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.
As Angela prepares to celebrate her birthday, we are posting a #TBT blog back to when she threw a Celebration of Sparkle!
I say it every year – regardless of the gradual hike upward in age – I LOVE my birthday. I love a day designed for simply celebrating your own unique existence. This year I charged at my birthday with the same gusto as my nine-year-old daughter (who coincidentally celebrates her birthday the day after mine). I went so far as to put the party planning techniques I have mastered for my daughters’ birthday parties to use for my own. I hosted a Celebration of Sparkle in honor of the women in my life who contribute to my sparkle.
My intentions were threefold: join together some of my favorite women in one room and let the fun unfold; have an event around my birthday that I would look forward to, plan for and enjoy every minute of; and, put a bunch of glitter on stuff all around my house because that would simply make me happy. I met each intention and then some.
As I looked around at the women gathered in my living room, all dressed in their own bit of sparkle, I saw that I had formed lasting relationships with women at every stage in my life. There were high school friends, college friends, law school friends, and friends I had picked up over the last decade-plus since becoming a professional. And they were all still with me. As a divorced person, we may get the thought that we don’t know how to make relationships last. I felt affirmed looking at all of the women with me. I was, in fact, good at lasting relationships. My full living room proved it. But until it was staring me in the face, I had been holding a different and damaging opinion of myself. I realized one failed relationship does not make me a failure.
I know how hard it is to have your first birthday post-divorce. But I now also know how fabulous and fun your second birthday post-divorce can be with a little bit of focused intention. I urge you to consider taking one of the following actions for your birthday this year. Pick the one that matches your energy level best.
- Throw a party: Even if a party for 1. Make sure that you pause to celebrate you in a way that is meaningful for your heart. Whether it means a small dinner with a friend, a picnic in the park with you and your kids, or a long bath filled to the top with bubbles, pause and take time to honor you. In the way that means the most to you. Plan it, schedule it, mark the time out on your calendar. Anticipate it and then relish it.
- Celebrate your successes: Reflect on the last 12 months of your life. Write down – yes, I mean physically write down, each and every accomplishment. Write the sad parts that you got past. Write down the things that happened that you never could have predicted that brought you joy or pain. Write it all down. Look at what you did in the last year. Sit with it. Cry about it. Laugh about it. Feel proud.
- Write your vision: I urge you to think about your life a year from now. Be brave and muster up all the courage you can and look out a year from now. What would be the perfect thing to see? Where do you want to be? Get real and start thinking about the changes you would like to see, the parts you would like to improve or what absolutely must stay the same.
Most of all – I wish for you to get back to a point of celebrating your inner sparkle. It may be buried now, but it will resurface. I promise. And there is no better day than your birthday to start looking for it.
For divorced parents operating under the provisions of a parenting plan, a need may arise to ask a court to revisit the plan because certain provisions are either antiquated or not working. For example:
- Parenting time provisions no longer apply because our children are no longer in daycare.
- The right of first refusal has become a source of conflict between parents.
- One parent is not exercising his or her parenting time.
If you are contemplating a modification of your parenting plan, here are five considerations to keep in mind:
- The Unexpected Must Have Occurred
To modify a parenting plan, Nebraska law requires that a “material change in circumstances” have occurred—one that was not anticipated at the time the original parenting plan was entered by the court. In other words, something unexpected and significant must have happened since the entry of the original parenting plan to warrant changing the plan. Common examples of such events include: new work schedules, new living arrangements, new preferences of the child, and new criminal charges filed against a parent.
- Be Diligent in Documenting Modification Issues
The more specifically that you can describe and evidence the issue you are seeking to modify, the more likely you will be able to convince the court that a modification is necessary. For example, if a parent is consistently forfeiting parenting time, thus prompting a possible modification of that time, document all such forfeitures, including the date, amount of notice given, and magnitude of disruption.
- Timing Is Critical
The timing of a modification action can often seem like a catch-22. Bringing the action too soon could result in the court deferring to the original parenting plan. But waiting too long could be viewed by the court as your agreement on the issue that you would like addressed. Therefore, it is important that you meet with your attorney as soon as possible to determine whether the timing is right to seek a modification.
- Mediation Is a Requirement
Nebraska law requires that parents attempt to mediate parenting-plan modification issues before seeking court intervention, and the mediation process can often be invaluable in helping parents to reestablish communication on the issues prompting a modification request.
- Consensual Deviations Are Often Permissible
Most parenting plans contain language that allows parents to deviate from the terms of their parenting plan by mutual consent. For example, if 8:00 p.m. drop-off times are not working, both parents may agree to 7:00 p.m. drop-offs without having to return to court. This is in contrast to child support, which is not modifiable by agreement. Contact your attorney to determine whether you may consensually deviate from your parenting plan.
Your legal team at Koenig|Dunne understands the nuances and complexities of modifying a parenting plan, and we are here to help guide you through the modification process.
Divorce and debt typically go hand-in-hand. The interplay of bankruptcy and domestic support obligations can be complex. What follows is a brief overview of the impact a bankruptcy has on you if you are the person paying the obligation or the person receiving the support payment.
Person Paying Child Support/Alimony Files Bankruptcy
In Nebraska, you are required to list the recipient of the child support or alimony on the bankruptcy paperwork as a creditor even if you are current on making those payments. This will most likely include the individual you owe, but may also include the state agency assigned to collect the support (i.e., Nebraska Child Support Enforcement). You are required to list in the bankruptcy paperwork the amount that you are actually paying as a deduction from your wages or separately as a monthly expense.
Chapter 7: You cannot discharge or eliminate your legal obligation to pay child support or alimony, including any amounts that you were behind on prior to filing your case. However, the bankruptcy court can make a determination that a property settlement is in the nature of support even if your divorce decree states otherwise.
Chapter 13: In order to have your plan confirmed, you have to certify that you are current on child support and/or alimony payments. To receive your discharge at the end of the Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you have to certify that you made all required support payments during your case. If, at the time you file your Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you are behind on payments, you will be required to pay that amount in full through your plan. In a situation where you have a significant arrearage but can now pay your ongoing support obligations, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy may be your best option.
Filing a bankruptcy does not stop a court proceeding to establish or modify an order for support obligations. It does not stop the collection or payment of support obligations through wage withholding. Your license can still be suspended. Your tax refund can still be intercepted.
Person Receiving Child Support/Alimony Files Bankruptcy
In a bankruptcy, your right to receive child support and alimony are assets that you must list in your bankruptcy paperwork. If the person obligated to pay you support owes you for back support, then you must list that as an asset as well. The Nebraska Chapter 7 and 13 Trustees appointed to oversee your bankruptcy do not consider that asset as collectible. As such, you retain that asset.
You must also list the child support and alimony received as income in your bankruptcy paperwork. If you do not receive the support consistently, then you should notify your bankruptcy attorney who will make sure to include that note in your paperwork.
The Koenig│Dunne team expertly deals with the intersection of divorce and debt. Contact us to today to discuss how a bankruptcy impacts your domestic support obligation today.
The spring we fell in love I had just declared myself ready to date while he had long declared himself a happy bachelor. Five years later, we each chose to take another chance at enduring love. It was a second for me and a third for John.
Despite being older and wiser, marriage remained a risky proposition. He was a tidy minimalist. I was more on the messy side. He lived on an acreage and I in the heart of the city. Three of our children were still school age and our ages were separated by more than a decade. Nevertheless, we were willing to wed again.
Three years later, amidst our planning an epic family vacation to Alaska, John received the diagnosis. Cancer. The prognosis: A painful death in about two years. There would be no surgery, chemo, or radiation because it was “too late.”
For John, it was not too late for a second chance to seize life. He sold his chimney sweep business and resigned from his day job. He took up the study of macrobiotics and re-upped his meditation practice. We spent endless hours talking about wheatgrass juice, kale, and the power of positive thinking. We planted pumpkins, watched our children graduate from college, and took a dream trip to Italy.
John died eleven years after being given the death diagnosis.
John had choices. He kept taking chances. He kept saying yes. Yes to teaching in a classroom of kindergartners. Yes to fasting and chanting. Yes to a Grand Canyon hike. Yes to life.
With each choice to take the next chance came risks. Risk of failure. Risk of side effects. Risk of being thought a fool. The trip to Vancouver to study New German Medicine did not save John’s life, but it gave us a never forgotten drive through the mountains of Montana, the magnificent sight of Couer d Alene on a sunny day, and some of the most intimate conversations of our life with one another.
With each chance, John came more alive, even as his body declined. John was not cured of cancer, but he died a healed man and a hero to those who knew him.
This year marks seven years since John’s death. When it comes to life and to love, I’ll be giving them both more chances until my dying day. The champion of chances taught me that.
Are you willing to give yourself another chance?
What frightens you about the risk?
What might taking the chance get you?
She was troubled by her eighth grade essay assignment for school: to write about a significant challenge she had faced in life. She would be reading this essay in front of her class. “But I haven’t had a major challenge,” she bemoaned to her teacher. “Anna, aren’t your parents divorced?”
As she relayed this to me, privately I felt proud that she needed that reminder – that she didn’t consider having divorced parents as being a challenge. I was scooting toward being self-congratulatory and smug until she told me she thought that would be a good topic to write about.
On the plus side, she has not lost a beloved family member, a topic that was the focus of many of her classmates’ essays. She has not suffered her own health ailments. She has not been bullied. For the most part, she has been blessed.
She spent the weekend writing her essay. When I asked if I could read it, she declined to share. This surprised me. An old familiar worry tapped me on the shoulder and asked me if I was sure I had not damaged her by being divorced. I started to fret about what she didn’t want me to know about the impact of being a child of divorce.
She shared with me that the divorce in some ways has become harder the older she gets. She wrote about how she did not like having to ask at high school registration for different transportation for her dad’s house. She does not like it when an extended family member makes a negative comment about one of her parents or when they chide her for talking to one parent during the other’s parenting time. She does not like having to choose a parent to sit with on the bleachers during her younger sister’s games. She does not like vacationing without me.
I realized as she described these discomforts that the divorce has not become harder per se, but she has become more self-aware. While she does not see the divorce as a major challenge in her life, she is more mindful of how she has to make choices and experience life events without the benefit of both parents jointly by her side. She only gets me half of her time and her dad half of her time, and like her parents she wishes now it was more than that.
I see I have turned the corner with my daughters getting older. The divorce is now becoming a more equally shared experience for each family member. In the time ahead it will require more awareness, compassion, and communication as my daughters join the divorce journey alongside me instead of following behind.
Your divorce may result in the court ordering two types of support payments – child support and/or alimony. One way to ensure court-ordered is paid in full is to request the payor (the person ordered to pay support) to maintain a life insurance policy. The recipient should be named the beneficiary of the policy and the amount of the policy should be sufficient to satisfy the full amount of support ordered in the event the payor dies.
Every support award is comprised of two factors – amount & duration:
- Alimony: If alimony is awarded in your case, you will know the monthly amount that will be paid and for how long it will be paid.
- Child Support: Child support orders generally terminate when the child reaches the age of majority (19 in Nebraska), marries, dies, emancipates, or by order of the Court, whichever happens first.
The sum of the insurance policy can be determined by the following formula:
Full Amount of Support Ordered (amount x duration) – Support Already Paid = Amount of Policy
You will want to be explicit in your decree that the recipient has access to ensure the payor is complying with the life insurance provision. If you are the recipient, you may also ask the carrier(s) to notify you if the payor cancels any policy being used to fund court-ordered support payments.
Another option is called a conditional money judgment. If the payor dies before paying the full amount of support due, the recipient should be entitled to a conditional money judgment against the payor’s estate. The formula for determining the amount owed is the same as for the life insurance policy. The estate should pay the difference between the full amount of support ordered less the support already paid.
Other types of security may be ordered by the court so long as they’re “reasonable.” Regardless of whether you’re the payor or the recipient, talk with your Koenig│Dunne family law attorneys to decide the best way to protect your interests in this regard.
The postcard announcing the April event arrived along with the winter weight to my belly. For a runner, five miles is a modest goal. But despite giving running a go a time or two each year, I have never completed a run longer than a 5k (3.1 miles, if you’re like me and don’t know that off the top of your head).
This new goal meant going someplace I had never gone before. I’d need a map.
Where am I?
To create my map, I first needed to know where I was. The last time I went for a run was so long ago I could not remember when it was or how far I had gone. Once I registered for the event, I laced up my shoes. With short walking breaks along the way, I was able to complete 2 miles. That’s where I was.
Where do I start?
I start where I am—really. Where I am in my head is not where I am in reality. In my head I am the girl with short chubby legs who never went out for a single sport in high school and had her GPA lowered by her grade in gym class. In my head I am “not athletic” and definitely “not a runner.” In reality, I have run three miles many times, climbed 40 flights of stairs without stopping, and am more fit than I was a decade ago.
How do I know I’m going in the right direction?
I want to go to a place of improved strength and stamina. I am not seeking to outrun anyone but my former self. I am headed toward a place of confidence in my ability to continue to stretch myself beyond past limits. I am going toward a celebration that I have a body that is so healthy I have the good fortune of being able to set out on a new path.
What’s the best route for me?
The best route for me is a clear one. I like to know where I am going and when I am going. For my training, I pick the days and the distances. I put them in writing. If I can’t see the path, I’m likely to lose sight of it. When the temperatures dipped below freezing this week, it was easier to adjust my plans rather than be derailed by the setback of a spring snowfall.
What are my mileposts?
I broke my training into chunks. When I saw on my map that I could take it one leg at a time, I was able to grow more sure as I moved forward. Two miles this week. Three miles the next. I could do this!
Where do I rest along the way?
Deciding from the start where my breaks would be saves me from running myself into the ground. I get tempted with enthusiasm for new goals which inevitably leads to overdoing and to ultimately giving up on myself. Rather than collapse in exhaustion or injury halfway through, I intend to give myself a break or two.
What is my ultimate destination?
Where I want to end is doing what I said I would do. Keeping a promise to myself. Not giving up on me.
For me this is not a race but rather a pace that is all mine. With my map in hand, I trust I can find my way.
Is it time to set a goal for going someplace you’ve never been?
What’s important for your map?
How can your map make your travels easier?
April is World Autism Month. To learn more, click HERE.
Michaela has been a paralegal at Koenig|Dunne for over 3 years. Michaela is a divorced mom to Grace (16) and Sophia (14). This is her story as told to me.
I knew the minute she was born she was special. My Sophia with her dark hair and those large expressive eyes I could get lost in for a lifetime. Before she was born I wondered how I could love her as much I loved her older sister, Grace. Grace had captured my whole entire heart for the two years before Sophia came. But then Sophia arrived. My heart expanded the way mother’s hearts do and she filled it up.
It was a few years before “special” took on a new meaning for my Sophia. At two years old she was diagnosed with autism. I knew nothing about autism. I was scared. I felt lost and overwhelmed with worry.
After her diagnosis, I withdrew from the world as a wife, employee, and mother. I was obsessed about finding help for my daughter. Unfortunately, my research findings were insignificant, and therapies available to children in Nebraska with autism 12 years ago were scarce. Insurance mandates had not made their way to the State of Nebraska so any treatment found was incredibly expensive. We ended up placing Sophia in an autism treatment clinic at UNMC’s Munroe Meyer Institute that cost $300 per day (out of pocket).
I was 27. We were living paycheck to paycheck. The emotional and financial stressors introduced to our already crumbling marriage made divorce inevitable. I was a disengaged spouse, focusing solely on what I could do to help my daughter, no matter the cost.
Sophia was considered “low functioning” at the time of our divorce. She was considered non-verbal (she would only say “hi” at two years old) and communicated with hand gestures and a couple of signs. There was no way I was going to divide the time with my girls between their Dad and me.
I alone had done all the research.
I alone had found the treatment options.
I alone managed all of Sophia’s doctor’s appointments, therapist, insurance claims, bills, and education meetings.
It would be over my dead body that I would relinquish any of these parenting responsibilities to her father who I had pushed out of any part of the Sophia’s care. When the time came to develop our Parenting Plan, co-parenting a special needs child seemed impossible to me.
How will we ensure consistency in two households?
How will I know Sophia is taking her medication when she’s at her Dad’s house? Will he even give it to her? What about Sophia’s recommended treatments from therapists? What if we are not consistent in treatments in separate households?
What if we have a disagreement about education or medical care for medical care for Sophia? Who will make the decision to avoid disruption in care?
How, financially, are we going to continue medical treatment for our child? We’re broke.
Who is going to manage all the insurance paperwork?
Who is going to manage the multiple-time-per-week doctor’s appointments?
Who is taking off work to ensure Sophia goes to those appointments?
How am I going to manage all of Sophia’s care, continue working, AND be a mother to my oldest daughter without failing at it all?
Divorce involving children is hard. It tests you at every emotional place – even if the divorce is your choice. Divorce involving a special needs child elevates the challenges to an entirely new level – many of which I never realized until the final papers had been signed and I was on my own as a single parent for the first time.
What I discovered in the years after was that more than anything I needed to process my guilt around feeling relieved to be divorced. I was exhausted from being on edge caring for a special needs child 24 hours a day. Secretly, I was looking forward to “break” when Sophia went to her Dad’s house for parenting time. Despite the fact that I wanted to control everything, I so desperately needed a break to care for myself. I felt like a failure as a mother for looking forward to the breaks. What mom wants to be without their children for a couple days?
What I learned is that I am a better mom now because of that self-care. I am a better mom for learning how to be flexible. I am a better mom for letting Sophia’s dad in to support. I am a better mom for learning how to better communicate with her dad over the years because our daughter demanded consistency.
In the twelve years since our divorce, my former spouse and I have never litigated a modification action. We’ve both remained flexible, giving and taking when our child needs it. I have had to set aside my pride and ego more times than I care to admit. But now? My once non-verbal child at age 14 won’t stop talking or asking questions and all of the sacrifices were well worth it.
To complete a divorce, a significant amount of information must be exchanged between you and your spouse.
- What assets do we own?
- What debts do we owe?
- What parenting-time schedule would you prefer?
Discovery is the legal process of exchanging information. To do so, spouses typically answer two types of requests for information. The first is interrogatories, which asks spouses for written answers to questions. The second is requests for production of documents, which asks spouses to provide specific documents, such as bank statements, loan records, or tax returns.
If you are tasked with completing these discovery requests, your attorney will likely ask you to provide him or her with these requested documents and a first draft of answers. Here are four tips to help:
- Be Thorough in Your Discovery Responses
Interrogatory questions often contain many sub-questions. Similarly, requests for production of documents often require that you collect a large stack of documents. It is important that you answer each and every question and sub-question thoroughly, and that you provide every document requested. Failing to do so will result in incomplete discovery answers, which may cause delays in your case.
- Be Timely in Providing Information to Your Attorney
The sooner that you can provide your discovery responses to your attorney, the sooner that your attorney can help you to determine what information must be included in your responses and what information may be withheld.
- Alert Your Attorney Immediately If Your Information Has Changed
You are required to update your discovery responses if your original answers have changed. To do so, your attorney will need to file new documents with the court and notify your spouse’s attorney. Thus, it is important to immediately alert your attorney of any changes needed to your original discovery answers.
- Be Honest
Perhaps the most detrimental action you can take against your case during discovery is lying in your discovery responses. If you are concerned about your answers, speak with your attorney who can help provide guidance to these concerns.
Discovery is an invaluable information gathering process, which ensures that the evidence needed to properly settle your case or to prepare for trial is in the hands of your attorney. Your legal team at Koenig|Dunne is here to advise you regarding the process of discovery.
When faced with the prospect of bankruptcy, you want reassurance, knowing what will happen with your property. In an overwhelming majority of Chapter 7 bankruptcies, the person filing retains all property, including tools of trade, jewelry, and household goods. In Nebraska, there are laws called exemptions that you can use to protect your property in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
As I discussed in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, changes are on the way for exemption laws. In early February, the Nebraska Unicameral passed Legislative Bill 105 by a vote of 47-0, which significantly changes Nebraska exemption laws. The governor has signed the bill and it will become law sometime late July 2018. In the last part of this series, I will discuss the exemptions as they are now and the presumed impact of the new law regarding tools of trade, jewelry, and household good.
Tools of Trade
Currently, you can exempt $2,400 worth of tools of the trade. As discussed in Part 1 of this series, vehicles are currently included.
Example 1: You own and operate a cabinet-making business as a sole proprietor and are unmarried. Your tools are worth $10,000. Under the current law, you’d only be able to protect $2,400 of that value with the tools of trade exemption. You could also use the wild card exemption to protect another $2,500. That would leave some of your tools exposed to being liquidated to pay your creditors.
Under the new law, the tools of trade exemption will be $5,000. It will no longer cover vehicles because the law explicitly excludes vehicles as a tool of the trade. The wild card exemption also doubles to $5,000.
Example 2: You have the same tools as stated above. Under the new law you’d be able to exempt all of your tools, meaning you could continue operating your cabinet-making business without having to replace equipment after your Ch.7 bankruptcy concludes.
In Nebraska, you can protect jewelry as an immediate personal possession for 100% of the value. This includes weddings rings, earrings, and inherited jewelry such as grandma’s broach. The new law does not change or impact this exemption.
Example: You own a wedding band worth $5,000. You are able to protect that ring 100%.
Household Goods and Furniture
In Nebraska, you can protect household goods and furnishings valued at $1,500 total. If you and your spouse are filing, you can double the exemption to $3,000. Using garage sale or Craigslist values, it is highly unlikely that you have household goods and furniture exceeding $3,000 in total value. If you do, you can always use any available wild card exemption to further protect your property.
Example 1: You and your spouse have furniture and household goods valued at $2,500. When you file your joint Ch. 7 bankruptcy, you will be able to protect that property because you can protect up to $3,000 of household goods.
Under the new law, the exemption doubles to $3,000 per person. If you and your spouse file, you can double the exemption to $6,000.
Example 2: The total value of all of your household goods and furniture is $9,000, which includes some higher-valued antiques that your mother gave you when she moves into the long-term care facility. You and your spouse file Ch. 7. Under the current law, you’d be at risk of losing some of those items in a Ch. 7 bankruptcy. Under the new law, you’d be able to exempt $6,000 of the property with the household goods and furniture exemption. If you have available wild card exemption, you’d be able to protect the other $3,000 worth of value.
Rest assured that you most likely will be able to protect and retain all of your property in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The trustee, the person assigned to liquidate assets in a bankruptcy, most often cannot claim any property because you are able to exempt or protect it. However, each situation is unique. At Koenig│Dunne, one of our experienced bankruptcy attorneys can inform you how to protect your assets through a bankruptcy.
It’s familiar. The heaviness in my legs and chest. My trudge up the stairs instead of my usual scurry. The dullness of my energy as I carry on in a meeting. Grief is back.
My sweet winter romance ended before I saw my first daffodil bloom. Gone overnight is the one who could not wait to see me, gifted me poetry on a paper plate, and wrapped me in a sweet cherishing on the dance floor.
Neither of us young, we met on a Monday as I sat at the counter eating lunch alone. When he walked in wearing his cowboy hat, I instantly recognized his handsome face. He had approached me at a party three years prior when I was a grieving widow who accepted his card but not his invitation. This time I took both.
We were oddly perfect together. I’m an extrovert. He’s an introvert. I often talk in long paragraphs. He’s good with simple sentences. I like city life. He likes wide open spaces. I like my convertible. He likes his pickup truck. We both liked each other a lot.
Grief and I have travelled together many times. When my younger brother died at 35, people understood my grief. When my parents died, they sent cards and flowers. When my husband died, the outpouring of support was monumental. Each ending was marked with a ceremony and the support of many.
Moving forward requires we leave something behind. A job, a status, a home, a relationship, a dream. Sometimes we say “Good riddance! Got that behind me!” But whether we shout “Woohoo” or we weep, going onward means grief is coming with us.
When my losses were less than the end of a life, I sometimes dismissed the need to honor them. The divorce preceded by years of counseling in a desperate attempt to avoid its arrival. The judgeship I pursued but never got. The hope that my father and I would have that conversation we never did. This time, though others say, “It wasn’t that long. You knew from the beginning it wasn’t going to work out,” I don’t deny my ache.
To travel onward, whether out of necessity or choice, grief may take the seat next to us. She may slow us down a bit, but we cannot ignore her. She must be attended to. She asks:
Acknowledge me. How others assess the size of your loss is irrelevant. Own it.
Rest more. Don’t push. Don’t rush. Grieving is work.
Do a little something for someone else. Perspective reminds us we are not alone.
Get to know me. Do something each day to honor the past and grieve the loss. A small act of clearing. Revisiting a memory or a place. Journaling. A talk with a friend. A good cry.
Remember me. Grief will be with us throughout life. When it’s time for her to join you., she’s a necessary companion.
Is there a loss that you are called to grieve?
Are you ignoring your grief of allowing yourself to experience it?
Are you allowing yourself compassion as you honor your loss?
“He is a well-known athlete. He came to every meeting with a complete entourage of bodyguards, accountants, and managers. I advised him that he would need to leave said entourage at home for the child support hearing in front of the judge. The day of the hearing, he arrived with his entourage and finally agreed to leave them in the hallway – out of the courtroom. I then eyed the diamond encrusted watch on his thick wrist. I told him he would need to take off the $75,000 watch if I was going to proceed with advocating for a lowered amount of child support.
Suddenly he was in my face. We stood nose to nose. I fought with my 6 foot some and 200+ pound frame to avoid noticeable quivering. ‘This ain’t no $75,000 watch!’ he barked. ‘This watch is worth $300,000.’ I sighed and told him it needed to come off.”
I laughed along with the rest of the audience. I was in a room full of divorce attorneys from around the country. I was hearing tales of the rich and famous – but with a twist. These were tales of custody battles and child support of the rich and famous.
Another attorney rose to tell about the worries of another Hollywood divorcing couple. He spoke about his client’s fears about parenting time and how to minimize the impact on his children.
Over the course of a week in Hawaii at the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers midyear conference, I got to “talk shop” with lawyers ranging from New York to Texas to California. We attended several hours of continuing legal education seminars to obtain practice tips and specialized knowledge about how best to practice.
Out of all the legal education hours, the best learning I left with was how universal the challenges, worries, and fears of divorcing parents are. Regardless of race, geography, gender, income, age of minor children – the parental heartstrings are the same.
While laws for divorce, custody, and child support vary from state to state, the experience of having a law decide outcomes, restrictions, or parameters for how to parent is a jarring experience. With the dividing of time and directions for how to spend money with and for the children, this interference is a universal struggle for parents raising their children in separate households.
Most of the conversations I had with the lawyers were focused on how to make this better for parents and subsequently, the children. If you are a parent raising children in separate households and reading this blog, you are likely looking to make your experience better too. You are not alone.
If we continue to acknowledge the experience, tell the truth about our part in it, we can strive to move forward to make more universal good out of our situations. (However, it may still require that we not wear diamond watches to court.)
The Nebraska Child Support Guidelines provide for adjustments in child support if the parent paying support has 28 days of parenting time or more in any 90-day period. This is known as a child support abatement. Adjustments to a parent’s child support obligation can also be made if that parent’s parenting time substantially exceeds an alternating weekend schedule.
An example of when an abatement would be appropriate could look like this:
Mother has physical custody of the parents’ two children. Father pays child support to Mother. Father has routine parenting time every other weekend and one overnight per week. During the children’s summer vacation from school, Father has six weeks of uninterrupted parenting with the children. Within a 90-day period in the summer, Father has more than 28 days of parenting time. Father may request that his child support obligation be abated during the weeks in the summer when he has custody of the children.
If you are the payor of child support, you may request that a percentage of your child support obligation be abated (or decreased) during the period of time where you exercise exclusive possession of your children. If the judge finds you are entitled to a reduction, you will need to take action to ensure that your child support records reflect the abatement.
If you are the payee of child support, you too will want to ensure your child support records are accurate. If your co-parent seeks a an abatement to which you do not believe he or she is entitled, you need to take proactive steps to contest the abatement.
Your family law attorneys at Koenig│Dunne can review your parenting plan and determine whether you or your co-parent is entitled to an abatement. We will walk you through the procedural steps and give you what you need in order to guarantee that your abatement is accurately reflected with the Nebraska Child Support Payment Center.
I lay under my quilt the morning after a return from a long weekend at the beach. The comforting sound of the rain excuses me from rushing to the responsibilities of the day. I listen to the morning weather report with my eyes closed. “Light snow falling in the metro area” gets me on my feet and to the window. Welcome to day one of spring.
A start of a spring grounds me in the reality that nothing is permanent. Despite the mix of rain and snow on this day, I am reminded all winters end and it’s time to wake up and take notice that something different is about to happen. It is a signal to set new intentions, as I am no longer in the time or place that I once was.
All things become lighter in spring. The sky with its longer days. My coats going from black wool to pink silk. The heavy comforter on my bed being replaced by the white summer spread.
The first pokes of the daffodil leaves declare that their cheerfully yellow faces will soon greet me when I walk out my door. The pigeon faithfully protecting her precious tiny egg announces a new arrival is coming soon.
Spring brings both clearing and cleaning – the ice scraper, winter boots, and the last vestiges of Christmas baubles that have stuck around. Of the dust under my bed, the piles of papers from my taxes, and the dirt on the windows.
The start of this season brings memories of those gone by. Of gardens planted. Of love fallen into. Of glorious days of recognizing the winter was finally gone for good. Despite arriving year after year, no two are every exactly the same.
As I wait for the opening of the blossoms on the red bud tree, I pledge to be present to the tiny signs that I am never stuck in any season forever. I look for the robin. The grape hyacinth. My lilac bush that will soon reward me glorious gifts without my having to do a thing.
As I let go of seasons gone by and hold onto the anticipation of good awaiting me, I give thanks for the sweet hope of spring.
What can be cleared away from a season gone by?
What are you willing to allow to be lighter?
What might you feel hopeful about?
She felt sick to her stomach and ran to the restroom. She was embarrassed as she bumped past her third grade classmates. Her cheeks were tear-stained when she made it to the nurse’s office. “I just threw up and I don’t feel good.” The nurse took her temperature revealing a fever.
“Ms. Smith? This is Nancy, the school nurse. Rebecca just threw up and is running a fever. Are you able to come pick her up?”
“I am. But today is her dad’s day. I can come get her, but you should call him first.”
“Mr. Smith? This is Nancy, the school nurse. Rebecca just threw up and is running a fever. Are you able to come pick her up?”
“I can’t be there for a few hours. I have a meeting at work.”
“I spoke with Ms. Smith and she is able to pick up Rebecca.”
“No. It is not her day. Rebecca will have to wait.”
“Hey Randy – Why does your mom stand by the door? Why doesn’t she sit on the bleachers with our parents?”
“She says it isn’t her day.”
“Dad, can I call mom and tell her about my spelling test?”
“No. You can tell her Wednesday when you see her again.”
Legally, these parents are within their right to assert their positions and take the actions. These parents were objectively correct, but actually wrong. Many parents fail to understand what the “best interests of the child” means. Some parents believe it is about who the better parent is. Some parents believe it is about who is right and who is wrong. Some parents believe it is about following a parenting plan with rigidity.
What if these parents instead shifted their focus to their child’s feelings? What if the best interests of the children was served by parents putting their feet in their children’s shoes and looking at how their “right” position made their children feel? If the desired outcome is happy and well-adjusted children post-divorce, what would it be like if this was the focus?
When exercising flexibility, openness, and compassion your desired outcome may actually become your reality. And we are all the better for it.
As April 15th creeps closer, spouses often have questions and concerns about how to file their taxes both during divorce and after.
What filing status should I report on my taxes?
Who gets to claim our marital deductions this year?
How is our tax refund divided?
Here are some answers to tax questions commonly asked by spouses going through divorce.
Which Marital Status May I Choose?
Whether you may file as single or married is determined by your marital status on December 31st of the tax year. For example, if your divorce becomes final on October 1, 2018, you may not file as married for 2018.
When Is My Divorce Considered Final for Tax Purposes?
Under Nebraska law and IRS rules, you are no longer considered married once your divorce decree becomes final, which occurs 30 days after your divorce decree is entered by the court. For example, if your divorce decree is entered by the court on December 2nd, 2017, then it will not become final until January 1, 2018. In this situation, you would have to file as married for your 2017 taxes.
Should I File a Joint or Separate Tax Return?
Unless a court order says otherwise, you may always file a separate tax return without coordinating with your spouse. However, marital tax burdens are usually lessened by filing a joint return. To do so, you must obtain your spouse’s consent. But it is important to note that if you have any concerns about your spouse’s truthfulness in his or her tax filings, then you should strongly consider filing separate returns.
How Are Tax Refunds or Tax Liabilities Divided?
Generally speaking, Nebraska courts will equally divide tax refunds and tax liabilities incurred by spouses during marriage regardless of whether spouses file joint or separate returns. For the tax year that you are divorced, some Nebraska judges look to how long you were married for that year to determine whether or how much of your taxes should be divided. Others look to how long you were living together with your spouse during the tax year to determine whether or how much of your taxes should be divided. For example, if you and your spouse reside together until December 1st, 2018, then it is likely that your 2018 taxes will be considered marital property.
Who Gets to Claim Tax Deductions When Filing Separately?
Unless a court order says otherwise, the spouse who files first gets to claim all tax deductions. Keep in mind, however, that if these deductions correspond to a marital tax liability (mortgage interest, etc.), then a court will likely compensate the non-claiming spouse elsewhere in the division of marital assets.
When making any tax decisions during divorce, it is important that you consult with your tax adviser and your attorney. Your legal team at Koenig|Dunne is aware of the many tax issues that you will face during your divorce and is here to help advise you.
When faced with the prospect of bankruptcy, you want reassurance, knowing what will happen with your property. In an overwhelming majority of Chapter 7 bankruptcies, the person filing retains all of his or her property, including bank accounts, tax refunds, and retirement accounts. In Nebraska, there are laws called exemptions that you can use to protect your property in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
As I discussed in Part 1 of this series regarding exemptions to protect your home and car, for Nebraska exemption laws, changes are on the way. In early February 2018, the Nebraska Unicameral passed Legislative Bill 105 by a vote of 47-0, which significantly changes exemption laws (Nebraska Revised Statutes 25-1552 and 25-1556). The bill is waiting on the governor’s signature to be made law. In a three part series, I will discuss the exemptions as they are now and the presumed impact of the new law.
You can use the wild card exemption (Neb. Rev. Stat. § 25-1552) to protect the amount of money you have on deposit in your checking or savings accounts on the date of filing. The amount does not take into outstanding checks that have yet to clear. If you are filing a Chapter 7 individually, you can protect up to $2,500. If you are filing a Chapter 7 with your spouse, you can protect up to $5,000. If the only source of the funds is from Social Security, the amount is protected 100%.
Example 1: You file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy individually and have $4,000 in your account. The money exclusively is comprised of income from wages. You have an outstanding check for $1,200 for rent that your landlord has yet to cash or deposit. As such, you have $4,000 not $2,800 that you need to protect. It is advisable to wait until the check clears and the amount in your account falls below $2,500 and then file your case unless there is an emergency pending such as a wage garnishment.
Under the new law the wild card exemption is set to double from $2,500 to $5,000 per person. This is a significant change that will allow Nebraskans to have a stable base when exiting his or her bankruptcy with a fresh financial start.
Example 2: You and your spouse file Ch. 7 together and have $7,500 in your bank account. Under the new law, you’d be able to exempt those funds 100%. Under the old law you would have had to turnover $2,500 to the Trustee to distribute to your creditors.
When you receive your tax refund, it is advisable to deposit that money into a separate bank account other than where your paychecks, child support, Social Security, or business income is deposited. In Nebraska, the Earned Income Credit portion of your tax refund is exempt 100% (Neb. Rev. Stat. § 25-1553). You can also use the wild card exemption to protect your tax refund. Under the new law, you’ll have an additional $5,000 of wild card exemption to use.
Example 1: Your tax refund is $7,500. The earned income portion is $2,500. You deposit the entire tax refund into a separate account. No other money is deposited into the account. You file Ch. 7 bankruptcy individually. You use the Earned Income exemption to protect the $2,500, leaving $5,000 to that you need to protect. You only can protect $2,500 of that $5,000 using the wild card exemption, leaving $2,500 unprotected. Under the new law, you’d be able to protect the entire amount.
Example 2: Your tax refund is the same as in Example 1. Instead of depositing it into a separate account, you deposit it in the account where you also receive your paycheck. You are unable to claim the Earned Income exemption, leaving $5,000 unprotected. Under the new law, you would be able to protect an additional $2,500, still leaving $2,500 unprotected.
In Nebraska, you can protect your retirement account up to an amount reasonably necessary for the support of yourself and any of your dependents (Neb. Rev. Stat. § 25-1563.01). In order to use the exemption, the account cannot have been established or amended to increase the contribution by the individual within the two years prior to filing. The retirement plan must also qualify under section 401(a), 403(a), 403(b), 408, or 408A of the Internal Revenue Code.
In effect, this protects most retirement accounts 100%. This is a main reason why it is highly inadvisable to liquidate any retirement accounts to pay your debt. The new law does not change or alter this exemption.
Example: You have a 401(k) with $10,000 that you started three years ago and you are 50 years old. Your retirement account will be protected 100%.
Rest assured that you most likely will be able to protect and retain all of your property. The trustee, the person assigned to liquidate assets in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, most often cannot claim any property because you are able to exempt or protect it. However, each situation is unique. At Koenig│Dunne, one of our experienced bankruptcy attorneys will review your assets and inform you how to protect your assets through a bankruptcy.
“Pack clothes for beach yoga. And shall we go sailing on Saturday?”
I was about to escape the gray skies that insisted upon holding tightly to the final few days of a midwestern winter. I paused at the suggestion of a St. Patrick’s Day sail. My mind raced to a past where criticism of my incompetency on the water left me feeling a failure not just as a sailor but about everything in my life.
The flash from the past left as quickly as it arrived, and I began to think about what I’d pack for blue skies and sunny days with friends. As it turned out, less than I thought.
I pride myself in packing light. I’ve been known to get by with a single small backpack for a trip to Costa Rica. Yet when heading to a new adventure I sometimes pack the unnecessary. The heavy. The burdensome. Though I may never take them out of my suitcase I thoughtlessly throw them in, “just in case.” Just in case it’s going to be uncomfortable or scary. Just in case I’ll look bad if I don’t have it. The more I pack the more prepared I’ll be, I tell myself.
This time I’m packing only the fundamentals and the essentials. My intention is to relax and have fun. My curiosity is to listen well to the stories of loved ones. I’ll even toss in some flexibility just in case it rains. And I never want to leave town without gratitude in my bag.
What I won’t pack are items that have weighed me down during travels of my past. To resist the urge to pack the unnecessary, I wrote:
My Not Packing List:
Expectations of what the experience “should be”
Old stories about my incompetence
Beliefs about breaks while the work awaits
Judgments about my body (Did I mention beach?)
My To Do’s upon my return
Carrying what I need and leaving behind what I don’t, everything will feel lighter. I don’t need the big and the heavy. I need the small and the best. Sunshine, here I come.
It’s #TBT! If you heed Angela’s advice in her Permission to Parent series – you may also be able to say, “Lucky Us.”
I remember the instantaneous excitement I felt when the girls came home from school and enthusiastically reported that Anna got a part in the play. As someone who did my own share of performances in junior high and high school, I was thrilled to see her so excited to experience the unique kind of magic that being part of a cast and a show produces.
This was her first year with a role, a costume, and a solo. I wanted to be with her for all of it and to celebrate it all. When mapping out the rehearsal and performance schedules, my heart sank. She would not be with me the evening of the show. She would be at her dad’s.
As word got around that Anna would be in the show, my mom made plans to travel back in from Oregon, and Anna’s paternal grandparents from Texas made their travel arrangements as well. Anna’s time was going to be at a premium and everyone would want their share. I messaged her dad a week or so in advance and asked if we might all meet for ice cream after the show to support and celebrate Anna. I had already previously agreed that he could have my Friday night that week to allow her grandparents to spend more time with her.
When he responded a week or so later that ice cream after would be fine, I felt so lucky. It is the only word to describe our situation some days. I feel lucky that my co-parent and I can be flexible with our schedules. I feel lucky that we continue to support our children’s relationships with their extended families to the fullest extent possible. I feel lucky that our families support us despite our divorced status.
With St. Patrick’s Day falling a week after this picture was taken, you can see why in this season I value and appreciate how lucky we are. This extended and blended family coming together to support one child, requires all of us to do our part. It requires all of us to focus on family.
Many families are not so lucky. I regularly hear reports of ex in-laws bad-mouthing the other parent and the only reason the parent learns about it – the children tell their parent what they heard. Some families are not able to move to the forgiving and forgetting part. Some families lose sight of how family changes for every member except the children. Children do not have former grandparents, or ex-aunts and ex-uncles. They just have family members. And only the lucky children have parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, step-parents and step-families who remember this.
Here my former mother-in-law has her arms around my sister’s son (who was born after we were divorced). My brother in the back is happy to have another tall member in the form of my daughters’ stepbrother. My former husband and his wife crowded in next to my mom without hesitation. This is our family. We have kept the focus of how, for better or worse, we are connected as a family through our children. Lucky us.
If you are considering divorce, or are in the beginning stages of your divorce, you may wonder what information or documentation will be needed throughout the process. Depending on the issues of your case, you may need to provide bank statements, pay stubs, or bills. Here are the most common documents you will need during your divorce:
- Federal income tax returns for (at least) the two most recent tax years, including W-2s, 1099s, and all Schedules and Attachments.
Tax returns include a lot information that will be helpful for you and your attorney during your divorce. They provide an overall snapshot of your financial position. Tax returns tell a story. If child support is an issue, your judge may ask you to provide copies of at least two years’ tax returns to ensure child support is accurately calculated.
- Documentation of cost of health insurance for children.
Your attorney will likely ask for documentation showing the monthly out-of-pocket cost for medical insurance for “Employee Only” and also the cost for “Employee and Child(ren) Only.” You will want to provide similar information if you also have dental and/or vision insurance.
This documentation is directly related to child support. Your child support calculation takes into consideration the costs of health insurance for both parents and the child(ren). If you provide health insurance for yourself, you will receive a deduction in the calculation. If you provide health insurance for your child(ren), you will receive a credit in the calculation. It is important to obtain documentation showing the breakdown of benefits in order to accurately compute support.
- Copies of the most recent statements for all debts.
All debts incurred during the marriage, or incurred for marital purposes, are considered “marital debts” and will be equitably divided between you and your spouse. Credit card statements, mortgage statements, auto loan statements, etc., related to debts incurred during your marriage will be considered when dividing the marital estate. Typically, the marital estate will be valued as of a certain date. The balance of your marital debts as of that date will then be divided as fairly as possible.
If you and/or your spouse have debts that were incurred before your marriage, those debts may be considered “premarital.” Premarital debts will likely remain with the spouse who incurred them. In other words, these debts will probably not be divided.
- Copies of the most recent statement for all bank accounts and investment accounts.
Bank accounts and investment accounts are subject to division in your divorce. Your attorney will want to see the balances of any joint bank accounts, individual accounts, as well as any interest you or your spouse may have in any investment accounts. The valuation date used to value your marital estate will come into play here as well. These statements will show the asset’s worth as of a certain date.
- Copies of the most recent statement for all retirement accounts.
Retirement accounts are subject to division in divorce, and are often the most valuable marital assets in the estate. If you or your spouse began contributing to a retirement account during your marriage, it is likely that the entire account will be considered marital. If the account was opened prior to the marriage, or after you and your spouse separated, the account may have a pre-marital component, or may be entirely non-marital. Copies of these statements help your attorney determine the value of the retirement accounts and an equitable division of same.
Identifying the Plan Administrator(s) of the retirement account(s) will also help your attorney prepare the required documents in order to divide the account(s).
Your divorce is unique to you and your attorney’s request for documentation will be unique to your circumstances. It is important to partner with your family law attorney so that he or she has what is necessary to be your zealous advocate. Partnering with your Koenig│Dunne family law attorneys will help you achieve what matters most to you during this important process.
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.