A. Intent. The court finds that matters relating to the establishment, modification, enforcement and collection of child/spousal support and to paternity matters should be handled by the court in an expeditious manner, so that parties may obtain needed orders and other action as quickly as possible. It is determined that the appointment of a child support referee is necessary to aid the court in meeting the case progression standards established by Nebraska Supreme Court rule and federal law.
B. Appointment. Each referee shall be appointed by order of the judges of the court and shall be an attorney in good standing admitted to the practice of law in the State of Nebraska. The referee shall be sworn or affirmed, and the oath for judicial officers shall be administered by the presiding judge of the court. The referee may be removed at any time by the court.
C. Duties. The referee shall hear matters pertaining to (1) the establishment, modification, enforcement and collection of child/spousal support; (2) paternity; and (3) all other matters permitted by law and assigned by the court. The referee shall have the power to summon and enforce the attendance of parties and witnesses, administer all necessary oaths, supervise pretrial preparation pursuant to the rules of discovery, grant continuances and adjournments, recommend the appointment of counsel for indigent parties and carry out any other duties permitted by law and assigned by the district court. The functions performed by the referee under expedited processes shall, at a minimum, include: (1) taking testimony and establishing a record; (2) evaluating evidence and making recommendations to establish and enforce orders; (3) accepting voluntary acknowledgment of support liability and stipulated agreements setting the amount of support and accepting voluntary acknowledgments of paternity; and (4) recommending default orders, if absent parents fail to respond with in the time specified by law.
D. Safeguards. Under the expedited processes established by this court rule:
(1) The due process rights of the parties shall be protected.
(2) The parties must be provided a copy of the recommendation of the referee and the ratified order.
(3) To be enforceable, the referee's recommendations must be entered as an order by a judge.
(4) If a case involves complex issues requiring judicial resolution, a temporary support obligation shall be recommended under these expedited processes and the unresolved issues shall be referred to the court.
E. Hearings. A hearing before a referee shall be conducted in the same manner as a hearing before the court. Testimony in such matters shall be preserved by tape recording or other prescribed measures and in accordance with prescribed standards. Transcripts of all hearings shall be available upon request and all costs of preparing the transcript shall be paid by the party for whom it is prepared, unless he or she has been determined to be indigent.
F. Findings and Recommendations. Upon the hearing of a matter, the referee shall prepare, in writing, his or her findings and recommendations to the parties or their attorneys and submit a report to the court containing findings of fact and recommendations and any and all exceptions.
G. Judicial Review. In all cases referred to a referee, the parties shall have the right to file an exception within 10 days of the date of the referee's Findings and Recommendations. The exception shall be accompanied by a praecipe requesting the preparation of the bill of exceptions of the proceedings before the referee. The hearing before the court on the exception shall be de novo on the record before the referee. The court may ratify or modify the recommendations of the referee and enter judgment based thereon. If no exception is filed, the court shall proceed to consider the referee's Findings and Recommendations and render a final order without further notice or hearing.
H. Case Progression. Actions to establish or enforce support obligations and/or paternity shall be completed in accordance with state and federal law.
Approved effective September 29, 1995; amended December 23, 1999; Rules 3-11(C) and (G) amended January 3, 2003.