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)
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.
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:
- maintaining a safe, stable, consistent, and nurturing relationship with your child;
- attending to the ongoing developmental needs of your child, including things like both physical care and emotional stability;
- providing for your child’s adequate education;
- helping your child maintain a relationship with the other parent and family members; and
- 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:
- who is getting legal and physical custody of your child;
- a schedule of parenting time/visitation, including things like holidays and vacation time;
- 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;
- how day-to-day decisions about your child will be made;
- directions for how any future modifications to the parenting plan may be made; and
- 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 are some pros and cons of filing for custody?
There are many reasons people choose not to file for custody. Some parents decide not to get a custody order because they don’t want to get the courts involved. Some parents make an informal agreement that works well for them. Parents may be concerned that going to court will provoke the other parent. They may worry that if they start a custody case, the other parent will suddenly fight for, and may get, more custody or visitation rights than they are comfortable with.
If the other parent is uninvolved with the child now, he or she may become involved just because a case was started. Also, if the other parent fights for custody, the case may drag on for a long time, which can be emotionally and financially draining. The court will look into many aspects of your personal life that you may prefer keeping private such as past mental health issues, your criminal record, substance abuse issues, and details of your personal relationships.
However, getting a custody order from a court can give you certain legal rights. Getting a custody order can give you:
- the right to make decisions about your child; and
- the right to have your child live with you.
Without a custody order, it is possible that both parents may share these legal rights, even if one parent takes care of the child every day. However, if you file for custody, the other parent may also request these rights, and it will be up to the judge to decide.
We strongly recommend talking to a lawyer who can help you think through if filing for custody would be best for you, depending on the facts of your situation. You can find legal help by clicking on the NE Finding a Lawyer page.