When parents are going through a divorce or otherwise separating, it can be a difficult time for their children as well. When there are children involved, divorce proceedings can also be a bit more complicated. During this time, the well-being of the child or children becomes the highest priority. Creating a parenting plan that is in the best interests of the children is a delicate scenario. The separation process can lead to continuous disagreements and frustration. If you live in Nebraska and are involved in a divorce or custody proceeding, there is a high probability that your case falls within the rules of the Nebraska Parenting Act. Read on to learn more about the Nebraska Parenting Act and what it is all about.
What is the Nebraska Parenting Act?
The Nebraska Parenting Act is the set of laws set forth under Nebraska statutes sections 43-2920 through 43-2943. It generally applies whenever children are involved and their custody or care is part of the case. The Nebraska Parenting Act generally requires that the parents take a parenting class, create a parenting plan, and attempt mediation before going to trial. It also has specifics regarding the factors to decide custody and parenting time, especially when there is a history of domestic abuse.
Required Parenting Class
The Nebraska Parenting Act requires the parents to take a parenting class. The class isn’t about how to care for your children. It is about how to better co-parent with the other parent. The list of approved classes is on the Nebraska Supreme Court’s website.
Parenting Plan and Mediation
Before getting into details about the Parenting Plan and Mediation, it is helpful to have a basic understanding of “custody” as meant by Nebraska law. There is a common misconception that if one parent is granted “custody,” the other parent doesn’t get to see the children or have rights to them. Except in the very rare case of extreme safety issues, this is far from the truth.
Understanding Child Custody
Custody is important and multifaceted. Physical custody is who the children reside with. Legal custody is when the parent has the legal right to make major decisions with regard to the children’s health, education, and welfare.
If granted joint physical custody, both parents are granted about the same amount of time with the children. If granted joint legal custody, both parents have the same authority to make major decisions regarding the minor children and must come to a consensus on major decisions. The good news is that even if one parent is granted primary or sole physical custody, the other parent usually has a lot of time with their children. For example, every other weekend and one evening per week is a common schedule for the parent that wasn’t granted physical custody. Likewise, even if one parent is granted sole legal custody, the other parent usually gets to participate in the discussion regarding major decisions, even though the other parent has the final say when they can’t agree.
The Parenting Plan
One purpose of the Nebraska Parenting Act is so that all parents involved in a legal action in Nebraska are required by law to have a parenting plan setting forth the specific details as to the custody and care arrangements for their children.
The Parenting Plan is a detailed document that describes how the parents will raise their children upon separation or divorce. The parenting plan is a legal document that the parents will have to follow once it becomes part of the Court order. If a parent doesn’t follow its terms, the parent can be subject to sanctions for violating a Court order, up to and including jail time for violating its terms.
How will each parent approach a situation?
There are many issues that the parents will need to explain in detail on how they will approach the various situations within the content of the Parenting Plan such as:
- The legal custody of the children for the right to make major decisions for their health, education, and upbringing.
- The physical custody of the children as to where they will reside.
- A routine parenting schedule will explain the frequency and amount of time each parent is due with the children. For example, alternating weeks, as well as holiday and vacation time. This is often set forth with very specific dates and times as to who the children are with on what days of the week and what times exchanges will occur.
- An explanation of how the parents will ensure the children’s school attendance.
- How decisions will be made for any issues involving the children.
- The safety provisions, if necessary, for the parents and the children.
What is the situation like between the parents?
The Parenting Plan is not only about the decisions for the wellbeing and custody of the children. In fact, the Parenting Plan also includes the situations between the parents such as:
- How the children will be transported between parents for the decided parenting time.
- A plan of communication between the parents as well as between the parent and children.
- There must be an exchange of contact information that is current which would generally include their phone numbers and addresses.
- There must be an explanation of any other provisions that are agreed upon between the parents that will support the best interests and the well-being of the children.
- If there are any disputes in the future, the parents must explain future mediation provisions.
- The Parenting Plan can also include provisions tailored to the specific issues the parents face. For example, if the parties have frequent disagreements about their children’s involvement in extracurricular activities, the parties can tailor provisions specific to their situation to help resolve these disputes now and into the future.
Mediation by a Third-Party
If the parents cannot come to an agreement with regard to the provisions of the parenting plan on their own, the Court will often require the parties to attempt mediation. This is one of the major requirements under the Nebraska Parenting Act. Many judges will require the parties to try to work out their disagreements in mediation before they will set a trial date for the Court to decide their issues for them. A mediator is a neutral third party who has no connection to the individuals. The job of a mediator is to help facilitate the discussions and decisions the parents will agree upon. An experienced mediator can make suggestions as to what they have seen work in other cases to find a middle ground that the parents might not have even thought of. They also often can share insight into the ways judges have decided the unresolved issue in prior cases when the parties weren’t able to reach an agreement and the case when to trial to decide the matter. They may play “devil’s advocate” to help the parents realize that they will probably be overall happier if they can come up with an agreement on their own rather than have a judge at trial decide the fate of their children that neither parent may be very happy with.
Mediators receive training specific to parenting plans. Involving a mediator in creating the parenting plan helps create a fair process for all parties in creating a specific schedule or plan for the children. While the Nebraska Parenting Act sets forth some specifics as to what the Parenting Plan must include as a minimum, the mediator can help tailor the plan to the issues specific to the case.
Additional Information: Parenting Act Mediation (Nebraska Judicial Branch)
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