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:

Nobody mentioned the hundreds of innocent people murdered by angry mobs. No one spoke of the 35 blocks burned to the ground within 24 hours or of the fleeing of tens of thousands left homeless. Oklahomans didn’t know their history.

I was a 17 when I traveled to Tulsa. A group of Omahans charged with developing a school desegregation plan went to see how they’d integrated theirs. It was 1973. White flight, years of redlining, and a freeway that sliced our Black community through its center had severely segregated our schools—some 20 years after the Supreme Court declared doing so was unconstitutional.

They’d chosen a naïve white girl as the sole student rep on the committee to work on desegregation.

On our Tulsa tour we learned nothing of the massacre of Black Wall Street of 1921 when the prosperous Greenwood neighborhood was decimated by whites. It started after an undetermined incident involving two teens in an elevator– Sara the seventeen-year-old white elevator operator and Dick the 19-year-old Black shoe shiner.  Some say she screamed, and he ran, but we don’t really know.

What we do know is that for decades the city of Tulsa was silent about the white pilots in planes who had dropped dynamite and about the financial futures of the generations lost.  History books said nothing of it, and few who grew up in Tulsa even knew of the horrors.

We were silent in my hometown, too.

When local police killed Vivian Brown by a shot in her back, not a word was spoken of it. I was her age when it happened: 14.

Not in one class of twelve years was it mentioned that Will Brown’s body was drug through the streets after he was lynched by a white mob in front of our county courthouse.

At the family supper table, neither mom nor dad explained the rage behind the riots roaring on the six o’clock news that played in black and white on each of the three channels.

This week they are digging in Tulsa, searching for yet more bodies that were dumped into mass graves now a hundred years ago. I have Tulsa on my mind as I leave for a summer road trip, again to the south.

This time the civil rights museum in Memphis is sure to teach me more of what I haven’t known and wish I didn’t need to. In Birmingham will be site of the basement of the 16th Street Baptist Church where Addie, Cynthia, Carole and Denise were killed by the KKK with dynamite just 11 days after a federal court order of school integration.

May I be a better student than I was then. I’m not 17 anymore. It’s time I learn the truth and tell it.

Coach Koenig

How has your understanding of the truth changed over time?

Is there a longstanding truth you have not admitted?

How might you be a better student of the truth?

 

With rising legal fees and court costs, the uncertainty of trial calendars and outcomes, and the overall toll that litigation can take on a divorcing couple, Collaborative Divorce may be a better option for Nebraskans going through divorce. Generally speaking, those who choose to proceed collaboratively agree that they will not resort to the court for any judicial relief, voluntarily disclose all of their assets and liabilities and come to temporary and permanent agreements on all issues in their case. Yet, common misconceptions and questions about Collaborative Divorce persist. Here are just some misperceptions, and reasons why the right clients should strongly consider proceeding collaboratively with their case:

            Traditional Divorce Can Be Just as Civil as Collaborative Divorce: The vast majority of divorce cases ultimately settle short of trial, and may be civil at times along the way. Unfortunately, settlement usually comes after months of temporary hearings, discovery proceedings, unpredictable communication timelines, vagueness about whether the parties both want to resolve their matter outside of court, and several thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees.

In collaborative divorce, from your initial 4-way meeting forward, the attorneys and their clients affirm in a participation agreement that they WILL be civil. By making this commitment early on in the process, they remove almost any doubt that matters will turn uncivil later on when, in litigation, a temporary hearing goes against them, damning information in discovery is revealed for the first time, or numerous letters and corresponding fees generated in seeking the same information repeatedly from the other side.   Non-collaborative divorce proceedings can be civil, but collaborative divorce is a process that guarantees civility, timely resolution, and certainty regarding fees.

            You and Your Spouse are Adversaries in Divorce, and Incapable of Being Collaborative: Of course, there are usually very good reasons why divorce clients have chosen to part ways with one another. Unfortunately, in traditional litigation there are few guard rails to prevent clients from how they feel about each other to cloud out all reason in their actions, involve their minor children in their divorce, and ultimately engage in very self-defeating behaviors against their attorney’s advice.

In collaborative divorce, the attorneys intentionally seek out the objectives and goals of both parties at the first 4-way meeting, including asking about why they are getting divorced, so there are little to no surprises about underlying reasons that may affect the process later on. In traditional litigation, if you are in a no-fault divorce state, it probably will never be asked by anyone why you are getting divorce. In collaborative divorce, it is specifically asked so that your attorneys know those reasons up front, and are able to craft a case plan specifically to fit both your needs and objectives.

            There is Less Opportunity to Investigate the Truth in Collaborative Divorce: There is no formal disclosure of facts by either party under oath in collaborative divorce. Nevertheless, the collaborative process provides for a thorough review of ALL necessary documentation from both parties at the very beginning of the process. It is often said by collaborative divorce practioners, “there really are no secrets.”

If either party feels as if they are being cheated by not have the ability to investigate the other’s “truth”; i.e. assets, debts, etc., then that is more of a function of poor client screening and lack of identifying required documentation, as opposed to an inherent flaw in collaborative divorce itself. With the right clients who are unwilling to hide the truth from the other, along with proper document identification and gathering, collaborative divorce offers more than enough opportunity to disclose all relevant information – truth – to both sides.

            Collaborative Divorce Ties Your Lawyer’s Hands: This is not true. You and your collaborative divorce lawyer, if anything, have become much more empowered to have control over the final outcomes in your case. In traditional litigation, if trial is necessary, decrees often contain provisions that are impractical and do not work well for either client. Everyone’s hands are tied by the judge’s decisions, while in collaborative divorce your team of attorneys and professionals has the unique opportunity to be unmoored from a “one size fits all” approach often taken by judges in decrees.

Your lawyer has the ability to speak to opposing counsel regarding issues arising when they occur, and solve them, as opposed to waiting 6-9 months for a trial date in a litigated case. Your lawyer also has direct access to other team members, including your divorce coach, child specialist, and financial neutral to discuss and problem-solve any issues that your client may disclose to them during the case. In sum, in collaborative divorce your lawyer’s hands are not only untied, but empowered with knowledge, insight and unique problem-solving abilities to address your situation they may never get ordered in traditional litigation.

            Collaborative divorce is not for every divorcing couple, but for the right clients it can be the best way to proceed with your divorce. I hope this supports if you have doubts about whether the  collaborative divorce process can work for you.

   Scott V. Hahn

“The governor’s office is line two for you.” My heart pounded.  

Once again someone not the governor had the chore of telling the unchosen prior to the press release that said it wasn’t you. 

I’d applied to be a juvenile court judge. I detailed my career accomplishments, got glowing references, and confidently answered questions before the judicial nominating commission of nine. They advanced my name on the short list of the qualified. I travelled to the state capitol to interview with the governor. 

“Next time,” the caller once consoled. Initially I was sufficiently politically naïve to believe them.  I resisted warnings that being an advocate for equality as the past president of the Nebraska chapter of the National Organization for Women disqualified me from being a judge in a state whose motto is “Equality before the law.” With each vacancy I, I tried again. 

One by one I attended the swearing in ceremonies of Larry, Liz, Doug, Wadie, and Bob. Thereafter I would address my friends as “Your Honor” or “Judge”. The bruise of my ego was less than my sureness of being a disappointment to Mom and especially to my children. 

For years at parties and Thanksgivings well-meaning friends and family asked, “Are you a judge yet?” I could hardly blame them. Unlike a private online job pursuit, this process was public. The local paper announced each opening, application, and appointment. That I’d disappointed the questioners stung for years. 

Author Marianne Williamson said, “If a train doesn’t stop at your station, then it’s not your train.” 

Each time I thought it was my train. Turns out the first one belonged to Larry. Last week I learned that Larry was retiring. He faithfully served families in our community and led the creation of a statewide collaboration to make our juvenile justice system better.  That first train came and went in 1992. 

I waited. While on the platform I would watch my brother die of AIDS, grow my law firm, and fall in love anew. 

My train did come along for nearly another decade. It said, “Life Coach, Speaker, Guide.”  Until it stopped right in front of me, I never fully understood why all the others hadn’t. 

I’m grateful that Larry caught his and that mine arrived on schedule. I trust wholeheartedly that more wonderful travels await each of us, enjoying the ride and the beautiful views. 

Coach Koenig 

Have you ever worried you train will never arrive? 

What trains are you glad you let pass you by? 

Which train will you get on next? 

 

Deciding to proceed with a divorce is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make.  Moreover, filing for divorce might feel like a daunting task, even if both spouses want a divorce. So, does it matter which spouse files for divorce?  The short answer is No. In the eyes of the court, both spouses are entitled to adequate notice and a chance to be heard and present arguments. Thus, from the Court’s perspective, it does not matter which spouse files first because the court is a neutral decision-maker. As a neutral decision-maker, the court will not give preference to the spouse based on who initiated the divorce action.

Although the Court doesn’t have a preference for which spouse files the divorce action first,  there may be strategic reasons for doing so. Discuss with your attorney whether there are advantages to you filing first. If there is concern that your spouse may transfer assets if they learn about your plans to divorce, your attorney might advise you to seek a temporary restraining order to protect you against such action, without giving prior notice to your spouse. Or, if you are separated from your spouse and have a temporary arrangement that is currently working, your attorney may advise you to wait until your spouse files.  

Whether or not to file first does not have to be a decision you make on your own. Let your experienced divorce attorney at Koenig|Dunne support you in this important decision.   

  

“One last question.” She paused. ” When does it get easier?”  

For a good hour we’d been reviewing her goals, timelines, and action steps. An energetic entrepreneur, she’d left her grueling well-paid job at the insurance company to strike out on her own. Despite the pandemic, she’d managed to pay down debt, have a steady stream of clients, and develop a reputation as a brilliantly insightful consultant. 

But in this moment, life wasn’t feeling easier. She recently recovered from a surgery, had a niece newly diagnosed with cancer, and was implementing new software for her business. She was worn out and overwhelmed. 

I resisted the hollow words of “someday”, “eventually”, and “in time.” 

“Let’s talk about that next time,” I said.  

For years it never occurred to me that life could or perhaps even should be easier. If I began to think my life was hard, I didn’t have to look far to see how good I had it.  My mother had 8 children; I had two. My sister went blind while she was on the brink of fulfilling her dream of a teaching career; I had work I loved. Why did I think my life should be easier? 

When I began my law career, initially I had too few clients and too little money. Then too much work and still too little money. Eventually it was too much work and too little time.  

For years I slept too little, laughed too little, and worked too much. Life was exhausting. 

 Until I believed it was okay for my life to be easier, I did not consider how I could try to make it so.  Instead of comparing my life to others who suffered more (or being filled with envy of those I imagined living on Easy Street), I had to tell the truth about my choices. 

The truth was that I was lousy at letting in support. A longtime solo practitioner, my ego resisted admitting that I was incapable of always doing it all on my own. Now my legal team is twenty. 

My ego also insisted I prove l was hardworking. Attempting to impress my imaginary boss, I ignored the essentials of a small morning workout and meditation. Now I don’t. 

Challenges never go away. Some I choose, like committing to a big writing project. Others show up unexpectedly, like my oldest son being crushed in that car crash a few months ago. With each opportunity, I try to ask how it might be made easier. I no longer see ease as a sin. 

When I see my client next, I’ll have more questions than answers: What would an easier life look like, and where shall we start to help you get there? 

  Coach Koenig 

 

One of the biggest decisions to be made during the divorce process is what will happen to the family home?  This decision is more than just a legal one.  It impacts both emotions and finances.

Although there are many factors to consider, generally there are two options for the home – either one spouse will keep it or it will be sold.  Regardless, determining the amount of equity in the family home is an important first step in being able to make this big decision.

Simply stated, equity is the difference between the value of the home and the amount owed in mortgage/debt against the property. 

For example, let’s consider a couple who has a mortgage on their home. In this example, the home is valued at $300,000 and the mortgage is $200,000

 This is what the equity calculation looks like:  

Home Value  $ 300,000 

Mortgages  – $ 200,000 

___________________________

Equity             $ 100,000

With a home valued at $300,000, and a mortgage totaling $200,000, the difference (the equity) is $100,000.  

How home equity is divided depends on the plan for the home in the divorce. If the house is to be sold, the equity will most likely be divided at the time of sale, after the costs of the sale have been paid. However, if you or your spouse will be awarded the home, the other party will be compensated for their share of equity. 

The compensation may be in the form of other assets or an agreement to refinance and reimburse the other spouse for their share of equity.

You and your spouse’s home may be one of the most valuable assets in the divorce. Thus, it is important to communicate with your attorney regarding:  

  • Valuation of the property. 
  • Refinancing to remove mortgage liability of one party.  
  • Dates that actions, like listing the home, should be taken. 
  • Who the real estate agent should be. 
  • How costs for preparing the home for sale should be allocated.  
  • How making mortgage payments should be handled.  

 If you are considering divorce, talk to an experienced Koenig|Dunne attorney regarding the impact your home equity may have in the overall division of your marital estate.

“Are you leaving?” she asks from the sidewalk as I stood beside the door of my car.

“Sorry, just arriving,” I say. I presumed the middle- aged woman in blue jeans and a black t-shirt was hoping for a parking spot in my gentrifying neighborhood.

 She turns to keep walking. “If you was leaving I was going to ask you for a ride.”

“I can give you a ride. I just need to make room.”

“Can I help?”

 She carries my newly purchased flat of red and white petunias inside before hopping into the only passenger seat of my tiny car.

“Where are you headed?”
“East Omaha.”  I wonder if we’re headed to the Open Door Mission.

“I don’t have any gas money,” she explains. “A friend offered to give me a ride but I didn’t have no gas money.”

 “I’m Susan.”

“I’m Bobbie Jo.” She holds out her hand for me to shake and I realize she has no mask.

”I’m vaccinated,” I say, “If you’re worried about COVID.”

 “I’m not worried,” she says. I don’t leave my house much.”

 I warn her to be careful but stop short of giving a lecture on the CDC Guidelines.

 “Oooh I’m sweating,” she says, waiving her hand in front of her face. I press the button to roll down her window and let in the cool spring air.

 She’d already walked to the Dollar Store that day when her friend who’d been called into work needed a babysitter. Bobbie Jo would get there as soon as she could.  

It was four and a half miles from where I’d picked her up.

“I like to help people out. Plus, she pays me good…I came to Omaha for a man. We were together for six years. But then I found out he was cheating on me…I’ve never been so broke. Even a dollar would help.” I look straight ahead.

“I have no doubt that anyone who is as determined and helpful as you is going to be okay,” I say.

“Why thank you.”

 We drive through a stretch of the inner city where cheery new housing was sprinkled between buildings either industrial or abandoned.

“Where does your friend work?” I ask. She pauses.

“At some factory, I think.  She’s always greasy when she gets home. Turn here.”

I pull onto a vacant lot.

“Have a blessed evening,” she says as she gets out. She walks toward a lot enclosed by a crude fence of tall boards.  She enters through the opening where a gate might have been. She heads toward a run- down trailer with towels for curtains.

“There aren’t enough good people in the world,” she told me on our dusk hour drive. There was one. And I’d just met her.

How do you decide when to go outside of your comfort zone?

Have you missed making new friends this past year?

How often do you make assumptions about people?

In Nebraska, divorce is a multi-step process that includes filing for divorce. What the term “file for divorce” means may depend on who is using it. When an attorney uses the term “filing for divorce,” they are generally referring to the legal process of filing a legal document, like a Complaint for Dissolution, with the clerk of the court. However, one spouse may tell the other they have “filed for divorce” before any legal documents have been filed with the court. Instead, they may be using this phrase to mean they have contacted an attorney to begin the process, or their attorney has started drafting the paperwork.   

These filings are public record.  So, if one spouse has filed the initial legal documents, there will be a record of them taking this action.  If there is no record, they may have simply started the divorce process.  Steps that a party can take before officially filing for divorce may include:   

·       Obtaining a referral for an attorney;  

·       Scheduling an appointment with an attorney;   

·       Preparing for an initial consultation;   

·       Meeting with an attorney;  

·       Retaining an attorney;   

·       Providing documents to their retained attorney; or   

·       Taking other actions as advised by their attorney prior to filing. 

If you are ready to take the first step to begin your divorce process, contact an experienced divorce attorney at Koenig|Dunne to receive guidance and advice about what to expect and your rights and options. 

You’ll be a shining star!

Be sure to join a study group.”

Whatever you do, don’t fall behind on your reading.”

 She held her breath, smiled from ear to ear, and declared she wasn’t going to cry as the well wishes and wisdom tumbled down the chat in her final all team Zoom. Lindsay V. is heading to law school.

 We are losing our legal assistant to her next chapter. She was just 12 years old when the fire to be a justice seeker was lit in her. Those with fear-filled hate sought to pass a local ordinance barring immigrant families like hers from renting a home if they lacked sufficient documentation of their status. The flame never died and her LSAT score confirmed it was her time to go.

 Ten year “firmiversary” acknowledgments are not unusual at our firm, though some never made it past the first 90 days. Workplaces are where people come for a season and last days are inevitable.

 Other lasts and firsts are unfolding this week.  This is the last day of my lovely neighbor Anna being what my generation called “sweet 16”. She is about to say farewell to a year of teen COVID life and in a blink will have the first day of her senior year that will take her to her last day of high school. (A birthday shout- out today to her mama and my editor who celebrates an initial day of a new year, too.)

 I’ve seen enough comings and goings of first days and lasts that one would think they wouldn’t hit the heart so hard. Each human is simply on their path forward and I would be a greedy fool to think I could keep those who made me laugh and those who made me love them stay with me forever. 

 Call me greedy. Call me a fool. Last days are hard days. Despite knowing that adventure and amazement awaits the departing, my imagination clings on to the thoughts of what it might have been like to never have to say good-bye.

 In just a few weeks, Lindsay will have her first day. Finding her seat in the giant classroom, meeting professors, lugging heavy books. (They do still have paper books, right?) She’s going to do great and be great.  Someday she will have her first day of being a lawyer.

 Until then, I’ll keep reminding myself that without last days there can never be first days.

Happy Birthday, Anna. Happy Birthday Angela. Happy Days Lindsay.

                                                                              Coach Koenig

What “last days” have you been experiencing?

Do you have some “first days” you’re looking forward to?                       

What story helps you to remember that a first day will always follow a last?

Janie (that’s what I’ll call her) has a wholehearted laugh that fills her entire being. With a round face and ever-present smile, Janie sees humor in any situation. And with years of being a therapist and an elementary school counselor, she’s seen some situations. 

Janie’s effervescence is so bright that the first time her schoolteacher spouse saw her in the building he declared, “I’m going to marry that one.” 

Every summer while my children were growing up, we’d spend the 4th of July week in a lake cabin next door to Janie’s family. By vacation’s end, I’d be refreshed and uplifted. Hours of laughing at Janie’s stories of assorted shenanigans were every bit as restorative as the sun, the water, and the rest. 

When Janie retired, she and her husband divided their time between an apartment here in the city and a home near the beach. Janie’s love of the lighthearted was embraced daily by sitting in the sand with a good book, outdoor concerts, and fish tacos eaten alfresco. 

I’m a slow learner. But Janie’s lessons in the value of lightening the heaviness of my own driven energy were as brilliant as her spirit was bright. The contrast to how I felt from my perpetual production of business and busyness to how I felt after merely an hour of Janie time was undeniable. With a social calendar full of parties, fundraisers, and art openings, I didn’t need more people or activities. But I needed Janie. 

I began to track the times she would be in town. Not surprisingly, Janie has a group of girlfriends she’s been super tight with since high school, so I always felt lucky to get a bit of her.  Just before the pandemic I flew to Florida for a weekend, purportedly to celebrate her birthday. The truth was I desperately needed my Janie fix. 

Last weekend I got a text from Janie’s best friend. 

 “We’re across the street. Join us for coffee?”  
           “On my way” I typed as my heart leapt. 

Janie smiled when she saw me approach their table. But there was no hug and the usual brightness in her eyes was gone. I wasn’t sure if she recognized me.  I sat down between the two of them and braced myself by wrapping my hands around the warm latte awaiting me. 

Janie joined the chatting, but only in singles words or odd short phrases. A few months ago, Janie was diagnosed with a rare brain disease. Gone, along with her ability to drive a car or balance a check book, was her capacity to even engage in certain simple conversations. The husband she once ran circles around was off this morning getting a brief respite from being her daily care provider. Her diagnosis is terminal. 

 She didn’t tell a single story. What Janie did, though, was to laugh. And laugh. I laughed, too. I laughed until I cried. 

Who do you want more of in your life? 

Do you cherish the simple gifts others give you? 

Is there someone you want to reach out to today? 

Coach Koenig

I have been thinking about you a lot since April 5, 2021 – the day you left this world and took your talent with you.  My heart has been sore and heavy since.  I know you read some of my blogs – you told me.  You told me it was a gift to share my vulnerability.  I use this space often to reflect on how I respond and heal from heartbreaks – of which I have had a varied sort.  You – being my most recent.

You and I met in the awkward awakenings of 13-year-olds in junior high school. We watched each other up close and personal as we evolved through the next 6 years until we graduated high school together.  We were always in the same friend groups in each of those years, but our closest year was that last one.  Our senior year we spent the most time and space with each other.

This photo of us is my favorite.  It reminds me most profoundly of that which you most gave me.  A safe place for me to be me and you to be you.  We were comfortable in silence with each other.  We liked thinking into the big picture of life together as 17-year-olds are want to do.  We spent hours alone together on a canoe heading down the Niobrara during a school trip senior year reflecting on life after high school.

The summer after graduation, you drove me out on a summer evening to the bread factory on the outskirts of town to smell the bread baking.  I haven’t forgotten it after all these years.  I remember thinking how profound it was that you knew this. You had taken the time to be present to the life around you and pay attention to the simple act of noticing the scent of fresh bread baking in the evening.  While we shared a kiss that night we never shared a romance.  We didn’t really know what to do with our fondness for each other.

Now I see it for the gift it was. You were as solid a friend to me as I had during that time I was moving into adulthood.  You and I were helping to shape each other.  You and I were both creatives learning how and why we had those callings – although yours was much easier to identify with your glorious singing voice that made all of the girls’ swoon.

When you reached out to me in the last several years with what seemed to be foggy and filtered questions, I regret now that I didn’t push harder to know you and what you needed.  I have a deep sense of loss that I wasn’t able to support you then.  But I can support you now in the celebration of who you were to me in my life.  I can be in gratitude and serenity about the pureness of the friendship we shared when our time in this world included each other.

Angela Dunne

 

 

A friend in need is a friend indeed.” 

She was a court reporter. I was a lawyer.  We bonded over our German heritage, working in the juvenile court system, and having alcoholic fathers. 

Each year I endure three months of teasing from Gretchen that she’s “younger” than me. Today the annual ribbing ends as I celebrate the birth of my friend of nearly 40 years. 

We expect our closest friends to show up for our big life events. Gretchen was there for the funeral of my father, my brother, my mother, and my husband.  But Gretchen always went beyond. She opened her home for one wedding, one memorial service, and plenty of parties just because she loved me. 

Gretchen can create a room that looks like it came straight out of Architectural Digest. When it’s redecorating time for her, I am the lucky recipient of an occasional prize like my living room sofa and my vintage bedroom dresser. With fingers that can record courtroom testimony with exceptional speed and accuracy, Gretchen is also an artist whose most recent gift was a cheerful watercolor of red, green and blue. 

While Montessori moms together, watching her teach her children not to interrupt or to jump on furniture were among the many lessons she unknowingly gave me about how to parent. When she hosted Christmas Eve for a houseful of people who had no family near, she let me see what it means to grow a family you were not born into. Never wanting to be the center of attention, she’s shown me what humility looks like. 

Gretchen has a quick wit and a great sense of humor. Her brief words occasionally hurt like a paper cut—painful for a moment but short lived and fast healing. But more often, they make me laugh deeply and help me practice a desperately needed skill of not taking myself so seriously.  

Gretchen has given me everything from an elegant winter coat to her Russian tea cakes. But I treasure most all the lessons she gave me that I didn’t know I needed.  

Happy Birthday dear friend. 

Coach Koenig 

What do you treasure in your friends? 

Are you willing to receive the gifts you receive? 

How might you be a good friend today? 

I spy the basket full of folded newspaper pages. They are the pages pulled from The Oregon Coast Today and Lincoln City News Guard – two local papers my dad picks up from the grocery store on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  In my six-month absence from a coastal visit, the accumulation is large.  Comprised only of 5 star or highest difficulty puzzles, my dad has silently offered the challenge and I feel wonderfully loved. 

It takes me back to the beginning of this tradition with my dad from another spring break visit with him on the coast.  Eleven years ago, when I was in marriage counseling, my counselor Bob taught me about the concept of “accepting influence.” This principle is used by Dr. Gottman (world-renowned for his work on marital stability and divorce prediction over the last 40 years) in his analysis of whether marriages will fail or succeed.  “Accepting influence” means that you are willing to relinquish control in a relationship and accept the influence of your partner and respect their feelings and opinions.  Sounds basic, maybe, but most people find they are unaware and do not practice this.

To demonstrate accepting influence, you do not give a gift or do something nice based on what you think would be nice, but what your loved ones would most love and appreciate.  You relinquish control over your opinion and defer solely to what they would value.  You can accept influence with anyone – this is not limited to marriage.

My dad and I talked about accepting influence on my trip that year as I was struggling with how to do and be better in my marriage.  My dad, without words, went on to show me.  He would pay attention to what I liked, my preferences.  One morning when I was visiting him, there was peppermint extract next to my coffee mug.  He knew my favorite creamer was peppermint mocha, but the store was out.  He made an effort for the next best thing.  I felt loved.  He observed that I liked to do the sudoku and crossword puzzles from the paper.  He too began enjoying the sudoku.  He started saving the hard ones just for me. I felt loved.

So last week on a visit with my parents, as I pulled out my morning sudoku from the pile he created for me, I once again was reminded about how we can best demonstrate love or care for those in our lives with which we want to shine that light.  Even better, we can accept influence from ourselves.  This is a particularly helpful focus when going through divorce when it feels like there is an absence of all love.

You can tell yourself you should do this or you should do that or you can accept your own influence and relinquish control of what you should be doing and instead respect your own feelings and opinions as you make your way through your divorce.  Pay attention to what you need most and honor it.  Need a good cry?   Grab the tissue and do it.  Don’t keep a stiff upper lip to “show him or show her.”  Need a nap?  Take one.  Don’t wear yourself thin because you think a parent going through divorce should be engaged in every minute of parenting time you have.  Accept your own influence and the self-love is sure to follow.

Angela Dunne

I stopped attending art openings. I took up lifting a kettlebell, staying inside instead of going out to the gym. I was unsure how long before it would be over and whether life would ever be the same again. 

It wasn’t a winter with coronavirus.  It was the last winter of many winters of John living with cancer. Ten years ago, the rooms of tea parties with macarons and brunches with bubbly became a home hospice and I became the gracious hostess greeting guests arriving to say their goodbyes.  

The same sofa to which John trekked to and from each day from our bed—proving to himself and the world he wasn’t quite ready to leave— became a place of rest again this winter after my son Benjamin had two limbs crushed in a head on crash. The walker, the pillows, the next round of meds. It felt familiar.  

This week I received word that I have fulfilled the requirements of a certified end-of-life doula. Like a birth doula, those who serve as support to the dying give comfort and companionship. Just weeks before Ben’s accident I’d committed to the University of Vermont program to study and practice how to be present when time is precious.  

In the decade between these seasons there have been many endings. John’s death nine months after the doctor visits ended. Children moving farther away to even bigger cities. There were big beginnings, too. The law firm starting to grow to twice its size and impact on people’s lives.  An introduction that led to unimaginable love finding its way into my heart with a man I never knew existed. 

Someone recently referred to me as “always calm”. The description surprised me as my excitable energy has often been a source of embarrassment for myself and others when the words, the dance, or the hug came out more quickly than was either expected or appropriate. My winters of slowing down to the pace of another and being present served me well.  

Still, I am on the cusp of spring. As winter comes to a close this weekend, my sweetheart will get his second vaccination and Ben will take some steps outdoors with his walker. I will watch the redbud trees obsessively for signs of their first blooms opening and dance at every opportunity. 

Winters end and springs begin. Everything is impermanent.  

Coach Koenig 

What did you learn from a past season that serves you today? 

What might be beginning for you, even as you experience endings? 

What do you hold precious today? 

“I had no idea there’d be such an outpouring…I’m not used to being on the receiving end.” Tears started to stream down the face of the child turned man whose blue eyes matched his hospital gown. My first-born Benjamin gave his first Facebook thanks two weeks after a driver on I-80 crossed the median at full speed, hitting Ben’s car head-on, crushing his limbs and his hopes for the year ahead. 

Ben’s friends had been eager to start a GoFundMe to help. He was reluctant. Being white and male and educated he knew his privilege. What he did not know was the duration of his healing journey and the high cost of not being able to walk or work or open a jar. 

Ben is both independent and generous. He’s traveled from India to Guatemala. For years he worked a low wage job helping disabled teens. He has a heart that longs to heal others. For him, giving is easier than receiving. 

As soon he said yes to all things offered from friends, family, and community, the giving began. Lush plants to restore his spirits. A tray to attach to his walker once he was able to get out of a hospital bed. Meals from shepherd’s pie and Pad Thai to wheat berry soup made with bone broth. From good wishes via text to big dollars from Alaska to a Mass in March, the giving’s been ongoing. 

I, too, hesitated at the help at times.  When my law partner said an attorney with the bar association wanted to share Ben’s story with lawyers across Nebraska, I paused. When I was willing to open to the generosity of my colleagues, the giving ballooned. 

Somewhere past 100 I lost count of the number who helped in some way. Some we’d known since Ben was born. Many I’d not been in touch with for years. Everyone cared. 

Gift giving is said to be one of our languages for showing our love. Thoughtfulness and generosity are a way to say, “I’m thinking about you. I care about you. I wish you well.” I like calling it love. 

It’s been said you have a few months after a wedding and longer after a funeral to give your thanks. I don’t know the etiquette for car crashes. I figure it will take a lifetime.  

Coach Koenig 

Do you ever hesitate to let in support? 

What might you receive if you were more receptive? 

What gratitude do you have for the gifts of others? 

In almost every Nebraska divorce, spouses must address the issue of determining premarital and nonmarital property. This is especially true in high-wealth divorces, which frequently entail assets acquired from a variety of sources, and second-marriage divorces, which often involve spouses who have acquired a sizable portion of their wealth prior to marriage.

Dividing Property in a Nebraska Divorce

Under Nebraska law, courts equitably divide all assets and debts acquired by either spouse during marriage, and most courts interpret equitable to mean equal. However, Nebraska courts do not divide premarital and nonmarital property, and instead award such property exclusively to one spouse. Therefore, many contested Nebraska divorces center on the issue of defining premarital and nonmarital property.

Defining Marital and Nonmarital Property in Nebraska

In Nebraska, marital property is defined as all property acquired by either spouse during marriage, including assets and debts, irrespective of how such property is titled. Conversely, nonmarital property is all property not considered marital and therefore not divided in a divorce. Nebraska law generally defines nonmarital property to include:

  1. Premarital Property: Property owned by either spouse prior to marriage;
  2. Gifted Property: Property individually gifted to one spouse during marriage by a third party; and,
  3. Inherited Property: Property inherited individually by one spouse during marriage.

In addition to these general classifications of nonmarital property, Nebraska courts also typically define (i) property acquired before the parties are divorced but after the parties have either filed for divorce or physically and financially separated, i.e. post-marital property, and (ii) student loans as nonmarital property.

Yet, although these classifications seem straightforward, three common legal issues arise when spouses dispute nonmarital and premarital property awards.

Proving Nonmarital and Premarital Property

First, the spouse asking to be awarded nonmarital or premarital property must prove that the property is in fact nonmarital. Typically, this requires gathering statements or other documentary evidence to show when and how the property was acquired. If a spouse cannot gather documentary evidence to prove the nature of the disputed property, Nebraska courts likely will assume that the property is marital.

Comingled Marital and Nonmarital Property

Second, if marital and nonmarital property has been comingled, i.e. combined, then the spouse asking to be awarded a portion of the combined property as his or her nonmarital property must prove that the nonmarital portion can be separated from the marital portion. This is known as tracing nonmarital property. For example, when spouses combine their premarital bank accounts into a joint account during marriage, Nebraska courts often struggle to determine what, if anything, remains of the originally invested premarital funds. This is also true when spouses combine inherited funds with marital funds.

Appreciation on Nonmarital Property During Marriage

Third and finally, spouses often litigate whether the growth on nonmarital property during marriage should be treated as marital property. For example, if one spouse owns a premarital business that is worth one million dollars at the time of marriage and that business grows to be worth $11 million during marriage, then then the $10 million in growth may be disputed as to its marital or nonmarital nature.

Nebraska law classifies appreciation on nonmarital property that is the product of either spouse’s efforts during marriage to be marital property, contrasted to passive growth that is solely the product of market forces. In the previous example, if either spouse helped to operate the premarital business during marriage, then the $10 million in growth would almost certainly be considered marital property. If, however, the business was owned via shares of stock and neither spouse helped with the business, then the $10 million in growth would almost certainly be retained by the owning-spouse as nonmarital property.

Skillfully resolving nonmarital and premarital property disputes in a divorce is critical to ensuring a successful division of property. This area of Nebraska law is nuanced and requires experience to navigate effectively in negotiations and trial. Our team at Koenig|Dunne has over 150 years of combined legal experience. We have authored books and published articles addressing nonmarital property issues, and it is our mission to provide wholehearted, excellent support to our clients throughout the entire divorce process.

Angela Lennon

As a 10-year-old, I took my promises seriously, at least when it came to trying to be a good girl in a Catholic culture. For Lent, I’d commit to give up candy or to place any coins –my only income at the time– into the slot of the little yellow cardboard box shaped like a church. For 40 days I would strive to help the children of Guatemala and to develop a form of discipline that today helps me to hold my promise to intermittently fast until 11 a.m.

These days I capture promises on my iPad where I keep my To Dos designed to demonstrate my priorities.  I prefer to put people at the top. One of my 6 siblings, three of whom had birthdays this month.  A coworker I coach. A friend I’ve had forever. My one beloved.

Next come more promises. Taxes. Publication deadlines. Must do Zooms. I can’t recall the last time I crossed off everything off a day’s list. Either my enthusiasm or my ego is bigger than my high energy or assorted abilities.

My well-established habits of a doer make me reasonably productive. They also reflect my vying to show my worth or garner even more love in my life. With these, possibilities for my priority list are limitless.

All this makes me productive. While I do my best to keep my promises to others, be it as a best friend or as an American citizen, some priorities I can forget to get on the list. Grow a flower. Dance. Read. Walk. Write. Cook. Learn.  In my quest for accomplishment, I can forget that my personal passions are a priority, too.

Despite having long abandoned my devoutness to the church, I enjoy honoring the annual Lenten ritual of a period of preparation for something joyful to come. If I call forth that childhood fervor for the integrity of keeping my promises, I can spend the days until Easter keeping some I make to myself. To meditate. To move my body. To create more space in my life.

In my quest for accomplishment, I’d be served by the wisdom of a 4th grader. Perhaps then keeping any promise will be a bit more playful.

Coach Koenig

Have you looked at your priorities lately?

Do you keep promises to yourself?

What childlike wisdom might serve you?

Internationally owned assets present unique challenges during a divorce. As global holdings and investments have become more common for Nebraskans, so too have the complexities in equitably dividing international property. While each international asset presents its own unique challenge to divide in a divorce, some assets are more challenging to divide than others. And when significant amounts of marital wealth are held abroad, it is vital that divorcing spouses secure experienced legal representation to protect their interests.

How Are Internationally Held Assets Treated in a Nebraska Divorce?

Under Nebraska law, Nebraska courts may equitably divide all assets and debts acquired by either spouse during marriage, regardless of their situs, i.e. location of their acquisition and holding. However, it is important to note that for a Nebraska court to have authority to grant a divorce and divide property, at least one spouse must have been a bona fide resident of Nebraska for more than one year immediately preceding either spouse filing for divorce in Nebraska. This requirement may be problematic for spouses who reside at multiple residences throughout the year.

Three Common Challenges Concerning International Assets in a Nebraska Divorce

  1. Locating International Assets

For a Nebraska court to consider an international asset in a divorce, a spouse must prove, or the spouses must agree, that the asset exists. Depending on where the asset is located and what measures have been taken to conceal an international asset, the burden of evidencing existence may prove incredibly difficult. While Nebraska law provides a variety of discovery methods for spouses to locate international assets, such as the right to subpoena foreign entities to disclose such assets, whether such foreign entity must cooperate typically depends on whether the entities’ controlling government has entered into an enforceable treaty with the United States.

2. Valuing International Assets

Another issue common to international-asset divorces is determining the proper values of international assets. When values of property are disputed in a divorce, parties must typically rely on experts, such as real estate appraisers or forensic accountants, to evidence the values of property. In the case of international assets, experts must usually be hired at the site of the international asset and then properly secured to testify in a Nebraska court.

It’s also worth noting that if an international asset proves difficult to actually divide between spouses, then a Nebraska court may award such an international asset solely to one spouse while awarding an equivalent, divisible asset entirely to the other spouse. However, this may only be accomplished if the international asset’s value is properly evidenced.

3. Tax Consequences When Dividing International Assets

While the IRS does not consider the division of assets pursuant to a divorce to be a taxable event, this rule is not necessarily reciprocated by all foreign countries. For example, transfers of property pursuant to a Nebraska divorce decree are often considered post-marital gift transfers in India, and thus subject to gift taxation under Indian law. This is just one example of the many nuanced tax consequences that occur when dividing international assets.

Skillfully locating, valuing, and tax planning international assets is critical to successfully dividing property in a Nebraska divorce. This area of Nebraska law is nuanced and requires experience and advocacy to navigate in negotiations and trial. Our team at Koenig|Dunne has over 150 years of combined legal experience. We have authored books and published articles addressing complex property issues, and it is our mission to provide wholehearted, excellent support to our clients throughout the entire divorce process.

Angela Lennon

It’s easy to feel grateful, given my charmed life. Excellent COVID-free health, a successful law firm, a loving life partner. End of day entries in the gratitude journal flow:

            Morning dancing

            Incredible coworkers

            Bills paid

Even at the end of a challenging day, there’s plenty.

What doesn’t make the list:

            Wind chill of twenty below

            Power outage to start the day

            Double booked appointments

I fail to feel grateful for the events and circumstances that invite me to look at the ways I’m being, that I’d rather not see. Like these:

            Entitled: “I should have electricity without interruption 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year.”

            Critical: “I hate the sound of howling wind.”

            Impatient: “I’ve texted her repeatedly with no response. Come on—check your phone!”   

I may not speak the words, but I think the thoughts. Weather beyond my control, a single hour of inconvenience, embarrassment for my mistakes—all unappreciated moments.

My memory is short and my learning slow.

            I forget how an early unhappy marriage taught me to not blame others for my unhappiness and to examine my own flaws first.

            I forget how feedback that once evoked tears of shame made me a better lawyer, coach, and human.

            I forget how watching my brother on his deathbed taught me that life is 10,000 sorrows and 10,000 joys and everything is impermanent.   

When it’s time for my bedtime ritual tonight, I hope I can remember the gifts of my least favorite moments in a day along with my delicious dinner of pad Thai. By shining a little night light on the other side of all I can be grateful for, I can see better and hopefully sleep better.

One more blessing to add to the list.

                                                                                    Coach Koenig

Do you have a gratitude practice?

What have been the gifts of your past hardship, failure, or disappointment?

How can one learn to be grateful for all of life’s experiences?

“Mom, I need to go to the doctor,” Sophia matter-of-factly stated.  “Something isn’t right.”  I didn’t spot the signs.  Amidst the pandemic taking away her first real day of high school, her 14th birthday having just passed, and navigating new friends and classes remotely, I can say it would have seemed impossible to know.  But I have been beating myself up for the not knowing, not seeing, and not being present to her.  I am her mom.  I am supposed to see and know before she does.

She revealed she had lost 15 pounds off of her already small frame.  She was crying daily and struggling to understand why.  Her migraines had been intensifying in frequency.  I knew, but I didn’t know.  Shame washed over me as I tried to justify – big baggy sweatshirts were the trend, she wasn’t talking to me and when she did it was full of sass and snark, so I thought best to leave it for now.  She was a new teenager after all.

After the doctor’s appointment and testing confirmed depression and anxiety, I was tasked with setting up counseling and filling a prescription.  Luckily due to my occupation I knew the perfect counselor for Sophia. 

She was nervous as we drove to the first appointment.  Truthfully so was I.  Would they find out I was a bad mom?  Would the counselor admonish me for not seeing her struggles sooner?  Was it all because I got divorced 10 years earlier and I really had wrecked my children as a result?

In the months since this first appointment and with the support of a mild anti-depressant, Sophia is a changed girl.  She talks to me every day – really talks to me. She even calls me when she is at her dad’s house to tell me about her day. She calls my mom weekly and spends a good half hour chattering away.  Her grades have sky-rocketed upward.  Her time is no longer spent holed up in her room – but at least half of the time she is in the rest of the house with her sister and me.

She tells me about her sessions with Jack.  Not only does she adore him – she openly and freely confides everything to him.  They talk frequently about her parents being divorced.  She tiptoes a little around me at first to let me know – but then ultimately tells me all that she is processing.

For many years, we didn’t talk about the divorce in our house. It was the proverbial elephant in the room, in the car, on vacation, in our family pictures…  I was afraid to talk about it.  I was afraid to shine light on a situation that I didn’t know yet what the full impact on their young hearts would be.  Instead, I gave great weight to the signs that they did well in school, had friends, and seemed happy – only to find out, ten years later, that ignoring it didn’t lessen their need to process.

To do it over, I would have sought counseling for my children earlier.  I wouldn’t have just crossed my fingers and focused only on the happy parts.  I would have taken the advice I give to many clients – get a counselor for you and another one for your children.  I would have been braver in knowing that we would need support in the separation of our family.  I would have had the courage to be like my daughter and would have seen like Sophia.

Angela Dunne

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.