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How Are the “Best Interests of the Child” Defined in Nebraska Custody Decisions?

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How do the Nebraska Courts decide child custody?

When a Nebraska court makes a child custody decision, that decision must be based on what Nebraska law defines as the child’s best interests. If you are involved in a court action for the custody of your child(ren), you must have a Nebraska child custody lawyer advocating on your behalf.

When the parents of a minor child divorce or separate in this state and cannot agree, a court must issue a child custody order that determines which parent will be awarded the child’s legal and physical custody, how much child support will be paid, and what the schedule will be for visitations. Agreements between the parents, even written agreements, are not enforceable without an accompanying order from a Court.

Custody orders are based on a family’s unique circumstances. The parents may share physical and legal custody, or one parent may have primary physical and/or legal custody. Even where one parent has primary custody, however, the Nebraska Parenting Act requires parents to work together in co-parenting their child(ren). Your own custody arrangement will depend on your family’s needs, schedules, and the best interests of your child.

What is the Best Strategy for Approaching Your Custody Case?

The Nebraska Parenting Act applies whenever children and their custody or care are considered by a Nebraska court. The Act requires the parents to attend a co-parenting class, develop a parenting plan, and attempt to resolve the child custody dispute through mediation before a Court can decide these matters at Trial. Because the standard in Nebraska is the child(ren)’s best interests, making accusations and allegations against the other parent is risky and should only be done when there is solid evidence of potential harm to the child(ren). Nebraska law protects parents and grants access to their child(ren) and information about their child(ren) regardless of who is awarded legal and physical custody.

What Are a Child’s Best Interests?

The Nebraska Parenting Act also spells out what is required to satisfy the best interests of a child. In a dispute between parents over a minor child’s custody, those requirements include:

  1.  A parenting plan and arrangement that provides for a child’s stability, safety, health, emotional growth, physical care, and if the child is old enough for school, continuous and regular school attendance and progress.
  2.  A parenting plan and arrangement that provides for the safety of a victimized parent or child if a preponderance of the evidence indicates that domestic abuse may be a concern.
  3.  That those who serve in parental roles remain active and involved with safe and ongoing quality interactions between the family and the child when they’ve previously acted in the child’s best interests and have shared the responsibility of raising the child.
  4.  Even if the parents have a parenting plan, the court will determine if it is in the best interests of the child for the parents to make jointly the decisions necessary for the proper care and development of their child.
  5.  That the following principles provide the basis for the negotiation of a parenting plan:

a. minimizing the potentially negative impact of parental conflict on children
b. providing parents with tools to reach decisions that are in a child’s best interests
c. providing alternative dispute resolution options that are less adversarial than a trial
d. ensuring the child is heard and considered in parenting decisions
e. maximizing the safety of family members through the justice process
f. in cases of abuse, including provisions for victim safety and offender accountability

What Does a Court Consider in Child Custody Cases?

In Nebraska child custody cases, in order to determine what a child’s best interests are, the Nebraska Parenting Act requires a court to take into account factors that include but aren’t necessarily restricted to:

  1.  a child’s relationship with each parent before either parent sought divorce or custody
  2.  a child’s wishes and desires when those wishes and desires are based on sound reasoning (note that the only age when a person/child may make decisions for themselves is 19 years old, the age of majority in Nebraska)
  3.  the overall welfare, health, and social behavior of a child
  4.  credible evidence of the abuse of any household or family member

What Is Required for Mediation?

When parents in a Nebraska custody case cannot agree on a parenting plan, the court orders mediation as required by the Nebraska Parenting Act. Mediators act as neutral third parties who help to facilitate the decision-making process and the negotiations between the parents.

To help parents find acceptable compromises, good child custody mediators are creative and help parties narrow down their most important goals and seek areas of compromise. A mediator also helps parents understand they will probably be happier if they can reach their own agreements instead of having a judge decide the fate of their child. At GordenLaw, we typically recommend using an experienced family law attorney who is also a Nebraska Supreme Court approved mediator for best results.

How Will Your Lawyer Help?

A Lincoln Nebraska child custody lawyer can advise you about how your facts may be viewed by the courts in your case. Because your family is unique and each set of facts is different, your lawyer will help cut through the “noise” of what you may read on the internet, hear from friends and family, etc. to understand how your judge would view the information about your child(ren).

GordenLaw LLC Will Advocate on Your Behalf

Vanessa J. Gorden is an award-winning family law and divorce attorney who will advocate effectively and aggressively for your custody, child support, and visitation rights. If you are involved in custody litigation or near the Lincoln area contact GordenLaw LLC today to schedule your strategy session. Reach us at 402-817-1450 or [email protected]. Your family’s future is important.

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