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What is the District Court Referee?

The District Court Referee is an attorney appointed by the judges of the Lancaster County District Court to act as a judicial hearing officer for certain types of cases. Lancaster County has one full-time Referee. Douglas County has two full-time Referees. In addition, a Statewide Referee hears cases in other counties around the state as needed. A hearing before the Referee is conducted in the same manner as any other hearing of the Court. Testimony is recorded and transcripts of all hearings are available upon request.

The majority of cases heard by the Lancaster County District Court Referee are cases initiated by the State of Nebraska against a noncustodial parent or stepparent relating to the establishment, modification, enforcement, and collection of child support. In most cases, an authorized attorney will file a lawsuit on behalf of the children involved and on behalf of the State of Nebraska. In Lancaster County, the authorized attorney will be a Deputy County Attorney from the Lancaster County Attorney's Office. These attorneys do not represent either parent, and no attorney-client relationship is created between the attorney and any party or witness to the action. Any party to the action may hire their own attorney to represent their legal interests in the matter.

Many child support cases begin as paternity cases. This means that the legal relationship of father and child must be officially determined by a court. Paternity must be determined before an order of child support will occur. If the parents are married but separated, paternity may not be an issue, and the case will likely be for support only. Other cases may be for modification of an existing child support order or a case may involve nonpayment of child or medical support.

In general, procedurally, the District Court Referee will hear a case, and based upon the evidence and the law, the Referee will make a recommendation to the District Court as to the outcome of the case. The Referee prepares a written report containing findings and recommendations and sends the report to all parties. By law, the parties have fourteen (14) days after receipt of the Referee's report to take exception to recommended orders of the Referee and have a review by the District Court before final disposition of the case. If no exception or other action is taken, the Referee's recommendations are presented as a proposed order to the District Court for approval. The Court will then review the Referee's findings and recommendations and may ratify or modify the recommendations and enter judgment.

For more information, see Rule 3-11 of Local Court Rules and the Nebraska Revised Statutes, Section 43-1608 - Section 43-1613

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