OUR BLOG

Welcome to the Koenig|Dunne blog. We have three different blog series for you to find inspiration and encouragement as you go on this journey:

  • Doing Divorce, A thoughtful discussion about divorce: Angela Dunne provides practical advice based on real examples of what she and her clients have faced through the transition of divorce.
  • Divorce Made Simple: Our attorneys breakdown the divorce process in a way that is easy to understand.
  • Money Matters: Patrick Patino provides a fresh, insightful approach to discussing everyday finances by delving into the financial topics of everyday life.
  • NEXT: An Empowerment Series: Attorney and life coach Susan Koenig guides, supports, and inspires you on the journey of creating a life you love.

Dave needs his knee replaced. Jan is getting chemo. Sharon just got home from the hospital with three diagnoses. Frank is healing from shoulder surgery. Gay’s cancer is spreading. Mary’s meds are keeping her up at night. Too many to count are anxious or depressed or both. Many people I love most live each day with a significant health challenges.

I’m one of the lucky ones.

I am the oldest person in my office but still get nominated as one of the healthiest. I’ve been given good enough genes, escaped terrible toxins, and avoided enough sports such that so far I have not faced anything chronic or terminal.  Depression related to divorce and death travelled on over time. I wake up pain free each morning and fall asleep with ease at the end of my day.

I am acutely aware of this privilege which enables me to enjoy everything from awalk in my neighborhood and lifting a kettlebell to giving an hour long speech or sitting for two hours enjoying a foreign film.

Nearly 18% of people in the U.S. report having severe levels of pain. Some 25 million live with chronic pain. Nearly 20 percent of Americans suffer from mental illness in any given year.

Some are obvious. Many are invisible. Some will kill them. Others will simply annoy them.

I do my best to show my gratitude for what I’ve been given. I take my vitamins. I get in small workouts more days than not. I consume less sugar, alcohol and processed foods than in the past. I finally drink more healthy tea than coffee, and this year I’ve advanced to growing my kale on my rooftop. Still, I know there are no guarantees.

I saw my brother go from being a youthful strong carpenter to an emaciated skeleton with AIDS. I saw my sister enter the hospital on a Wednesday and go completely blind by Sunday. I saw my husband be told at 55 that he’d die in two years after having been an organic gardener, a regular at the gym, and the kindest man you’d ever meet.

We all have challenges in living our daily lives. We have even greater ones in attaining our goals. For many, the obstacle is wellness.

If you enjoy good health as you read this, celebrate it. When you see another person, remember that you cannot know all of the hardship they live with each day.

If you live with a health challenge, consider a double dose of self-compassion for getting up every day and being who you are called to be in the world. Today who you are is an inspiration to me.

Coach Koenig

                                    What aspect of your health are you grateful for?

                                    What kind word can you say to another person who might be hurting?

                                    If someone else were suffering like you, how would you treat them?

If you are lucky in this life you will meet a real-life super hero.  If you are even luckier, that super hero will become your life mentor.  I find myself in the category of luckiest because Susan Ann Koenig is, in fact, a real-life super hero and my life mentor.

Susan and I met each other in 1999.  She was the guest lecturer at my family law practice night class in law school.  The topic was Domestic Violence and the Practice of Law.  I was a second year law student and was working 32 hours a week at Friendship Home – a domestic violence shelter. At the end of the class, I remember thinking that I had finally figured out who I wanted to be when I grow up and her name was Susan.

Within a day I had reached out to Susan and a lunch was scheduled for the next month in February.  We met and I am fairly confident in my memory that within minutes I had told her I wanted to be her, wanted to be around her, and wanted to know what I could do to make that happen.

We have worked side by side every day since.

This week Susan accepted an award from the Women’s Center for Advancement.  In my nomination application I described Susan this way:

Her biggest achievement for women is this: when Susan sees injustice, she will work tirelessly to find justice and will not stop until the cycle has been broken. All the while knowing that future generations may never know they benefit from her hard work and sacrifices.

Susan has paved the way for the women who are coming into the legal profession today. She is proud that they will not have to experience the difficulties that she once faced, so that they can go further than she ever could. She is always looking to what is best for the community of women, not just for her personal desires.

I am telling this story on a divorce blog because one of the most important reasons I had success in managing my divorce days was that I had a life mentor.  Susan was the only professional, working mother I knew who was divorced and raising her children.  Not only had she professionally been my mentor, but she was a personal role model.  She inspired in me the hope that I could be a professional, divorced mother successfully raising my daughters.

In the hardness, uncertainty, and overwhelm of starting college, a new career or a business venture, we intuitively look for our role models.  We should apply this equally when facing the hardness, uncertainty, and overwhelm of our life changing through divorce.

Susan’s presence in my life made all the difference.

Angela Dunne

My Advocate

By

Angela Dunne

The sun glints down through tree tops large like

folded hands offering the sensation of protection, like her.

On the narrow path she moves steadily before me

brushing away branches

navigating gnarly roots

purposefully preparing the path for those who follow,

For me.

Fearless, with focus and grace,

ever mindful of footsteps to follow.

Small in stature.  Large in life.

Never does an opportunity pass without

her firm grasp

easing the meandering miles,

For me.

Upon reaching the wide clearing

My squinting eyes adjust to new light.

She turns.  From underneath the wide brim

of her velvet black hat hide the gray resolute eyes

of my advocate seeking the satisfaction inherent

in the view of an established road behind her,

For me.

Her life’s work spent

Tending to the details

Lifting her voice

Extending her compassionate hand

Offering a curious ear

Giving every part of her,

For me.

Not all divorces have to (or should) go to court.  Rather, spouses may find that an alternative to litigation will serve them better both during and after the divorce process.  In family law related matters, Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) processes, such as mediation or collaborative law have risen greatly in popularity in the last 20 years.

For example, in 2007 in Nebraska, the Parenting Act was passed, which requires parents involved in litigation regarding custody of their children to attempt mediation to resolve contested issues before a Judge will make a ruling on those disputed issues.

Collaborative divorce is often thought of as the newest method of alternative dispute resolution in family law.  However, collaborative law emerged nationally in the early 1990s after lawyers in Minneapolis, Minnesota were frustrated by the usual adversarial model for divorce.  Since it was founded over 25 years ago, collaborative divorce is currently being practiced in nearly every state in America.

In Nebraska, The Nebraska Academy of Collaborative Professionals have been active in practicing and promoting collaborative divorce as an option for families for over 12 years.  Our group of unaffiliated attorneys, mental health professionals, and financial specialists have been working together to help guide separating and divorcing spouses toward restructuring their family and resolving the legal, financial, and emotional issues divorce brings in a cooperative manner.

Not only is collaborative divorce widely practiced throughout the United States, collaborative organizations have been established in over 24 countries to help divorcing couples in many foreign jurisdictions, including for example, Australia, Austria, Canada, England, France, Germany, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Ireland, Scotland, and Switzerland.  According to the International Academy of Collaborative Professions, more than 22,000 lawyers have been trained in collaborative law worldwide.

To help regulate the practice of collaborative divorce, The Uniform Collaborative Law Act was developed in 2009.  The Act standardizes the most important features of the collaborative law process.  To date, the Act has been passed in 17 states and has been introduce in 5 additional states this year.

The Nebraska Academy of Collaborative Professionals has reviewed the Uniform Collaborate Law Act and revised it to meet the needs and standards of practice in our state.  Our members look forward to supporting the passage of the bill to in Nebraska to further regulate and support collaborative practice in Nebraska.

The collaborative model has grown rapidly because it has proven to be a healthier and more dignified way to achieve a divorce settlement that minimizes the negative economic, social, and emotional consequences that families face in the traditional adversarial divorce process.

Angela Lennon

Angela Lennon is a certified collaborative lawyer and a member of the Nebraska Academy of Collaborative Professionals. If you or your spouse are considering a divorce, contact our office to schedule a consultation (or call 402-346-1132) to learn more about collaborative divorce and to find out if a collaborative divorce is right for you.

With the current state of the farm economy in Nebraska, many family farmers are considering their options for dealing with overwhelming debt. In many situations, the farmer owes one bank who in turn has a lien or security interest in all of the farmer’s assets (land, equipment, machinery, fertilizer, etc.). Failure to pay short-term or balloon notes that come due all at once, may lead to a situation where the bank threatens to take or does take some or all of the assets that served as collateral for the loans. In some situations, the farmer may voluntarily surrender or turn over the assets to satisfy some or all of the debt owed to the bank. In still other situations, the farmer and the bank may agree to allow for the sale of the collateral with the proceeds used to pay down or off the bank loan.

When faced with a sale, liquidation or repossession of assets, a farmer should be considering the tax consequences of those actions. Under the Internal Revenue Code, these events may trigger tax liabilities. It would be like getting the monkey off of your back and replacing it with a baby gorilla, trading one problem for another.

Formerly, filing for a Chapter 12 bankruptcy did a family farmer little good if a sale, liquidation or foreclosure occurred before or during the bankruptcy. Under the former federal bankruptcy law, a resulting tax liability was considered a priority unsecured debt that the farmer had to pay in full through the 3-5 year Chapter 12 repayment plan. In many instances, this left many family farmers unable to move forward because of his or her inability to pay the tax debt in full.

However, in October 2017, Congress passed the Family Farmer Bankruptcy Clarification Act of 2017, an amendment to the bankruptcy law regarding the treatment of tax debt in Chapter 12 bankruptcy for family farmers. Now, the resulting tax liability from the sale, foreclosure, or liquidation of a farm asset that occurs before or after the Chapter 12 bankruptcy is considered a general unsecured debt, meaning that the bankruptcy laws do not require that these debts be paid in full, allowing many more family farmers to feasibly reorganize.

As such, it provides a viable solution for more family farmers to wind down the entire farm operation or a portion of the operation without being faced with an insurmountable tax bill.  The new law provides the farmer with an opportunity to start anew and move forward by filing a Chapter 12 bankruptcy.

Schedule a consultation today with one of our bankruptcy attorneys at Koenig│Dunne to discover whether a Chapter 12 bankruptcy makes sense for you.

Patrick Patino

“Go to bed, Suzy,” he said.

It was not a command, but more like a kind instruction given to an impaired person in need of direction. My late husband would say this phrase to me at the end of a day when my fatigue and its accompanying grumpiness were obvious yet I was oblivious.

John was lived with cancer for many years, and he’d become an expert at paying attention to one’s body. He was one of many wise teachers, coaches, and doctors who have invited me to notice and attend to what my mind, body, and spirit need.

My list of passions is big. My list of interests even longer.  An enthusiastic extrovert, my social calendar is filled with people I love. An appreciator of cinema and art, I hate to miss a great film when it’s in town or an opening reception for one of my many favorite local artists. Committed to social justice, there’s always a fundraiser to support. Writing, dancing, arranging flowers, throwing parties….How can I go to bed?

I once had a coach attempt to give me a new insight on rest and relaxation after I exclaimed, “I can’t just sit around doing nothing!”  Her reply: “Susan. Relaxing is not ‘doing nothing.’ It’s relaxing.” Apparently relaxing was thing. I just didn’t know it.

When you fail to learn your coach’s lessons or practice what your teachers taught, eventually you might find a doctor giving you advice. One put it in writing for me:

Get 7-8 hours sleep each night.

Meditate 5 minutes each morning.

Throughout your work day, every two to three hours, do nothing for 5 minutes.

 Like all medical advice, this was designed specifically for my condition—constantly doing. Being a slow learner, I find that getting sufficient rest each day and relaxing as a regular part of living life is still a lesson I’m learning.  What my practice has given me, however, is a chance for reflection.

When I allow myself time for even the briefest meditation, I gain insight. When I journal or write, I can be joy-filled upon cutting my first pink rose of the season and a bit more self-compassionate for opening my mouth one time too many.  When I share with a caring listener what is in my heart or on my mind, I often hear just the wisdom I need.

I’ve always been the student who never wanted to disappoint her teachers. When it comes to rest, relaxation, and reflection, I know I have. The ego of my achiever has won out time and time again. My only hope is to repeat what they have taught me. Since summer days are upon us, I especially intend to remember. Rest. Relax. Reflect. Repeat.

                                                                                    Coach Koenig

Are you in touch with how tired you might really be?

Can you give yourself permission to pause throughout your day?

What might it be like to feel rejuvenated?

I was stunned by the news.  The woman whose brand was sparkle had killed herself.  Kate Spade.  The woman who penned several life mottos for me: “She leaves a little sparkle wherever she goes” and “She is Quick and Curious and Playful and Strong.”  She believed in a “world filled with seersucker and polka dots – friends and fireflies – cocktails and crosswords – personal style and simplicity.”

I remember my first Kate Spade purse – bright pink with a big bow.  My friends laugh at my loyalty to her as I save up my money and then carry a single purse around every day for years until the next irresistible Kate bag catches my eye.  It was the Kate Spade persona that inspired me a few years back to have a Celebration of Sparkle party.  In fact, as the news spread, several of my friends messaged me saying they thought of me when learning of her passing.

While I have endeavored to emulate the woman that the Kate Spade brand describes and live my life colorfully and with a good dose of sparkle, like Kate the woman, my life journey has also included anxiety and depression.  Kate reminds us that two truths may co-exist. There may be sparkle and there may be sadness.

Anxiety and depression are as common as candles on a birthday cake.  But with the early diagnoses, I felt shame, embarrassment, and weakness.  Something was wrong with me.  In my mind, I immediately became less than compared to my colleagues, co-workers, and everyone else in the world I imagined were doing life perfectly and without struggle.

Dealing with anxiety for the last couple of years has meant serious and impactful life changes.  I no longer have the luxury of pushing myself up against imaginary and impractical standards of perfection.  It is medically required of me that I rest often and become a steadfast practitioner of self-care.  I take medication to help slow-down my otherwise rapid-fire, relentless stream of thoughts.  I now tell the truth about my imperfections.  I leave large events when I feel overwhelm. I ask for help when I am on the interstate 3 hours from home and I cannot drive any further.  And I understand and grieve when the woman who inspired me for years seeks permanent rest.

Angela Dunne

If you or someone you know might be at risk of suicide, here are ways to help:

Call 1-800-273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It provides free and confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week for people in suicidal crisis or distress. You can learn more about its services here, including its guide on what to do if you see suicidal language on social media. You can also call 1-800-273-8255 to talk to someone about how you can help a person in crisis.

Text HOME to 741741 to have a confidential text conversation with a trained crisis counselor from Crisis Text Line. Counselors are available 24/7. You can learn more about how their texting service works here.

For online chat, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides a confidential chat window, with counselors available 24/7. Boys Town also provides counselors for youth-specific online chat at this link. It is available every Monday through Friday between 6 p.m. and midnight in the Central time zone.

Collaborative divorce is an alternative method for couples facing divorce.  Through the collaborative process, spouses pledge to resolve all issues without court intervention.

The Collaborative Divorce Team

A unique feature of the collaborative divorce process is that spouses will work with specially trained and skilled professionals to reach a fair negotiated settlement, while avoiding the cost, time, and uncertainties of litigation.

These professionals include an attorney for each spouse, mental health divorce coaches, child specialists, and may include a financial specialist.

Family-Centered and Creative Solutions

Because spouses and their collaborative team commit to negotiate a mutually acceptable and sustainable resolution without court intervention, collaborative divorce is a much more client-centered and solution-orientated process than traditional litigation.

The very nature of this process promotes respect between spouses transitioning through divorce.  Instead of a “one size fits all” model that is most often relied upon in a litigated divorce, participants in the collaborative process have the ability to tailor a settlement that reflects the unique needs and desires of their family.

Is Collaborative Divorce Right for You?

Collaborative divorce isn’t appropriate for every case.  In order for collaborative divorce to be successful, both spouses must commit to settling the case outside of court.  Spouses must also commit to the collaborative process, which is founded on honesty, cooperation, integrity, and professionalism.  A collaboratively trained attorney will be able to provide a recommendation for whether collaborative divorce is right for your case.  It is not necessary that you and your spouse agree on all issues prior to entering collaborative divorce.  However, it is necessary that you and your spouse are committed to resolving all issues in a fair and equitable manner without court intervention.

By leveraging the expertise of the collaborative team, spouses can focuses on the legal, emotional, and financial needs of themselves and their children.  The collaborative process provides an alternative framework for divorce that minimizes conflict and focuses on reaching custom-tailored solutions for each case.

Angela Lennon

Angela Lennon is a certified collaborative lawyer and a member of the Nebraska Academy of Collaborative Professionals. If you or your spouse is considering a divorce, contact our office to schedule a consultation (or call 402-346-1132) to learn more about collaborative divorce and to find out if a collaborative divorce is right for you.

A chapter 13 bankruptcy, which involves a 3-5 year repayment plan, is almost always a better option for the financially distressed than the current status quo.

I use the analogy of the ever-growing gobstopper. Without filing bankruptcy, you pay your monthly minimum payments on your credit cards. Because you’ve made those payments, you end up running out of disposable cash before your next paycheck. As a result, you use your credit cards again to pay for basic living expenses.

For example: Your monthly minimum credit card payments are $950. A large chunk of that goes towards interest. Before your next pay day, you run out of cash and have to charge $950 for new tires and summer soccer registration for your kids. The gobstopper is bigger the next month even though you started it off by taking a big chomp out of it. On top of paying those monthly minimum credit card payments, you have a monthly vehicle payments totaling $400, medical bills totaling $150 per month, and a monthly student loan payment of $400. You pay $1,900 per month on debt, but are not getting anywhere.  You make $4,500 take-home pay per month, but feel as though you are living paycheck to paycheck.

You may never reach a point where you are unable to pay your minimum payments. However, if you look at the back of your credit card statement, you will find a little section that shows you how much you will eventually pay in interest and how long it will take to pay off the balance interest if you only pay the minimums, assuming you make no new purchases.

Now let’s add some more layers and see what a Ch. 13 bankruptcy would do in this scenario:

  • You owe $21,000 on a car loan, which includes the total interest you would pay over the lifetime of the loan
  • You owe $5,000 in medical debt
  • You owe $15,000 on credit cards
  • The estimated attorney’s fees to be paid in your Ch. 13 is $4,000
  • The Chapter 13 Trustee receives up to 10% of the payout, which is $4,500
  • If you were to pay 100% of all of your debt back, the total payment would be $45,000, which can be paid over 5 years.
  • The monthly payment would be $750/month for 60 months.
  • Even adding the student loan payment of $400 only brings the monthly total to $1,150, which is much better than paying $1,900/month.

The benefits of filing are that:

  1. You can pay for your financed and leased vehicles through your Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
  2. You keep all of your property even if that property is not exempt and would be liquidated in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
  3. You can be debt free in 3-5 years.
  4. You pay most of your attorney’s fees through the plan.
  5. You typically pay less than 100% of unsecured debt through the plan without interest. The unsecured debt you don’t pay gets discharged (eliminated) at the end of your plan with some exceptions like student loans and some tax debt. If, through your plan, you only paid 50% of your credit card and medical debt, the other 50% would be discharged, meaning you would not be liable for paying that once you made your last plan payment.
  6. You keep making your monthly mortgage payments directly to your mortgage company.
  7. You make one payment a month that handles all of your debt (except for your mortgage payment and student loan payments). In most cases that payment is paid directly from your paycheck, which is convenient and stress-free.

Figuring out whether to maintain the status quo or file for Chapter 13 can be overwhelming. Schedule a consultation today with one of our bankruptcy attorneys at Koenig│Dunne to discover why a Chapter 13 bankruptcy makes sense for you.

Patrick Patino

“The path of least resistance,” he answered. I felt a barely detectable bristle of judgment. I had asked my friend how he chose a particular career path. To his response I thought:

He must not have that much ambition.

            He probably likes to stay where it’s comfortable.

            I’ll bet he’s missed out on a lot of life.

I stepped on to the well-worn path of being wrong. My friend had a brilliant career, was dedicated to his community, and beloved by his family.

In the story I told about my own life achievements was my claim to taking the road less travelled. Within that story lies an arrogance that those who made a different choice were somehow less committed, less passionate, and very possibly just plain lazy.

I founded a law firm instead of joining one. At a time I was having a good measure of success in my first career I left it to start a new one most of my friends had never heard of. I have done a wheat grass juice fast for days and walked on a bed of hot coals a couple of times. Surely one had to take on resistance.

With this philosophy, I made my life harder than it needs to be while judging those who master ease. I went through life thinking things have to be hard to be meaningful, while judging people that take what I labeled the easy way out.

The truth is that the path of least resistance is really the path of least effort, which I’m trying to learn.

Acceptance. Rather than surrender to the reality which is before me, I routinely say, do, and think things I wish I didn’t. I have tried to change situations and people when in the moment acceptance would be best.

Responsibility. Instead of taking responsibility, blame is a beautiful go to. As long as I can blame someone else, I can ignore my own failings and postpone that which is mine to do. I miss opportunities that were right before me when I’m busy being a blamer.

Defenselessness. There is nothing like having spent most of your professional life as a litigator to teach you how to defend. In efforts to protect my ego, I’ve defended everything down to my choice of fish tacos for lunch.

To take the road less travelled does not mean it has to be hard every step of the way. No matter which route we take, we can begin to allow life to be a little bit easier. Not everything has to be a struggle.

To begin practicing, I’ll accept that, like all humans, I have thoughts that I don’t believe. Rather than blame myself for having a judgment, I’ll take responsibility for examining my thought. I will resist defending my “road less travelled” philosophy of life, and accept that more than one thing can be true.

Coach Koenig

What is yours to accept at this time?

                        Is there a responsibility for your to step up to?

                        Where have you been needlessly defensive?

The day of the custody trial arrived.  Nervous and feigning politeness to the opposing lawyers, they sat parallel to each other at their respective counsel’s tables.  Plaintiff and Defendant. Also known by two, 5 and 7 year old children, as Mom and Dad.

Evidence Round #1:  She testified that the children were adjusting fairly well since they had separated households.  She said that their dad had become more involved in the last year and that was a good thing.  She focused her testimony on her children rather than their rocky past.

Evidence Round #2:  He testified about his increased involvement in his children’s lives.  He had never been more attentive and engaged.  He loved his children deeply and this was evident to everyone in the courtroom.

But his testimony was also full of complaints and “mud-slinging” toward her.  She didn’t include him in the scheduling of spring parent/teacher conference.  She had once spit in his face.  His stories about her were riddled with negativity and contempt.

Evidence Round #3:  In response to his testimony she was compelled to explain.  She didn’t include him the scheduling of parent/teacher conferences because she assumed they would do separate appointments.  In the fall, he came to the conferences noticeably smelling of alcohol.  This made her feel embarrassed and uncomfortable in front of the teachers. It also renewed concerns that he may be drinking when the children were in his care.

She continued to confront his allegations.  She sadly explained why she had spit in his face.  He had controlling tendencies during their marriage.  She was often screamed at and belittled.  One this occasion, he had pinned her in the bathroom.  She couldn’t leave as he blocked her way out.  In tears and distress, she spit in his face so that she could get out.

She continued to report to the court that he had made great strides since their separation.  But her concern was just this.  That he was still filled with anger and hostility toward her.  That he had not attained a level of consistency in their relationship.  She worried about this imbalance impacting their children.  She testified that she desperately wanted him to be the parent he testified he was working to be.

The judge when issuing the ruling said “I see that you could have come to court with the intention of telling me a lot of negative stories, but you opted not to.  You are the parent who is trying to move forward and that is in the best interests of your children.”  The final result when we received the written Decree from the court was that our sole legal and physical custody had been awarded to our client – the parent who had taken the high road.

Angela Dunne

While most family law cases in Nebraska are heard exclusively by Nebraska district courts, a small number of family law cases are instead heard by district court referees, often referred to as child support referees.

Who is a District Court Referee?

District court referees are attorneys who have been appointed by Nebraska courts to provide rulings on certain family law issues. They are typically longstanding practitioners who have a great deal of experience in family law. A district court referee listens to evidence presented by parties at trial, similarly to a district court judge.

What Type of Cases Are Assigned to the District Court Referee?

District Court Referees may only hear the following issues:

  • Establishment of child support, spousal support, or medical support
  • Modification of child support, spousal support, or medical support
  • Enforcement and collection of child support, spousal support, or medical support
  • Protection orders

If a family law case contains other issues, the district court referee may only rule on the issues listed above.

How Are Cases Assigned to a District Court Referee?

District court referees are not automatically assigned. Instead, Nebraska courts must specifically refer eligible cases.

What Are the Advantages of Having a Case Assigned to the District Court Referee?

Generally speaking, district court referees are able to hear trials and issue rulings more quickly than other courts. This often translates into saved time and legal expenses.

What Happens After the District Court Referee Issues Its Ruling?

After considering the evidence presented at trial, the district court referee will issue a suggested order to the district court. If neither party objects to the suggested order, then the district court will typically adopt the suggested order as its own ruling. However, parties do have the right to request a hearing before the district court to challenge the district court referee’s suggested order.

It is critical to understand the process and advantages of a district court referee. Your legal team at Koenig|Dunne is here to advise you on the nuances and advantages of district court referees.

David Pontier

The height of my academic failure arrived mid-way through a semester of political science. Due to my performance, it was prudent that I drop the class. This required a personal visit to the professor known more for his rigor than his relationships with struggling students.

I could feel the shame as I waited my turn outside his small windowless office. This was the first and only conversation we would have. I hoped it would be brief.

I told him my name and that I needed to drop his class. I could not raise my grade up enough by the end of the course. The grade I feared was a B.

I had been surprised to be carrying a 4.0 after the end of my first semester, and then again my second.  I was never an artist or an athlete, but I was decent when it came to academics. School was one place where I knew that if I worked hard I had a chance to feel good about who I was. I got attached to the idea of leaving university with that nice number intact.  I didn’t want to risk its loss by receiving anything less than an A for the course.

Without a top score I could not lay claim to the designation of graduating summa cum laude —with the highest honor. I would have to settle for magna cum laude—with high honor. My fear was so great that even “high” was not good enough—I had to have the “highest.”

Permission was granted. I dropped the class. But I held on to the shame.

I walked away from an opportunity I did not yet know how to name: being less than perfect. I missed the chance to discover that I could have less than an impeccable record and still survive.  I postponed my painful lesson which law school was more than happy to give me when I received my first D my freshman year.

Throughout life, my excellent GPA never scored me a job, a date, or a dollar so far as I know. Yet at the time I held on to it with all my might.

How often in life have I hid the truth so that I could leave the world with an illusion of a superwoman of sorts?  When I stayed in that unhappy marriage for years? When I exhausted myself to the bone as a young mother rather than let anyone know I needed help? When I crammed my clutter into a closet when company arrived?

I was an outstanding scholarly student but I had a lot to learn when it came to being wise. With life and time as my teachers, I see that a B may not be perfect, but sometimes it’s simply the best.

                                                Coach Koenig

Do you ever confuse perfection with excellence?

Are you holding on to a status that is not in keeping with your best self?

Are you exhausting yourself keeping up appearences?

Nearly all phases of your divorce will be accompanied by timelines providing when certain actions must be taken or prohibiting certain actions from being taken. The following are some common timelines to help you decipher what must be done during your divorce and when.

  1. Mandatory waiting period

What is it?

Under Nebraska law, no divorce can be final until 60 days after service of process has been perfected.

What’s the timetable?

Your divorce starts with one spouse filing a complaint for dissolution of marriage. After that document is filed with the court, it must be “served” on the other spouse. Once the other spouse receives the complaint from the sheriff or enters his or her voluntary appearance, a 60-day clock starts ticking.

Your divorce cannot be final during those 60 days. However, you can work with your attorney and your soon-to-be former spouse to negotiate or work towards settlement. If you and your spouse settle all the issues and sign a decree, you may deliver that decree to the judge no sooner than 61 days after service was perfected.

  1. Answer or “responsive pleading”

What is it?

An answer or responsive pleading (usually an answer and counterclaim for dissolution of marriage) is a document that is filed in response to the complaint for dissolution of marriage.

What’s the timetable?

If your spouse filed for divorce and served with you the complaint, you have 30 days after being served (or filing your voluntary appearance) to respond to the complaint.

  1. Discovery

What is it?

Discovery is the formal exchange of information during the divorce process. The most common forms are interrogatories (written questions that must be answered in writing and under oath) and requests for production of documents.

What’s the timetable?

The Nebraska Rules of Discovery direct that once interrogatories and requests for production of documents have been received by a party, that party has 30 days to respond to them. If your 30 days are up and you have not provided your spouse with the responses, your discovery will be considered past-due, and you can anticipate opposing counsel filing a motion to compel your response. If you know you will need more time to respond, your attorney may need to seek an extension from opposing counsel.

  1. Post-decree timetables

A divorce decree is final once the judge signs it. You will be considered “divorced” as of that date. However, there are certain timetables that extend past the date your judge signs your decree that you should keep in mind.

Appeals timetable

After the judge signs your decree, a 30-day clock starts running during which time either party may file a notice of appeal. For purposes of appeal only, your divorce will not be considered final for 30 days after the judge signs your decree.

Health insurance timetable

If either you or your spouse is ordered to carry the other on his or her health insurance for six months after the decree is entered, for purposes of health insurance only, your decree will not be considered final for six months after the judge signs it.

Remarriage timetable

After the judge signs your decree, a six-month period begins during which time neither party may remarry anyone anywhere in the world.

Your divorce will involve many moving pieces and timelines to keep in mind. Your experienced Koenig│Dunne family law attorneys will help you make sense of and stay on top of these timetables.

Lindsay Belmont

How many tries does it take to change a light bulb? If it’s me, about ten.

When a light went out in my home office, I reasoned that the two remaining bulbs in the chandelier were enough. When it went dark in my parlor, I rationalized that the sun from the skylight was enough. When the bedroom light was spent, I used the bedside lamps. When the overhead light in my bathroom ended, I eked along with my morning make up routine adjusting my magnifying mirror to new angles.

My home was built in 1898. I love the tall ceilings except for times like this. A simple light bulb change can require lugging a ladder up two flights. It only takes a few minutes, but the mere thought of it manages to encourage my procrastination.

To remedy my neglect I made the familiar repeat returns to the hardware store all homeowners know well. Eventually I restored light to three of the four rooms.

The next day I apologized for the ladder still sitting in the middle of my parlor. “I couldn’t reach the ceiling,” I said. “I need a taller ladder.”

“I can reach,” he said. In a matter of minutes an energy leak of weeks was ended. I had been in the dark about how all of this could be made easier. Upon reflection, here’s what I see:

I failed to plan.  How many times had I turned on a switch, felt annoyed, yet failed to put the task on my calendar?  Too many.

I failed to remember that obstacles are inevitable.  Instead of being frustrated by yet another shopping run, I could have reminded myself that this is normal. Obstacles are a sign we are on our path. I could have enjoyed picking up that extra pack of petunias while at Home Depot.

I failed to acknowledge my progress along the way. Rather than applaud my success in getting as far as I did, I focused on my irritation at the uncompleted. I was three-fourths of the way to my goal and feeling cross instead of encouraged.

I failed to remember that support abounds. My visiting helper was not the only taller person in my life. I thought I needed a ladder. All I needed was a friend.

What I was able to do was to celebrate in the end. I literally gave a small jump of delight and clapped my hands. A little bit of enlightenment really lifts me up.

Coach Koenig

Is there a plan you can make to end an energy leak?

                        Can you give yourself credit for your progress so far?

                        Where might you find support for making life easier?

 

*Photo taken right before the goal scoring shot. Photo credit: Grandpa.

She shot.  She scored!  And I missed it.

Maybe in your household your child scoring a soccer goal is a regular occurrence and accomplishment.  But in our household, for our Sophia, it is nothing short of a minor miracle.  Sophia does not play sports out of athletic drive, skill, or competitiveness.  She plays for the simple enjoyment of being on a team.  She loves the social aspect of sports teams.  She does not love any type of contact with a soccer ball.

Suffice it to say, this was an event.  At the time of the goal, I was on the soccer field diagonal to Sophia’s – at my older daughter’s game. Their games had been scheduled for nearly simultaneous times.  My dad and I switched turns going from field to field.  At the time of the shot, her doting grandfather was there to capture it.  I was right there and I missed it.

My heart hurt as I ran to her field after hearing the news.  The familiar “bad mom” berating began in my head.  “How could I have missed it?  Why wasn’t I there? She will be so disappointed.”

When I saw her, I recognized immediately her puffed up posture.  She was so proud.  She was raising her hand to accept passes from her teammates, a gesture I had never seen from her before.  When she caught sight at me, she flashed a thumbs-up.  Tears pricked at the corners of my eyes.

I have been either a coach or a cheerleader to each of my daughters in the six years they have been playing soccer.  I can count on my hands the number of games I have missed in all of the fall and spring seasons we have each year.

I have observed that while parents of other players seem to split the duty of attending games – with mom being at some games and dad being at others – for me, as a divorced mom, I feel obligated to be at them all.  So does their dad. Maybe we see it as an opportunity to spend a just a little more time with our children than our normal schedule provides.  Maybe we fear feeling judgment from the other if we are a no show.  Maybe we are trying to satiate our guilty feelings about being divorced.  Maybe it is all of this.  But we show up for everything.

We show up for everything in the hopes that we will not miss an available moment with our child.  To ensure we are present for their mundane and miraculous moments.  And then just like that, in the blink of an eye, she shoots – she scores – and I miss it.

The irony of all of the effort to never miss a thing swirled around my heartsick head.  It was further compounded after the game, when I observed that none of my daughter’s joy and accomplishment was diminished by me missing it.  In fact, I am fairly confident she delighted in telling (and likely embellishing) the story of her score.

I realized my focus for these years had been misplaced.  Instead of focusing on being there every single moment I could, perhaps pay attention to her actual experience.  Instead of saying “I know, I was there,” my heart shifted to relishing her retelling.  I saw the goal before me  – open, ready, and mine for the taking.

Angela Dunne

A divorce decree is a court order that officially ends a marriage. In doing so, the decree defines the division of property between spouses, awards legal and physical custody of minor children, and states whether either spouse owes a child support obligation. Most decrees are written by attorneys, capturing the settlement agreements reached between spouses. These types of decrees are commonly referred to as consent decrees because both spouses consented to their contents as opposed to a judge authoring the decree after a trial.

Some of the clauses contained in a divorce decree can be difficult to understand. Here are five common divorce decree clauses translated from “legalese”:

Disclosure Clauses

Most consent decrees contain disclosure clauses, which state that you and your spouse have fully informed one another of the property you own. This complete exchange of information is vital, because without full disclosure, a spouse may claim that they were deceived into agreement and ask for the decree to be undone at a later date.

Waiver Clauses

During the course of your divorce, you are entitled to exercise certain legal rights such as the right to a trial, the right to receive information from the other spouse, and the right to have an attorney. Waiver clauses confirm that spouses knew of these rights and chose not to use them—which may be advisable in certain situations. Discuss with your attorney your rights and why you may decide not to exercise them.

No Waiver Clauses

If your spouse fails to comply with your divorce decree and you take no action to remedy this situation, a court could later decide that your inaction was in fact an agreement to allow your spouse to deviate from the decree. No waiver clauses tell courts to not interpret inaction as such an agreement.

Merger Clauses

In some divorces, a court will have issued a number of orders before entering the final decree. These orders may decide temporary possession of the marital residence, temporary spousal or child support, and/or temporary restraints. Merger clauses define whether these previous orders remain effective by being included in the decree or whether they are extinguished by being excluded from the decree.

Severability Clauses

The law constantly changes. And sometimes these changes may invalidate certain parts of your decree. Severability clauses ensure that if ever a part of your decree becomes invalidated because of a change in the law that only that part of the decree is affected, as opposed to the entire decree. For example, if the law changes tomorrow to say that no divorce decree ever entered may award shoes between spouses, then your award of Dorothy’s ruby-red slippers may be invalid, but because of your decree’s severability clause, your award of Dorothy’s house should remain unaffected.

The clauses in a divorce decree can be difficult to understand for even the most sophisticated of spouses. Your legal team here at Koenig|Dunne is experienced in drafting divorce decrees and is here to help you understand their complexities.

David Pontier

“I can just give my truck to my brother, right?” Many clients and prospective clients have asked me some variation of this question. The quick answer is an outright “no” because doing so may be a fraudulent transfer.

Under Nebraska State Law, a person cannot simply transfer an asset without receiving reasonably equivalent value in exchange for the transfer if that person is insolvent or if the person becomes insolvent as a result of the transfer. Otherwise, a person would have incentive to transfer all property to another without receiving anything in exchange if they were trying to shield assets from their creditors or from liquidation in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

For example: You own a truck worth $15,000. As I have previously discussed, you will be able to exempt $10,000 under the new Nebraska Exemption Laws, leaving $5,000 as unexempt (unprotected) and subject to liquidation in a Ch.7. If you simply re-titled the vehicle in your brother’s name without receiving any payment and then file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the Chapter 7 Trustee may go get the truck from your brother and undo the transfer.

The look-back period under Nebraska State Law is four (4) years, meaning that your creditors or the Chapter 7 Trustee can look at all transfers made within four (4) years to see whether or not a fraudulent transfer has occurred. Under bankruptcy law, the look-back period is two (2) years.

Under bankruptcy law, you may be denied your discharge  (elimination of legal obligation on your debts) if you transferred property within the one year prior to filing with the intent to hinder, delay, or defraud a creditor. A creditor would have to bring a lawsuit (called an adversary proceeding) against you to have the Bankruptcy Court determine that you should be denied a discharge. Even though these are uncommon actions that creditors bring, it is still something to be mindful of.

For example: If you gave title to your brother without him paying for it, you would have to list that in your eventual bankruptcy paperwork. A creditor that is paying attention may use that as evidence that you should be denied your discharge.

You can avoid these issues by doing one of the following:

  1. Receive proper value for the transfer. Your brother can buy your truck for $15,000.
  2. Undo the transfer. Have your brother transfer the truck’s title back to you.
  3. File a Ch. 13 bankruptcy. You can repay the value of the transferred asset to your creditors through a 3-5 year repayment plan.
  4. Wait to file. If you cannot do one of the above actions, you can choose to wait beyond the reach of the look-back period.

Figuring out how to handle your debt can be overwhelming. Schedule a meeting with one of Koenig│Dunne’s experienced bankruptcy attorneys to understand your bankruptcy options.

Patrick Patino

When I saw “Portland Marathon” on the back of her shirt I knew I’d made a mistake.

Six weeks earlier I’d signed up to stretch beyond my comfort zone doing something I’d never done before. I would complete a 5 mile run.

I put my plan in place. My first obstacle was verified in the headlines, “Spring Fails to Start in the Midwest.” What is ordinarily a season of cool mornings and evenings was instead a series of shivering rains, sleet, and snow.

Luckily, I previously planned a week on the beach with friends. I pledged a daily run. The cool and the rain followed me to the coast, but I made progress in my training. Upon my return, I plugged away with short runs, still falling behind my intended training schedule.

The morning of the run I arrived early, surprised by few cars. There was no waiting at the check in. As runners stretched and chatted, I studied their bodies. They had that lean, strong look of the people who do this sort of thing because it’s fun.  Their smiles and laughter supported my theory.

“Come join us,” said a friendly voice. “We were just talking about how cold it’s been for all of the races we’ve done this year so far.”  “So far?” I think to myself. They have been participating in multiple races already? It wasn’t even May. So out of my league, I thought.

I was accustomed to events that had lots of participants from all fitness levels, where my short legs and somewhat senior status could blend in. Those races where no one would notice the style of my running shoes or my tears of overwhelm. Not this day.

Off we went. I focused on being the tortoise rather than the hare. I paid attention to the blue of the sky and the green of the grass. I looked for birds. I paced myself behind other runners. I allowed myself an occasional thirty second walk break.

By the time I hit the half way mark I could no longer hear any runners behind me. Soon a man on a bicycle came from the opposite direction on the trail to check to see if any runners were still out. I wanted to shout out an apology but I didn’t have the breath.

As I approached the final mile I gave sincere thanks to the volunteers along the way. I distracted myself watching the soccer players who by now had filled the nearby fields. My mood began to lighten and I went off the trail for a moment to retrieve a runaway ball.

A few yards from the finish line I recognized my friends Rick and Mark. Avid runners, they had long ago finished but hung around to cheer me as the third to the last to finish.

One hour. Five minutes. Goal met.

Coach Koenig

                        Is it time to get outside of your comfort zone?

                        What will you focus on despite the obstacles?

                        Who will cheer you across the finish line?

In anticipation of Mother’s Day, Angela couldn’t find better words to express her appreciation than from this blog she wrote as a tribute to her own mother 3 years ago. The words are just as true, if not more, today.

I was 14 when I first felt my heart break. My one true love, Tommy, decided to move on as we left junior high for the greener pastures of high school. My stomach turned as I felt the upset of change, insecurity, and teenage despair wash over me. At a time when my mom regularly embarrassed me, she was who I turned to for comfort. She held my head in her lap as she stroked my hair and I sobbed.

My mom, during any time of uncertainty, would count down the hours for me. On the eve of the first day of school in a new state, she said “At this time tomorrow, you will already have a new friend.” On the eve of my first trial, she said “At this time tomorrow, you will have more experience than you do today.” On the eve of my divorce being final, she said “At this time tomorrow, it will be over and the new beginning will start.”

With these little reminders, my mom was the guardian of my hope. She was the protector of my present. She was the spirit behind my strength. My mom was able to measure my moments in the context of my past, present, and future. She had the wisdom to know that my difficult times would pass. She was mindful that heartache dulls over time.

My mom knew to make me warm vanilla pudding with a sprinkling of chocolate chips to lift my spirits when my housing plan fell through post-divorce, and I had to move in with her for a month – my baggage, children, and cats in tow. My mom said “yes” when I asked her to take a business trip to Ireland the month before my divorce was final and she drank a draft cider with me as I found courage to start using my maiden name again. And on my first Christmas Eve without my daughters to share it with, she again took my head in her lap as she stroked my hair and I sobbed.

I know not all have mothers like mine, nor are all able to be the kind of mother I describe as my own – but I share these stories to pass on the wisdom she has bestowed on me. I share the insight passed to me over my many heartbreaks, fears, and insecurities that they are merely moments. That you will pass through to the other side of the storm. That no matter how hard you have sobbed that this moment will be over and the new beginning will start.

Happy Mother’s Day moms everywhere who are deeply committed to their children and who, like my own mom, walk confidently and compassionately alongside their children in this journey of life.

Angela Dunne

There may be times during your divorce when you are asked to testify in the courtroom. “Testify” means to answer questions under oath. Before you testify in open court, you will be sworn in as a witness, meaning you swear (or affirm) to tell the truth.

The thought of being on the witness stand and answering questions from your attorney and opposing counsel can be anxiety-provoking. You may be afraid of giving the wrong answer or of saying something that you believe will harm your case. You may be leery of opposing counsel and assume he or she is intentionally trying to trip you up.

If you know you will be testifying, follow these tips for the best experience:

  1. Review your discovery answers. During the discovery process, you may have answered questions, in writing or at a deposition, under oath. If you answered interrogatories or were deposed, ask your attorney for copies of your answers to interrogatories and your deposition transcript. Refreshing yourself with your answers will help you prepare for the types of questions you can expect to be asked on the witness stand. If you answer differently at the time of trial than how you answered during the discovery process, you will want to be able to explain why.
  1. Meet with your attorney. Your attorney has likely practiced in the same courtroom where you’ll be testifying. He or she has likely been in front of the same judge. Rely on your attorney’s experience. Ask any questions that that will relieve your anxiety, for example, how you should dress or what (if anything) you should bring. Ask who else may be in the courtroom. Ask about the set-up of the courtroom.
  1. Take your time. When you’re on the stand, you want to give the best testimony you can. Do not feel rushed. If you don’t understand the question being asked, simply say so. If you don’t know the answer, don’t try to guess. When your attorney is asking you questions, focus on him or her. Regardless of who is asking you questions, remember that you are under oath and have promised to tell the truth.
  1. Ask for a break if needed. Testifying can be overwhelming and exhausting. If you feel like you need a break, politely ask for one. Sometimes getting up and walking around for a few minutes can be reenergizing. If you would like a cup of water while your testifying or need tissues, have your attorney ask the judge for permission.
  1. Breathe. Nobody wants to be in open court spilling intimate details about their lives. You may be asked questions that are upsetting. You may be asked questions that require you to be vulnerable. Remember to breathe. When you are on the stand, it is your opportunity to tell the judge your story. Be brave, breathe, and allow your attorney to support you.

Your Koenig│Dunne family law attorneys are experienced litigators who know the ins and outs of the courtroom. We have the expertise to prepare you for what may be the most difficult day of your life. Our goal is to ensure you feel supported, especially when you are called to testify.

Lindsay Belmont

This blog is made available to the reader by Koenig|Dunne for educational purposes only, to provide general information and understanding of the law, and not to provide specific legal advice. By reading this blog, no attorney-client relationship is developed between the law firm and the reader. This blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state. The content of this blog is not an advertisement for legal services.