Paternity If a child is born to unmarried parents, it is important to establish paternity and the rights and responsibilities that go along with that. Sometimes fathers sign an acknowledgement of paternity. In these cases, there is a presumption that he is the child's father. In some cases, genetic testing may be required to determine paternity. Once paternity has been established the Court can determine things such as child custody, child support and visitation, and health care. Child Custody Child custody is based on the best interests of the child. In determining the best interests of the children, numerous factors are taken into consideration. Some of these factors are the emotional relationship between the child and each parent, the capacity of each parent to provide for the needs of the child, and the physical environment each parent offers, among others. Children generally must be around age thirteen (13) before a Judge will take into consideration their wishes as to whom they will live with. A guardian ad litem may be appointed by the Court to represent the best interests of the child, though this is not usually done. Parenting Plan A parenting plan will be established in any custody case. A parenting plan establishes things such as who will make decisions affecting the child, how time will be spent between the parents, and with which parent the child will spend holidays. A plan can be extremely detailed to including telephone contact with the child while at the other parent's home, or can include just the bare minimums. If a parenting plan cannot be agreed upon by the parents, the Court will implement its own parenting plan. Legal and Physical Custody Legal custody deals with making decisions for a child's life such as what the child eats, where the child goes to school, religion, and so on. Physical custody regards the actual placement of the child. Physical custody includes where the child will primarily reside as well temporary periods of physical placement, often referred to as visitation. Both legal and physical custody may be awarded solely to one parent or awarded to both parents jointly. Joint legal custody would allow for equal rights in making decisions for the child. In regards to physical custody, it is more often that one parent is awarded custody while the other parent is granted visitation rights. The amount of time for visitation can vary widely from case to case based on a number of factors to include the parents' ability to come to an agreement, the physical location of both parents' homes, who has primarily cared for the child, and many others. Parenting Time Generally, each parent will be allowed time with their children known as parenting time or visitation. Generally, parents will alternate every other weekend. The start and end time of the weekend varies from case to case, but may include time from Thursday evening to Monday morning. Usually, the custodial parent has the child during the week; however, some visitation time may be included during the week. Holidays are normally alternated every other holiday over a two year period. This way the children will get to spend every holiday with each parent over the two year period. The specifics of the parenting time will be set out in the parenting plan and become part of the final decree. Parenting Class Parents are required to take a parenting class when child custody is involved. Parenting classes help parents understand the impact of divorce and separation on their children. A parenting class can also help parents understand that stages of grief and loss, preventing alienating a child from the other parent, improving communication, and developmental ages and stages of children and helpful parental responses. Mediation Mediation may be required if the parties are not able to come to an agreement regarding the care of their children. Mediation is a process in which a neutral, trained, party works with the parents to assist in creating a parenting plan. Mediation may help the parents focus on creating a parenting plan that is in the best interests of their children. If the parties are still unable to come to an agreement even after mediation, the Court will ultimately make a determination as to the custody and parenting time of the children. Child Support Nebraska has established Child Support Guidelines to support for the needs of the children. The reasoning behind the guidelines is "to recognize the equal duty of both parents to contribute to the support of their children in proportion to their respective net incomes." The Child Support Guidelines not only include monthly child support payments, but also health insurance costs and necessary daycare costs. Child support is calculated based on an individual's actual income, but earning capacity may be used in certain circumstances. The income may be deducted for things such as cost of health insurance attributable to the minor child, other child support orders, retirement contributions, and certain other deductions as in accordance with each state's child support guidelines. Child support payments generally terminate when the child reaches the age of majority. However, in certain circumstances the child support order could terminate earlier under certain circumstances. Child support orders may be modified due to a substantial change in circumstances to include a change in income or the needs of the child.