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.
5 Planning Tips to Prepare You for a Divorce

Good planning is essential to making a successful start to getting a divorce. Even though you may feel you are ready from an emotional standpoint, you need to be sure you are legally prepared before you file.  Here are five planning tips to help you prepare for a divorce:

#1: Talk with an experienced divorce lawyer.

No one can help you navigate the divorce process better than an experienced divorce lawyer.  You need their expertise and the benefit of their experience to guide you and help you avoid common mistakes that could impact your life for years after the divorce is final.  The more complicated your finances are, the more you will need to rely on your attorney for guidance on dividing pensions, retirement accounts, property, etc.  Start your divorce journey by sitting down with an attorney to put together a game plan that will work for you now and in the future.

#2:  Learn about your parental rights.

Nebraska courts will want you to make every effort to co-parent successfully with your ex, as their belief is that having both parents in a child’s life is in the best interests of the child.  Of course, if your ex has addiction issues or engages in criminal activity, that’s a different story.  But in general, you are going to have to keep your child’s best interests as your focus, even if you don’t have a good relationship with your ex.

#3:  Time your filing.

Divorce is stressful for children, so you may consider timing your divorce filing for a date when children are not already experiencing stress, like going back to school or during holidays.  If your ex typically gets a large bonus at the end of the year, you may want to time the filing for right after the bonus comes through, so the funds are included in the division of assets.  You and your attorney should discuss a strategy for the timing of your filing so it works to your advantage.

#4:  Don’t let emotion rush your filing.

It’s human nature to want to hurt someone who has hurt us, but you only hurt yourself if you rush to file for divorce when emotions are running high.  It is certainly understandable if you want a cheating spouse out of the house, but slapping him or her with a divorce filing that hasn’t been thought through could come back to haunt you.  Mistakes made in divorce paperwork take time and money to fix. 

#5:  Learn to negotiate.

Courts prefer that divorcing couples negotiate to settle things themselves, and you will have many opportunities to do so during the divorce process.  You will be better served in the long run if you keep yourself open to negotiation.  Courts tend to view spouses who won’t negotiate unfavorably; being stubborn and trying to use the court to exact revenge is likely to harm you more than your ex.  Instead, consider mediation as a less expensive and time-consuming way for you and your ex to reach a settlement that will result in a divorce that both of you can live with.

Your legal team at Koenig|Dunne is here to provide you with guidance and advice regarding all of the issues you will face throughout the divorce process.

10 Estate Planning Rules for Women

We all know that, on average, women outlive men.  What we generally neglect to consider is that they also generally earn less than men and have to manage expenses longer due to their longer life expectancies.  Here are the top 10 estate planning rules for women:

  1. Make a will.  A will provides instruction on how you want your assets handled after you die; without one, a probate court will decide for you.
  2. Make an estate plan.  There can be tax consequences to your estate that could be avoided if you had planned in advance; seeking the advice of a qualified Nebraska estate planning lawyer can save your heirs both time and money.
  3. Choose executor wisely.  Experts agree you should choose someone with financial savvy as your executor instead of a default choice of a relative or friend. 
  4. Think about a trust.  Trusts can help those with even small estates protect assets and ensure those assets pass to those you intended to receive them.
  5. Give while you are alive.  If you plan to leave some assets to individuals other than your spouse, passing those along while you are still alive can help minimize gift and estate taxes.
  6. Make timely changes to your estate plan.  If your spouse dies before you do, be sure you reevaluate your estate plan and change any beneficiary designations.
  7. Name beneficiaries for your retirement accounts.  Naming beneficiaries on each of your retirement accounts instead of in a will means those assets will pass outside of probate directly to beneficiaries without delay.
  8. Have a joint account with your spouse.  Having a joint account with your spouse will enable you to have access to funds in case your spouse becomes incapacitated or dies suddenly.
  9. Create a pre-nup before remarrying.  If you have children from a prior marriage that you want to inherit, you should create a pre-nuptial agreement before you remarry that outlines your new spouse’s access to your assets.
  10. Take financial responsibility.  If you are not currently responsible for the day-to-day finances in your family, be sure you know all the details in case your spouse becomes incapacitated or dies suddenly.

Your legal team at Koenig|Dunne is here to provide you with guidance and advice regarding all of the issues that you will face throughout the estate planning process.

It is hard for me to write about him.  In so many ways now he is just someone I used to know.  Strange that what seems like another lifetime ago, he was the person I used to know best.  This week would have been our 18th wedding anniversary, but instead time let 8 years slip in between us after our divorce.

With this time hurts have healed and now, to me, he is simply “their dad.”  He is the father to our daughters.

Without him, I no longer have to argue the point of making the bed in the morning, I can just leave it messy if I like.  I can now chuckle that his strength was not gift giving – like the Christmas that arrived three months after the birth of our second daughter and he gave me skin-tight long johns as pajamas.  And most importantly for both of us, we are free from clashing against each other as we grew older and away from our 25 year-old selves leaving gaps in our compatibility. 

Today, for me, he is his best version of himself.  Despite our damaged marriage, the tie that kept me working so hard to stay together was that he was a great dad.  He was different with our girls.  He was light, playful, and so proud to be a papa. 

His best qualities came to the surface when cradling our girls.  He always came up with the best April Fool’s day jokes to delight them, he always pitched in wholeheartedly with parenting, and never one day have I doubted that he loves them with every ounce of his being.

For me it made the custody decisions easier – it wasn’t about what transpired between the two of us – it was about him and our daughters.  Our daughters need him and love him and that is what it was about. 

It wasn’t about our disagreements about finances, or our introvert/extrovert personalities challenging us any longer.  It was about how we were going to show up for our girls.  I knew that for him, this would always bring out his best self.

I have missed seeing him with them.   My heart has swelled many times when they tell me stories with laughter and love about something their dad did.  I wish I could have been there.

I know that our divorce was necessary.  I know that he and I are both happier, healthier versions of ourselves.  I know that our daughters have benefited from having more authentic parents.  I also know that now, I only see him at his best.

Happy Father’s Day.

Angela Dunne

4 Reasons Why a Divorce May be Better for Your Children

Not every divorce is bad for children.  If there is a lot of conflict between their parents, some children may even feel a sense of relief when they learn their parents are getting divorced.  While there are a number of good reasons for divorce, parents may feel that staying together for the benefit of the children is best.  However, that is not always the case — especially under these circumstances:

Not every divorce is bad for children.  If there is a lot of conflict between their parents, some children may even feel a sense of relief when they learn their parents are getting divorced.  While there are a number of good reasons for divorce, parents may feel that staying together for the benefit of the children is best.  However, that is not always the case — especially under these circumstances:

When a parent suffers from addiction.

Most people don’t fully realize the effect an addicted parent can have on a child.  Children imitate the actions of their parents, so divorce may be the only option to stop the cycle of addiction in your family.

When a parent is financially irresponsible.

In many American households today, it has become necessary for both parents to work to support the family.  Children understand that to have a roof over their heads, food to eat, and clothes to wear, adults have to earn money.  However, if one parent spends money unwisely or quits their job without another one lined up, the entire family is put in financial jeopardy.  Having this type of parent as an example teaches a child to either be a spendthrift or a miser — neither of which is a healthy habit to develop. 

When parents don’t express love.

A child’s concept of what love means is formed early by watching how their parents express love toward each other.  If there is no affection or intimacy between parents, a child grows up thinking this is how marriage is supposed to be and makes it almost impossible for them to have a fulfilling love relationship as an adult. 

When divorce frees parents to find a truly loving relationship, children can benefit from seeing what marriage is supposed to be — a relationship where two people love, care, and support each other in healthy ways.  With that example, children can develop new and better ideas about relationships that will bring them greater happiness as adults.

When parents are unhappy.

When children grow up in a household where both parents are unhappy and that unhappiness is expressed either through anger or cold silence, the emotional lives of the children are negatively impacted.  The ability to express emotions in a healthy way is never learned, leading to another generation of unhappy adults.  The best parent is a healthy, stable parent — not only for harmony in the household, but also as a model for children to learn how to cope with their own emotions.

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.

The Difference Between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

If you can qualify, Chapter 7 bankruptcy may provide more advantages to you than Chapter 13 bankruptcy.  But everyone’s circumstances are different, so you will need to know the advantages and disadvantages to Chapter 7 bankruptcy to determine if it is the best solution for you.

The key advantage of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is that it allows you to emerge virtually debt-free within three to six months.  Your unsecured debt – which is debt not secured by collateral and typically includes credit card debt and medical debt – will be wiped out.

However, there are debts that do survive Chapter 7 bankruptcy, including mortgage and car payments and any other “nondischargeable” debts like student loans, child support or recent taxes.

In addition, the chances are greater that you will lose your home in Chapter 7 bankruptcy since it is a secured debt.  However, this is not always the case.  You can typically keep:

  • Your car, depending on its value
  • Your clothing
  • Necessary household furnishings and appliances
  • Personal effects
  • Jewelry, up to a certain value
  • Pensions
  • Life insurance proceeds, up to a certain value
  • Work-related tools or equipment

You will probably have to give up:

  • A second or vacation home
  • A second car
  • Stocks, bonds and other investments
  • Cash and bank accounts
  • Valuable collectibles or family heirlooms

Under certain circumstances, it is better to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy instead of Chapter 7 bankruptcy.  In fact, you may not have a choice.  Those who file Chapter 7 bankruptcy must pass a means test to qualify, and if you are in a high income bracket, you will likely not qualify.

If you have a home or car you want to keep, then Chapter 13 bankruptcy is also a better alternative for you.  If you’re delinquent in your payments but can make those up over time, a Chapter 13 filing will allow you to do this, while a Chapter 7 filing will not.

If you have other property you want to keep – say, a valuable art collection or family heirlooms – only Chapter 13 bankruptcy will allow you to keep this nonexempt property, since you repay your debts over time out of your income.

If someone has co-signed a loan for you and you wish to protect them, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy will keep creditors from going after your co-signer. 

If you have debts that would not be discharged in a Chapter 7 filing – student loans, child support, back taxes – then filing Chapter 13 will allow you to repay these over time as well.

For over 40 years, your legal team at Koenig|Dunne has counseled clients in thousands of initial consultations, and we are here to ensure that your initial consultation provides meaningful answers to the questions that matter the most to you.  Contact Koenig│Dunne today and schedule your free consultation with one of our experienced bankruptcy attorneys.

The one thing just about everyone can agree to about divorce is that no one wants it to drag on and on.  Getting a divorce done quickly (relatively speaking) is possible, but it requires some effort on the part of both spouses to work together toward a fair and equitable settlement.  If you’ve made the hard decision to divorce and want to speed things along, here are some tips to help you accomplish that:

Keep communicating.

It can be incredibly difficult to keep the lines of communication open with a spouse who is about to become an ex — especially if only one of you wants the divorce.  But if you can keep talking, you can do a lot to move the process forward.  If you are having trouble communicating, consider visiting a therapist to help get both of you through this tough time and manage your emotions.  Talk about how you hope to move on and what you need to do so.  If you can reach agreement on some of the major issues like marital property distribution and support, you will save yourselves both time and money.  When you only talk through your respective attorneys, you slow down the process and increase the cost of your divorce unnecessarily.

Consider mediation.

Mediation allows you to resolve your case outside a courtroom and gives you better control over the final outcome. Engaging in mediation will allow you and your spouse to hash things out with the help of a neutral third party — the mediator — in a private setting. Both of you can still have your own attorney to help you during the negotiation process and to review the final agreement prior to the court signing off on it.

Document everything.

Once you have reached agreement on important issues during your divorce negotiations, be sure that the decisions you have made are put into writing.  Paperwork is what makes the divorce process work, so be sure you have documented all your marital assets and debts.  Gathering all your important documents — any pre- or post-nuptial agreements, mortgage, investments, etc. — in the early stages of the process will help you reach a fair agreement more quickly.

Be honest.

Trying to hide assets or debts could not only be detrimental to your divorce case, it can also hold things up when you just want to move on.  You need to be completely transparent with both your lawyer and your ex and provide a complete financial disclosure of your income, assets, and debts.  This will provide your attorney with the information he or she needs to safeguard your interests.  If you withhold important information, it could endanger your ability to get your fair share of the marital property. 

Remember the children.

Keeping conflict to a minimum is key to making your divorce go smoother and faster, but is especially important when children are involved.  The Nebraska family courts make child-related decisions based on the best interests of the child, and that should be your goal as well.  Your children need the love and support of both their parents to thrive, so do everything you can to make peace with your ex for the sake of your children’s well being.

Your legal team at Koenig|Dunne is here to answer your questions about divorce in Nebraska and to advocate for your rights.

Which Debts Can Be Eliminated Through Bankruptcy?

There are many misconceptions about the bankruptcy process that can make you think it is not a viable option for you to get out of debt.  But in reality, there are several real benefits. 

Perhaps the greatest source of relief for distressed debtors is what is known as the automatic stay.  As soon as your bankruptcy attorney files your petition, the automatic stay goes into effect – meaning that creditors must stop all their collection efforts, including phone calls, letters, lawsuits or anything else they are doing to try to collect on a debt.

The automatic stay also prevents secured lenders – those who hold your mortgage or car loan note – from repossession, foreclosure or selling any of your property.  However, when it comes to secured creditors, these benefits are temporary – if you do not keep up with your payments after your bankruptcy is over, secured creditors can still proceed with a foreclosure, repossession or sale of your property.

By filing, you can potentially:

Eliminate credit card debt – Credit card debt is “unsecured” debt – which means it is not secured by a lien, like a house or car.  Bankruptcy was specifically designed to eliminate unsecured debt; however, if you file for Chapter 13, you may have to pay off a portion of your credit card debt over a three to five year period.

Eradicate unsecured debt – In addition to credit card debt, you may have other unsecured debt like medical bills that is eligible for discharge by filing.

Remove some liens – In some instances, you can invoke certain procedures during bankruptcy to eliminate certain liens.  Your Nebraska bankruptcy attorney can best advise you on this.

Stop credit collection activities – Probably one of the most welcome benefits for bankruptcy filers is that a filing stops creditor harassment.  In fact, creditors must cease all collection activities once bankruptcy is filed.

Stop foreclosure – Only Chapter 13 can prevent foreclosure by forcing a lender to accept a repayment plan, but only if you can show you have enough income to adhere to that plan.

In general, bankruptcy cannot eliminate tax debt, student loan debt, child support and alimony, or prevent a creditor from repossessing secured property.  However, there are a few exceptions to these rules, so your best bet is to consult with a Nebraska bankruptcy attorney.

Figuring out whether to file bankruptcy can be overwhelming. Contact Koenig│Dunne today and schedule your free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.

My mother was patient and kind. She knew how to wait. For buses in the middle of winter. For one of her eight children to call on a Sunday afternoon. For a lifetime of prayers to be answered. 

I did not inherit her patience gene. I’m more prone to precrastination than procrastination. I like to get to my goals quickly and efficiently.

Being gifted a new bench for my rooftop deck, I was eager to give it some bright new cushions. I did my research, made my selection, and placed an online order for same day pick up. Enjoying my day off, I cheerily drove to the store in my convertible, confident this would be quick.

The pick-up counter is immediately inside the entrance. This is going to be so easy.  I press the button for assistance and wait.  After a few minutes, a harried young man with Johnny on his name tag appears with another customer at his side. He says he’ll be right with me. I believe him.

He returns to the customer service counter. I notice, not without judgment, that he appears to be waiting on yet another customer who was not me. Meanwhile, another red vested staff person steps behind the pick-up counter and offers to help. Great!

I offer up my name, my phone number, my order number.  “Are you here to pick up a chair?” he asks as he continues to search the computer with a completely confused look. Johnny returns to rescue him, and for a time the two study the screen while I wait. My efficiency plan was plummeting.

I look away, attempting to muster up some of Mom’s patience.  The next thing I know, staff person #2 takes off his vest with a “thanks, man” and heads out the door leaving Johnny to solve the mystery of the missing order.

Johnny apologizes for the wait.  “It must be tough on busy days like this,” I say as the phone keeps ringing. “I can’t tell you how stressed I am,” he confesses.

 “Would you like me to answer the phone and take a message?” I joke with a smile. “It’s got to be hard working on a holiday and trying to keep everyone happy.”

“You’re the only one who hasn’t yelled at me today,” he says, not looking up.

“Oh, my,” I say. “You certainly don’t deserve that when you’re just trying to do your best.”  I offer to go aisle 25 and retrieve my tropical print selection. The tension releases from his serious face as he points me in the right direction.

In just a few minutes I select my cushions. As I approach to pay I hear a voice. “I can help you over here.”

Johnny is in a check-out lane. “I want to give you a discount for the wait,” he explains.  I express my gratitude. 

“This is your discount,” he said, quietly pointing to the receipt.

We can all benefit from remembering: Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. I may not have my mother’s patience, but I’m grateful to call forth a kernel of her kindness when it’s my time to wait.

Coach Koenig

            How does your impatience impact your kindness?

            Are you being kind and patient with yourself?

            What small kindness might you show today?

The 5 Facebook Rules You Need to Protect Your Marriage

Social media has done wonders to connect people all over the world, but there is one type of connection it has become infamous for: infidelity.  Studies have shown that a spouse’s overuse of Facebook contributes to marriage instability and dissatisfaction.  That usage can also encourage behavior that is destructive to intimate relationships: flirting, making emotional connections with others, even sexual affairs.

To help protect your marriage, here are 5 Facebook rules you need to implement:

  1. Don’t accept friend requests from anyone of the opposite sex that you know is attracted to you or your spouse.
  2. Don’t “friend” former girlfriends or boyfriends, or anyone from your past that you were sexually or emotionally attracted to.
  3. Talk with your spouse about what the appropriate communication guidelines should be with others of the opposite sex on Facebook.
  4. Review each other’s social media habits for accountability.
  5. Apply all these recommendations to all your social media accounts, email, and text messaging.

Seemingly health marriages can unravel quickly with inappropriate social media use by one or both spouses.  Most married people consider having emotional or sexual communication with someone of the opposite sex on Facebook to be marital infidelity, since many of these online connections can turn into face-to-face sexual encounters.

Your legal team at Koenig|Dunne understands the nuances and complexities of divorce, and we are here to help guide you through the process.

5 Scenarios Where Bankruptcy Makes Sense

While filing for bankruptcy is not necessarily the answer for everyone, it can be a good vehicle for leaving financial worries behind.  Here are some scenarios where filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy can make sense:

Job Loss – Finding a new job may require many months of searching, and in that time, bills can pile up.  Consolidating debt under a Chapter 13 filing can stop creditor harassment and provide you with a solid plan for dealing with your debt until you are back on the job.

Illness or Injury – If you have a number of medical bills that you cannot afford to pay, Chapter 7 may be an option for you since medical bills are considered unsecured debts. 

Foreclosure – Filing bankruptcy in Nebraska can help stop foreclosure proceedings and keep you in your home. 

Divorce – A divorce can mean that debts as well as assets are evenly divided between two spouses – and sometimes, one spouse cannot afford to shoulder the burden of their debt share alone.  Getting some “breathing room” by filing bankruptcy can be a logical choice.  And even though alimony and child support obligations are not dischargeable, arrears can usually be repaid via a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Debt – Whether you have excessive consumer debt because of a job loss or other income reduction, filing for bankruptcy can help you manage your debt.     

You must meet different requirements to file for certain types of bankruptcy.  For example, if you have sufficient income to pay off your debts through Chapter 13, you may not qualify for Chapter 7.  Conversely, if you income is too low or your debts too high, you may not qualify for Chapter 13 because you would not have enough income to cover your repayment plan.  A qualified Nebraska bankruptcy attorney can advise you of all your options, and guide you through the process.

Figuring out whether to file bankruptcy can be overwhelming. Contact Koenig│Dunne today and schedule your free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.

“I’d like to see him.”

In between my sips of cabernet and the passing of crispy blue cheese potato bites, my words surprised me.  At happy hour with my girlfriends, I learned that Gary had entered hospice. 

I have not seen Gary in a couple of years. Maybe three. While I’ve asked others how he was doing, I made no effort to connect. Now I heard myself asking for the phone number so I could visit.

Gary was my neighbor. Developmentally disabled, he came to live with the couple next door as an adult, joining two other men who’d found a home there. For years he’d smile and say “You’re still purty,” every time I saw him.

Eventually my next door care providers were no longer able to continue their devoted support of their family. Fred died, his husband’s health declined, and the house had to be sold. Everyone found new homes. Our contact grew less and less.

For some, being near the dying is foreign or frightening. For me, it is an invitation. When we knew my younger brother was dying of AIDS, I was aware of the preciousness of the present. Every K.D. Lang song listened to in his apartment, every bite of pie shared on our Wednesday date night, was gold.

My longest lesson in living with death and dying came when my late husband, John, was told he could expect to live two to three years with metastasized cancer. He would live more than a decade. Death eventually drew nearer during the final months of home hospice. I was grateful for the knowing of what I had each day.

This Memorial Day is to honor our veterans who served our country and to salute their sacrifice. We’ll also carry out other traditions of parades and barbeques to kick off the summer season.

I’ll travel to Iowa with my sweetheart and join his family in their annual visit to the Oak Hill Cemetery on the hill south of Irwin. They will pay tribute as they carry on the tradition started by their father when they were children. Their mother died when they were just boys and their father raised five sons on his own after her death. The laying of flowers has been a lifelong ritual.

For me, visiting sacred ground of graves and spending time with Gary feels like the perfect way to cherish the life I am fortunate to live, and to remember those who sacrificed so I could. Maybe Gary will even tell me I’m still purty. I’ll celebrate and savor.          

Coach Koenig

Whose sacrifice for your good will you remember this holiday?

Is there a tradition you want to revive or start?

What might you celebrate today?

I felt embarrassed when the movers asked where the box with the wedding dress should be placed.  And then even more embarrassed when my landlord went to replace the carpet in the basement before I had fully moved out and had to move a small pile of belongings from the basement to the main floor – glaringly included in the mix of a handful of things was my giant and heavy leather wedding album. (Do I say former wedding album?) It was in the pile of items that I did not know what to do with.

All this time later and I am still unsure about what to do with the physical mementos let alone the memories from my marriage.

When you move, similar to when you divorce, you encounter many references to starting a new chapter or moving to the next phase of life. I have even written in our blog about trying to shift the lens to a clean start. But what do you do with the chapters leading up to now? What does it mean for your history, your memories, and your stories now that you are divorced? A creeping shame sneaks in and shadows your happy marital memories. It feels wrong to recall the good times and yet even more unsettling to only remember the bad.

I always feel a sudden and slight stillness in a conversation when I reminisce about something that happened when I was married and I make reference to my former spouse. Recently while attending a wedding, my daughter asked me if weddings make me sad. She wondered if it reminded me of my wedding day. I felt weird, almost like a hypocrite, as I described that my wedding day was one of the happiest days of my life. It was. The fact that my marriage did not last does not take away the sheer bliss I felt the day I was married.

One of the pieces of this divorced life that I have not yet, but hope to master is acceptance – acceptance for my past and my future. To outgrow the shame filled thoughts that seep in when I want to tell a story about fly fishing with my ex-husband.  I want to not worry when telling my story that the listener will think I am still hurt or “not over” my former spouse.  I want to own my story and my history in such a way that the discomfort is removed for me and those who want to hear about my past. My hope is that in doing so I can honor all of the chapters that have lead to the bright white page that lies before me.

Angela Dunne

5 Essential Steps for Making Your Divorce Less Painful

When your “I do” becomes an “I don’t,” you will be facing a number of decisions that can have a profound effect on your life — and the lives of your children if you have them — for years to come.  Use this 5-step roadmap to help you navigate your way through your divorce so you can end your journey with a better life:

1. Know what you want, need, and don’t want.

If life is a river, a divorce can feel like rocky rapids.  Some people just want to float along the top like a leaf, letting the current take them wherever it wants.  This is not a good way to handle a divorce.  You need to be clear about what you want, what you need, and what you don’t want.  If it helps, make a list with those three columns and then make yourself honestly assess what you should put in each column. It also helps to know what your spouse’s wants/needs/don’t wants list looks like, to get important insight into how to negotiate better.

2.  Know that now it’s business.

When you got married, you entered into a contract and when you get divorced, it’s about dissolving that contract.  There are laws that govern the dissolution of marriage, including the division of debts and assets, and assigning responsibility for child custody and support, spousal support, etc.  Even though there may be a lot of emotions attached to the conclusion of your marriage contract, it is important for you to navigate the business aspects of this process with your emotions in check.

3.  Know your financials.

Before you even start a divorce action, be sure both of you know the exact state of your finances. This will help you make rational decisions as you negotiate your divorce. In most marriages, one spouse handles the finances more than the other. If it’s that way in your household, and you’re not the one who handles the money, it’s time for you to learn everything about your income, assets, debts, and the household budget. If you need help, seek out a financial consultant.

4.  Create your support team.

Your friends and family can be a source of emotional support, but when it comes to getting what you want and need from your divorce negotiations, you need a professional team to help you.  You will need an attorney who specializes in family law.  You will probably need a financial consultant.  You may even need a therapist.  These three can help you navigate the most important aspects of divorce:  legal, financial, and emotional.  They can help you keep on track so you don’t waste time, money and unnecessary emotion on fighting for something that is unattainable.

5.  Keep your future in mind.

While it is always better to remain on good terms with your ex during a divorce, it is vitally important that you not sign a bad deal that puts your future in jeopardy.  Make it a goal to keep looking forward, not back, as you negotiate your settlement terms. 

Your legal team at Koenig|Dunne is here to help you navigate the Nebraska divorce process and to advocate for your rights.

Signposts on the Road to Bankruptcy

If bankruptcy was a physical illness, we would be able to feel its symptoms and know that something was wrong.  However, many people come to bankruptcy in a state of surprise – or denial – about how they got there, even if it was through no fault of their own. 

In 2018, more than 755,000 Americans filed Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy.  So are there “symptoms” that put you at greater risk for bankruptcy?  Yes, and these include:

Heavy credit card debt – carrying a lot of credit card debt, especially on cards that have high interest rates, can put you in a financial hole quickly and keep you there for years.  Discharging this debt through bankruptcy is one option if you will be unable to pay off this debt.

High medical bills – a health crisis can quickly put you deeply in debt.  In fact, medical bills are the #1 reason people file bankruptcy. 

Aspirational spending – this is just spending more than you can afford so you appear more prosperous – aka, “keeping up with the Joneses.” 

Payday loans – taking out advances on your paycheck by using payday loans is a sure sign you are in major financial trouble.  It has been estimated that fees on a one-week loan can make the interest rate as high as 911 percent. 

In addition, the American Bankruptcy Institute provides a useful consumer bankruptcy checklist and says that if several of these apply to you, you might consider bankruptcy:

  • You have had your paycheck or your bank account garnished;
  • The majority of your debt is unsecured debt — credit card bills, medical bills, etc.;
  • The amount you owe creditors – beyond your house and car payments – is more than you could pay off in five years;
  • You are getting calls from collection agencies;
  • You are have more than one bill that is more than one month past due;
  • You have had lawsuits filed against you by creditors;
  • A large portion of your debt includes medical bills that your insurance does not cover;
  • Your income taxes have not been paid;
  • You do not have many assets;
  • You have no – or very little – savings;
  • You have had a car or other property repossessed;
  • Your home is currently threatened by foreclosure.

If you answered “yes” to three or more of these, you should contact our Nebraska bankruptcy law firm about a free initial consultation.

Some people I love keep secrets from me.  Despite knowing I care deeply about them, there’s something they don’t want me to know. 

Sometimes they hide the reason they did not respond to my calls and texts. Sometimes they hide that they have been in the hospital for days…again. Sometimes they hide that the police took them away in the middle of the night in their nightie, although they had committed no crime.

Celebrities from Lady Gaga and Lena Dunham and Justin Beiber have talked about their anxiety and depression.  Bits of raw desperation and loneliness will pop up on social media. Yet millions suffer silently with mental illness.

Depression began to come out of the darkness some 30 years ago. Prozac went from being a new word to an occasional casual reference by a friend about their change in dosage. Soon the suicide prevention movement grew. 

I was barely an adult the first time I went to see one of my siblings at the Nebraska Psychiatric Hospital. Over the years I learned the rules. The patient must give permission for you to know whether or not they are hospitalized. Pay attention to the limited hours for visits. Prepare to put your handbag in a locker. Be led through the series of locked doors. Wait.

I would visit countless people over the years in the sparse room with nothing that might be a tool for self-harm.  My client who was depressed after years of intimate partner abuse. My court appointed ward with no family able to make the hour drive to see him.  My childhood friend under a board of mental health commitment after a fifth failed attempt to end her life.  Each allowed me to see them in a moment of utmost vulnerability. Their generosity allowed my ignorance to be lifted.

We’ve come a long way with accepting and understanding ADHD and autism. We joke about being OCD.  But what about bipolar disorder or schizophrenia?

There is no more judgment to be had from the diagnosis of PTSD than the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.  Yet when those I care about feel the need to hide or deny their symptoms, I ask myself: What I am doing to lift any lingering feelings of shame? What am I doing to end the silence and ease the suffering?

I can express my caring before I launch into sharing my most recent vacation photos. I can connect with courage, asking questions if I am concerned.  I can let them know I am here for them.

May is Mental Health Awareness month. One in 5 Americans will experience it in a given year. Consider what this means for your family, your friends, your coworkers.

When you love someone who is suffering, your greatest wish is that they get well. Many will. Others will live with it all of their lives.

Compassion is the cure we can always give.

Coach Koenig

How might mental illness be impacting others in your life?

Are you being silent about your own suffering with mental illness?

Does someone in your life need your compassion today?

Angela Dunne’s reflections on the “last days” experienced during divorce.

Today is the last day of school for yet another year that flew by in the blink of an eye.  The last day of school signifies the end of a season.  My girls and I look forward to this day each year.  To mark the fresh start of summer fun and leisure, I wrap up a pairs of sparkly flip flips for my daughters along with some new summer reads. 

The last day of school is also tinged with sadness.  Tear-filled eyes say goodbyes to friends and teachers for the summer.  The comfort of routine is quickly lost to carefree and relaxed rules.  The structured school days give way to time melted away at the pool.

During divorce we have lots of “last days.”  The last day living in the house with your spouse, the last day seeing your children daily, the last day sharing a bank account, the last day using your married name, the last day having health insurance, the last day living by your neighbors, the last day marking “married” on a box, the last day feeling secure.

I did not relish or look forward to any of these last days.  In fact, I mostly dreaded them.  Looking back I see that by shedding those last days, I was able to move forward on different paths for my life.  I have done things and met people I never would have, had I not transitioned through my divorce.  At the time I could not have seen that, nor did I have the capacity to draw upon the celebration of those last days like I do for the ending of a school year.

I am not suggesting here that anyone will ever have the capacity to cheer on the last days that are presented in divorce.  But I am attempting to impart some of my forward-looking-back wisdom, to let you know that your journey is not over.  You are transitioning through the confines of a larger picture that you simply cannot see – yet.  But you will.  In a few months, after you have moved through the markers of those dreaded days, you will look anew.  In hindsight, you will celebrate having made it through the last days and will look forward to those about to unfold.

Angela Dunne

Can Men be Awarded Alimony in Nebraska?

Long gone are the days when family courts would almost automatically award custody and support to women in divorce cases.  The changing roles of men and women in the workforce and the marriage equality movement are now reflected in our laws regarding the family, blurring traditional gender roles and making it just as likely that men can be awarded alimony, depending on the specifics of the case.

Nebraska laws regarding marriage and divorce are gender neutral by design.  The alimony factors that the courts consider when making a determination about alimony are all gender-neutral:

  • The duration of the marriage;
  • The financial circumstances of both parties;
  • The history of the financial and non-financial contributions to the marriage by each party, including contributions to the care and education of the children and interruption of personal careers or educational opportunities;
  • The income and earning capacities of both parties;
  • The general equities of each situation.

The courts base alimony decisions on financial need and “reasonableness,” as well as the ability of the other party to pay. In today’s world, these factors apply equally to men and women.

In Nebraska, alimony can be awarded on a temporary, short-term or permanent basis, although permanent alimony is a rarity today since courts view it as a rehabilitative measure to give one party time to obtain the necessary education and/or training to gain employment.

Your legal team at Koenig|Dunne is here to provide you with guidance and advice regarding alimony and all of the issues that you will face throughout the divorce process.

Understand the Rules About Divorce and Social Security

According to the Social Security Administration, women receive 24% less in Social Security benefits than men do, the result of women typically having spent fewer years in the workforce and earning less than their male counterparts.

In addition to having a lower benefit, women also depend more on Social Security for their living expenses.  The SSA reports that women depend on Social Security for 51% of their total income, while men count on Social Security for only 36% of their income.

Whether you are male or female, it is important for you to understand the rules for Social Security benefits if you are divorced.  No matter when you were divorced, you can receive benefits on your ex-spouse’s work record if you meet the following requirements:

  • You must be unmarried.
  • You must be 62 or older.
  • Your ex-spouse must be entitled to Social Security benefits.
  • Your own work record benefit must be less than the benefit you’d receive on your ex-spouse’s work record.

If your ex is still living and you meet the above requirements, you are eligible to receive either (1) your own benefit, or (2) up to half your ex’s full retirement age benefit, whichever is greater. If your ex’s 50% benefit is greater than your full benefit, be sure to file as soon as you reach full retirement age, since you will never be entitled to more than 50%, no matter what your age.

If your ex is deceased and you meet the requirements, you can receive a survivor benefit of 100% if you file a claim once you reach full retirement age.  You can actually file a claim beginning at age 60, but if you do, you will only receive 71.5% of your ex’s benefit. 

If you have been divorced more than once and each marriage meets the requirements, you can choose whichever ex’s benefit is the highest.  In addition, if you are receiving benefits on a living ex’s work record and your other ex dies, you can switch from a spousal benefit to a survivor benefit.

For over 40 years, your legal team at Koenig|Dunne has counseled clients in thousands of initial consultations, and we are here to ensure that your initial consultation provides meaningful answers to these types of questions that matter the most to you.

The framed photo in my office to remind me of what mattered most needed an update. Before our era of instant cell phone selfies, a trip to a photography studio was in order.  It would replace the one that included my children’s father, from whom I was now divorced.

Photographers Joe and Judy Johnston had known my family since my children they were babies. As they posed us for the portrait, they understood this was a milestone different than a wedding or graduation but no less important.

I sat regally proud of my now smaller family.  A single strand of pearls seemed perfect with my vintage navy blue dress with three-quarter sleeves that I’d worn many a day in the courtroom.  I smiled in the big way I still find myself doing today more than 25 years later.

My children did not smile as widely.

This was a snapshot in time, and the time was not easy. At 6 and 8, they were learning to live in two homes, learning to always be away from one of their parents, and learning lessons of their own capability to navigate life.

Oh the worries of a parent. How we failed them because we fear we didn’t pick the right co-parent or the right stepparent. How we failed them because our lessons in how to parent came from those who never learned it themselves. How we did the best we could, but feared we failed in ways that mattered.

If we have children to worry about we are blessed. More than one dear friend of mine has lost a child since this photo was taken.  I count my blessings.

At the time I could not have known what the future would hold for them. I only knew I wanted it to be safe, and happy, and a life they loved. A photograph captures a moment in time, and while it may be the one that is worth more a thousand words, there is often more to the story than meets the eye.

Today I look at my past worries from the perspective of the mother of two thirty something millennials.

I could not have known that, while neither would stay in high school, one would have a master’s degree from NYU and the other a law degree from Harvard. I could not have known that between the two of them they would travel to Sweden, Paris, Columbia and all parts of Central America. I could not have known how they would fall in love, love the earth, and make their lives they love a thousand miles away from me in either direction.

It would take time before I would see my children smile broadly. I first saw it in Ben as he sat in a boat floating down the Ganges River on a trip to find himself in India.  I first saw it in Jack when he chose a new name that reflected the self he’d always known he was.

This was a snapshot in time. It remains a priceless portrait and enduring reminder that everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.

Coach Koenig

Is there a milestone you want to mark?

Can you hold the possibility of a happy future?

Are you willing to trust that good awaits you?

A letter to the moms I have worked with over the last 20 years

Dear Moms,

I have been watching you for years.  I have been listening to your struggles. I have been hearing your hope.  You have been teaching me strength, grit, persistence, passion, and loyalty.  You have been showing me the path of motherhood and I thank you.

I see you reach for the tissue when you mention your child’s name the first time we meet in my office.  I hear you struggling with the decision to disrupt your intact family for a better life in the future, but at a cost for you and your children now.

I see some of you stay in unhappy marriages for the sake of your special needs child needing structure and routine.  I see some of you enduring emotional abuse that has led to physical abuse, because you cannot imagine sending your child to him alone without you there to protect.

I hear you resolve to take on yet another job to make ends meet as a single mother.  I hear you sacrifice a college class so that your children can attend summer camp.  I notice the time stamps of your emails in the wee hours of the morning because this is the only time after a full day of work and parenting that you can respond to me.

I see you sit in courtrooms holding back tears and managing relentless anxiety about how your children will manage the new parenting time schedule.  I know you are scheduling and managing countless counseling appointments making your children a top priority as you deplete your paid-time-off account for their benefit.

I know you are biting your tongues and managing fear when the step-mom arrives.  I know you are persisting despite being disadvantaged when you open your hearts to your children brought to you through a marriage.

I see you spending thousands of dollars to fight for the best interests of your sons and daughters.  I hear you when you say you do not care about the property or division of retirement accounts – you just want your children to be okay.

I see you move into a new independence.  I see the pictures of you and your children thriving.  I hear your stories of the relief felt in your new family.  How you and your kids find a new cadence in life and it is bliss-filled.  I see you owning your ever-changing role of motherhood.

You are the mothers that have guided me.

I hear you.  I see you.  I stand by you.

With much gratitude,

Your divorce lawyer

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.