State on behalf of Lockwood v. Laue (Nebraska 2017)
In a contempt proceeding for failure to pay child support, a parent can rebut a presumptive finding with evidence showing the failure to pay was not willful. In a district court exception hearing, the court has the discretion to hear additional evidence. In this case, the state of Nebraska took exception to a referee’s dismissal of a contempt citation. The referee found that while the state met its initial burden of proof, the mother provided evidence to show that her failure to pay was not willful. She had been incarcerated, suffered from mental health issues, and was actively attempting to find a job. At the exception hearing, the state asked the district court to hear additional evidence. The State made an offer of proof but district court found the additional evidence irrelevant and upheld the dismissal. The appellate court agreed. It found the district had discretion to hear new evidence and properly found the offered evidence irrelevant and cumulative. The appellate court further held that the facts supported the dismissal.