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What is a Child Support Deviation?

What is a Child Support Deviation?

In Nebraska, child support is determined by following the Nebraska Supreme Court’s child support guidelines. These guidelines are applied as a rebuttable presumption, meaning they are to be followed unless one parent provides evidence, or the court decides the guidelines should not apply under the specific circumstances. When this happens, a deviation has occurred.

The Nebraska Child Support Guidelines provide five instances where deviations are permissible:

  1. When there are extraordinary medical costs of either parent or child;
  2. When special needs of a disabled child exist;
  3. When total net income of the parents exceeds $15,000 monthly;
  4. For juveniles placed in foster care; or
  5. Whenever the application of the guidelines in an individual case would be unjust or inappropriate.

Number 5 is the most common basis for deviating from the child support guidelines. For example, if you and your spouse decide that neither of you will pay child support, you have agreed to a deviation. If the parent paying support has to pay significant travel expenses in order to exercise parenting time, a downward deviation to the support obligation may be warranted. If you and your spouse decide that the amount in the calculation is just too high (or too low), you may deviate downward (or upward) from that amount.

If a deviation is appropriate in your case, the court requires a separate worksheet (known as “Worksheet 5”) be filed with your decree. If you and your spouse agree to a child support amount other than what the child support calculation provides, you will need to state the reasons why you are deviating from the calculation within this worksheet. Likewise, if your case goes to trial and the judge decides there should be a deviation, the reasoning behind the deviation needs to be explained using Worksheet 5.

It is important to be as specific as possible when explaining why there has been a deviation from the child support guidelines. Remember, in the event that you or your former spouse wants to modify child support in the future, the parent seeking the modification must be able to prove that a material change in circumstances, not contemplated at the time of the decree, has occurred.

The Nebraska Child Support Guidelines are just that – guidelines. There is room for argument if your unique circumstances render the guidelines inappropriate. Consult with your Koenig│Dunne family law attorneys to discuss your options for child support.

Lindsay Belmont