Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)
(to access the Federal FAQ link, click here)
Q. Do you charge for your services?
A. Several years ago the state initiated a $25 annual fee for child support enforcement services, to help defer a portion of the child support enforcement program. You will not be billed or asked to pay the fee directly. Instead, the fee is collected by the state out of child support collections made by the person owing child support. The fee is only collected on cases where at least $500 per fiscal year (Oct. 1 - Sept. 30) in child support is collected. Note: under no circumstances will parents who are receiving state aid be required to pay a service fee.
Q, What services do you offer?
A. We offer paternity establishment services, as well as enforcement services for existing child support, spousal support and medical support orders.
Q. Must I live in Sarpy County to make use of your services?
A. If you are a Nebraska resident applying for paternity services, you should contact the child support office in the county where you live. That would typically be your local county attorney’s office. If you reside in Sarpy County, that would be this office. On the other hand, if you have an already existing support order, that order is normally enforced through the child support office located in the county where the support order was issued, even if you have moved to another county. If your support order comes from another state, you may either work through your local county child support office, or contact the support office in the other state directly.
Q. Do you handle issues of custody or visitation?
A. No. State law prohibits us from assisting on these issues. You should contact private counsel to assist you, or contact the Nebraska Legal Aid Society, to see if you qualify for low cost legal assistance. Some employers offer legal insurance plans, much like medical insurance. You should check to see if your employer offers such a policy.
Q. I was previously ordered to pay child support, but now my child lives with me. Can you stop my child support order, and help me get a new one where the other parent pays me?
A. Only a court can legally change an existing child custody order. Courts determine what is in the “best interests” of minor children when they issue a custody order. Parents cannot agree between themselves to override this judicial determination. A child support enforcement office is not authorized to become involved with custody determination issues. You should consult a private attorney to assist you in this regard.
Q. The other parent of my children was ordered to provide health insurance for our children. He/she is not doing so. Can you assist me in obtaining this insurance coverage?
A. We can sure try. First, we will review the exact language of your support order to determine exactly what the court ordered the other parent to do. Orders differ greatly in the language they use regarding health insurance coverage for minor children. Some orders merely require a parent to obtain health insurance if it “is reasonably available” or “available at reasonable cost” to the non-custodial parent. Other orders require a parent to obtain the insurance regardless of cost. Once we know what was required, we will act accordingly to make sure the parent is doing everything they can to do what the judge ordered them to do. Dependent health insurance can be very expensive, and many parents do not earn enough income to be able to afford the insurance. Ultimately, a judge might have to determine what is “affordable” or not to the parent.
Q. The other parent has health insurance for my children, but he/she has moved to another state and the doctors in the plan are too far away for me to use them. What can I do to change this?
A. This happens frequently. The solution is to take the other parent back to court to change your order to work around this problem. For instance, the order could be changed to require you to provide the insurance coverage, and the other parent could be ordered to pay for the insurance, through an increase in his/her monthly child support obligation. Other solutions may also be tried. You would be responsible for taking the other parent back to court to address this issue. Our office would then enforce the language of your new health insurance order.
Q. The other parent of my children has a violent temper, and has threatened to hurt me and/or our children if I pursue them for child support. What can you do to help me?
A. We are very aware that many couples separate because of domestic violence issues. Your safety, and the safety of your children, is our #1 concern. Everyone who applies for child support or paternity services, whether through an HHS caseworker or directly with our office, will be asked about this potential problem. If you tell us you are concerned about the potential for family violence, we will give your case special treatment. Each case is handled on its own set of facts. A decision may even be made not to pursue the other parent due to the threat of his or her becoming abusive to you or your children.
If you have immediate concerns about possible violence to you or your children, we urge you to contact agencies in your community who specialize in providing assistance to vulnerable adults and children. Locally, the Nebraska Domestic Violence Sexual Assault Hotline, at 1-800-876-6238, is available to offer assistance.
Q. I already have an existing child support order, but now the noncustodial parent is making much more money. Can my support order be modified to have the other parent pay me more support?
A. Yes. Whenever (1) there is a material change in financial circumstances of a parent who is ordered to pay support, (2) the change of financial circumstances was unforeseen at the time your support order was entered, and (3) the change in circumstances has lasted at least 3 months, and is expected to last at least 6 additional months, your support order may qualify for modification. If you (or the other parent) continue to live in Nebraska, and if your order is at least 3 years old, you may ask the State to process your request for a modification free of charge. Contact the HHS Review & Modification office at 1-800-831-4573 for more information. If your order is less than 3 years old, or if neither parent continues to reside in Nebraska, you would be responsible for pursuing your modification request on your own, with your own attorney.
Q. I am ordered to pay child support, but I no longer earn as much as I used to, and I’ve been unable to find similar employment that pays as much as my old job. Can I get my child support reduced on account of my earning less now?
A. Possibly. Child support can be modified either upward or downward if the circumstances justify it. Generally, child support may not be reduced…unless the parent who is ordered to pay support suffers a long term reduction in their earning capacity or income through no fault of their own. Examples of this would include corporate downsizing, the elimination of specialized work that cannot easily be replaced at the same pay level, or a medical disability or injury that occurs to the parent who pays support. Incarceration is not considered a valid grounds for a reduction in child support.
If you believe you qualify for a support reduction, you should contact a private attorney to assist you in your efforts. If your support order is at least 3 years old, and you (or the other parent) continue to reside in Nebraska, you may also contact the HHS Review & Modification office at 1-800-831-4573 for further assistance free of charge.
Q. How long does it take to have a support order modified?
A. Every case is unique, but from the time contact with the HHS Review & Modification office is initiated until the time that the court has a final hearing on a request to modify child support of child support, 9 to 12 months may pass. Typically the first 3 – 4 months of the time is taken up in the HHS review process. If the case meets a preliminary finding that a modification is appropriate, the request will be transferred by HHS to the local child support office for further review, and the possible filing of a complaint to modify support. Depending upon any delays in obtaining court service of process on the other parent, delays caused by legal motions or court scheduling issues, the modification case should be ready for trial and decision about 4 – 6 months after it is filed.
Q. How come I can’t call your office directly to discuss my case?
A. Several years ago Nebraska, like all 50 states, went to a centralized customer call center. This center is staffed by highly trained personnel who are able to immediately answer or assist about 90% of all callers. Most calls are of a “routine” nature, such as checking to see if payments have been credited, wanting to confirm court hearing dates, providing a change of address, employer or phone number. Whenever necessary, the call center will electronically contact a local child support office with a customer concern that needs additional attention. Some of those calls do lead to phone contact between local staff and our customers. By answering 90% of caller questions, the call center frees up valuable time for the local child support workers to perform their duties on an uninterrupted basis, adding to their productivity. It is a “win-win” arrangement for everyone. In addition, our office does accept written correspondence directly from our customers, either through the U.S. Mail or by email.
Q. My case is classified as “Interstate” in nature, because I live in a different state from the other parent. Does this mean that I will not be able to get the help I need?
A. No, definitely not. It is true that interstate cases often take longer to work successfully than cases where everyone still lives locally. About 30% of our caseload is interstate. In most of those cases our staff will need to work with other child support offices, sometimes in more than one other state, in order to secure the cooperation necessary to establish a new support order, or enforce an existing order. The extra “hoops” that must be jumped through mean that legal actions do take longer to complete. We have found that many other child support offices are overstretched in terms of personnel and funding, and thus are unable to assist us as quickly as they might like. In addition, sometimes when parents leave one state they move in order to evade their child support orders. Some people become very good at hiding from law enforcement. Fortunately, our tools for finding them continue to get better all the time as well.
Q. What sort of sanctions are used to force parents to pay their child support?
A. Over 70% of parents with child support orders enforced in Sarpy County pay regularly. Most do so on their own; others need a degree of prompting. Income withholding, civil contempt of court, license suspension, bank account seizure, passport denial, tax refund intercept, and even criminal actions are among the more readily used tools at our disposal to enforce terms of court orders. The simplest, quickest and least expensive enforcement techniques are used first, and often get the results we seek.
Q. I owe child support, but I never get to see my child. Why should I have to pay support when I do not get the parenting time I deserve?
A. Nebraska law is clear: an obligation to pay child support is completely separate and distinct from the right to exercise parenting time. The failure to obtain court ordered parenting time (sometimes called visitation) does NOT justify the non payment of support. Also, the failure to receive child support does NOT justify a refusal to allow the other parent to exercise their court ordered parenting time. Just as our judges will not tolerate persons who willfully fail to pay their support on time, those same judges will not tolerate parents who refuse to allow the other parent court ordered parenting time with their children. The method of enforcing a problem with parenting time is to take the other parent back to court for allegedly being in contempt of the court order. A private attorney can provide needed expertise to accomplish this task.
Q. What is the age of emancipation in Nebraska?
A. Emancipation age in Nebraska is presently 19. In most other states it is 18. Some states (not Nebraska) allow for support orders to continue beyond the age of the child’s emancipation if the child is still a full time high school student. Look to the language in your support order to see how long your child support is to continue.