Johnson v. Johnson (Nebraska 2021)
For child support to be properly before the court, the pleading must contain the right language. The original divorce decree granted the parents shared custody of their two children and set child support at zero. The father filed to modify custody and support and the mother counterclaimed for a modification of custody and support consistent with the Nebraska guidelines. The final order found neither party met the burden to change custody. The mother filed to alter or amend the order requesting the court address a material change of circumstances with respect to support. Following a hearing, the trial court entered an order for father to pay the mother. The father appealed. He argued the mother didn’t specifically plead for a modification of child support and it wasn’t properly before the court. The appellate court affirmed the modification. The mother pled for a modification of custody and, independently, an order of support consistent with the Nebraska guidelines. Her request for support was separate from her request for custody. The language of her pleading was enough to put support at issue. Additionally, both parents presented evidence about their income during the hearings. The mother met her burden to prove a material change of circumstances that wasn’t temporary or foreseeable.