returned to you as scheduled.2  “Posting a bond” means that the parent leaves money or the title to property with the court that can be used for the purpose of locating the child if needed.  

A judge can only give the abusive parent custody if the judge makes a special determination that you and the child can be adequately protected by these extra limitations.3

The judge also cannot give parenting time or custody to a parent who is required to register as a sex offender unless the judge states in writing that there is no significant risk to the child.4

1 NE R.S. §§ 43-2932(1); 28-705
2 NE R.S. § 43-2932(2)
3 NE R.S. § 43-2932(3)
4 NE R.S. § 43-2933

Should I start a court case to ask for supervised visits?

If you are not comfortable with the abuser being alone with your child, you might be thinking about asking the judge to order that visits with your child be supervised. If you are already in court because the abuser filed for visitation or custody, you may not have much to lose by asking that the visits be supervised if you can present a valid reason for your request (although this may depend on your situation).

However, if there is no current court case, please get legal advice BEFORE you start a court case to ask for supervised visits. We strongly recommend that you talk to an attorney who specializes in custody matters to find out what you would have to prove to get the visits supervised and how long supervised visits would last, based on the facts of your case.

In the majority of cases, supervised visits are only a temporary measure. Although the exact visitation order will vary by state, county, or judge, the judge might order a professional to observe the other parent on a certain amount of visits or the visits might be supervised by a relative for a certain amount of time – and if there are no obvious problems, the visits may likely become unsupervised. Oftentimes, at the end of a case, the other parent ends up with more frequent and/ or longer visits than s/he had before you went into court or even some form of custody.

In some cases, to protect your child from immediate danger by the abuser, starting a case to ask for custody and supervised visits is appropriate. To find out what may be best in your situation, please go to NE Finding a Lawyer to seek out legal advice.

If I move to a new state, can I transfer my child custody case there?

After a final custody order is issued, there may come a time when you and your children move to a different state. For information about how to request to transfer the custody case to a new state, please go to the Transferring a custody case to a different state section in our general Custody page. However, it’s important to keep in mind that you may likely first need to get permission from the court or from the other parent to move your children out of state. Please talk to a lawyer to make sure your plans to move don’t violate your custody order or your state’s parental kidnapping laws.

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