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.
I didn’t notice that the paper was red and green, only that it was beautifully wrapped. It was three days past my December birthday. I assumed the gift awaiting me at the end of a long day did not want to wait another moment to be opened.
I removed the plaid bow. I carefully lifted the tape. I opened the small brown box and pulled back the tissue. I gasped.
A soft pink and white tea cup, decorated in gold, was tucked inside. Instantly I knew it was not a reproduction but an antique. I carefully lifted it out by its delicate handle. I examined the pattern of gold flowers and leaves wrapped around the sides. I marveled how the same detailed design filled the center of the accompanying saucer, the portion seen only when the cup is lifted.
It was simply beautiful.
The attached Christmas card—yes, this is not the first time I’ve been accused of not waiting until the 25th to open a package—said this:
This tea cup is from my mom’s collection…currently in a box, sitting on a shelf, not
being enjoyed. Knowing how much you like tea and beautiful things, I want you to
have it and hopefully enjoy it.
I believe that beautiful things create beautiful thoughts. My office has an ornate century old ceiling. I bring my pot of roses inside to encourage the growth of a cherished November rose. I’ve spent a lot of time selecting the right strand of pearls for a given day.
When my mother died nearly a decade ago, all the objects of beauty I inherited from her fit inside a single turkey roasting pan. Two weeks ago a friend saw her mother’s heirloom china smashed to the floor in the Anchorage earthquake. As I held the smooth gold rimmed cup in my hand, I could feel the preciousness and fragility of it all.
The gift giver’s note went on, expressing both acknowledgement and gratitude. While she had always been appreciative of our relationship, in this moment my heart felt the depth of it. Her
gifts of acknowledgement —- “thank you” …”I owe much to you”…”We are fortunate to have you in our world”—shined even more brightly than the rim on the cup.
This holiday season, I hope to take my acknowledgments of others from the shelf and give them away at every golden opportunity. They are too precious not to share. Each one a beautiful thing.
Is there an acknowledgment for you to gift to someone?
Is there simple beauty around you right now?
What is precious to you?
I couldn’t wait. It was likely going to be our own version of a Hallmark Christmas movie. But this one would be about a mother and her teenage daughters having the most magical Christmas time ever. No plot twists were allowed that would involve a hardship to overcome. My daughters and I were off to Chicago for two days to sight-see, shop, and spend time at a German Christmas market.
To ante up the expectation, for calendar reasons, this was to be my only weekend with the girls until after Christmas. This needed to be good.
The first night we went for our first ever deep-dish pizza experience. We loved it. Next I thought we could go ice skating. No. They were tired. And cold. And just wanted to go back to the hotel. Sigh. Ok. “Be flexible” I willed to myself.
Within 15 minutes of reaching the room, the girls were propped up on their beds, phones in hand, zoned out of the present moment. I sent a picture to my friend that read: “I think my expectations were too high.” He rallied me – providing names of places to eat the next day.
Within a few minutes, the girls had put their phones down and they were engaging me in conversation. I smiled suspiciously, but didn’t say a word. I soaked in the moment – regardless of the way I surely knew it had started.
The rest of the weekend, my daughters were present, attentive and loving. They were off their phones and we genuinely enjoyed our time together.
When we returned home from our trip, I thanked my friend. I said I knew he had said something to my girls. You see, he has a relationship with each and they adore and respect him. It would not have been out of the ordinary for him to send them a text. He asked if they had told me. I replied in the negative but I knew he had to have.
He then shared with me the message he had sent.
The message read:
DON’T YOU DARE REPEAT THIS. Your mom put a lot of effort into making this trip special for the three of you. Please show her how much you appreciate her. Not many parents do special things for their kids like this. Enjoy it. Your friends and phones will be there on Sunday. Spend time with her. Actual time. More than anything that’s what she wants.
I was crying by the time I read the last line.
He had my parenting back, so to speak. I forgot how good this felt. I miss having a guide for the girls encouraging them in their relationship toward their mom. Their dad relinquished that role with the divorce. But here my dear friend had willingly stepped into that role. He instantly shattered the thought I might have in a moment of woe that I need a spouse to support me with my daughters. I was reminded anew of how beautiful support can be and that in an unexpected form it restores the magic of Christmas.
This week marks a decade since Howard died. Like my father, he died within weeks of a lung cancer diagnosis. Dad had died on Christmas day, Howard the first week of December. Two years later my mother’s would also be a December death.
With the arrival of my December birthday, my heart memory reminds me to reflect on the good fortune to be on this earth to celebrate another year.
Howard married my sister Diane when I was six and she was sixteen. He became my sixth brother. He was the first person I remember teasing me, an experience of affection I would not fully appreciate until many years later. My most vivid memory of Howie was when I was covered head to toe with chicken pox. My throat and eyes swollen shut; I sat up on the edge of the bed as he spoon fed me Jello.
Howard gave me one of my first jobs when he and my sister started a cleaning company. I learned to walk fearlessly into men’s restrooms, a skill that has served me well more than once when the men’s room was empty while a dozen women stood waiting patiently outside the ladies room.
When my father kicked my brother Mel out of the house at sixteen, Howard and Diane took him in. When Mel got kicked out of school, Howard’s visit with the principal got him back in. “He saved my life,” Mel said.
For years he drove a linen delivery truck. He was known to as “Night Man” at his last job working the overnight shift as a gas station attendant.
Howard had a knack for saying the politically incorrect. He was guileless in asking embarrassing questions at Thanksgiving dinner. No matter the situation, he was quick to make a crack to bring a smile.
Howard died forty-five years after his December wedding to Diane. I can’t ever recall him telling stories of the countless acts of goodness he showed to others.
The end of the year is always a powerful time for reflection, and the holidays are about celebration. On my own day to delight in being born, I will do both. I will reflect on the power of kindness, commitment, and courage to impact lives for decades. I will celebrate Howard’s humility, tenacity, and generosity.
I will be grateful that I have been gifted another year. Another year to practice what Howard lived with such ease. Asking the brave questions. Being compassionate without being boastful.
I hope to remember that how I live is how I will die and how others will remember me after I do. May I live this next year half as authentically as Howard, recalling his teasing as a reminder not to take myself too seriously.
Have you been less than your authentic self lately?
Can you bring a smile to someone today?
Who inspires you to be your best self?
Click HERE to listen to Susan’s TEDx Talk The Energy of Eulogy, where she tells the story of Howard and being her family eulogist.
I remember a year I had big expectations and along with them, a big discovery when they were decidedly dashed. My daughters, my mom, and I, set off on what I declared to be a great family adventure. We were going to romantically tromp through a tree farm and cut down our own magical Christmas tree. And we did… sort of. In reality, the trees were pre-cut and Sophia sighed at the lack of snow on the ground. We tried our best to ignore the frosty wind making our faces and fingers hurt while we searched for the perfect tree. But boy did we find it.
When we got home the tree barely fit through our front door. I realized all too soon that the tree looked quite a bit smaller in the open muddy field in which it was displayed. In my smallish living room, it looked like the giant tree it was. My daughters and I could barely manage getting it upright in the tree stand, only to find out I needed to cut the top off to make it fit. Fine. Off with her head. But wait, the saw had gone with my former spouse. I struggled with sweat dripping to make scissors and a kitchen knife work.
We made multiple trips to Home Depot and Target for more and more lights to get the tree covered. There was endless bickering between my girls about where each ornament should be perfectly placed. After what seemed like days of decorating the tree, we finally sat back to bask in the soft glow of our perfect tree.
That is, until my daughter Anna decided to straighten the tree skirt. She wedged herself behind the tree. The tree, in all of its massive glory, was too heavy for my 6th grader’s arms to hold. Down they both went. Water and pine needles were everywhere. I rushed to assist and got underneath to the base so Anna could help me reset the tree stand. I called for Sophia and she ran downstairs to assist. Ten minutes later, after struggling and becoming tree sapped and pine-needle poked, I pulled myself out from under the tree to find my Sophia dripping wet and naked, having come panicked from the middle of her shower. Anna started crying. Sophia was shivering. My arms were shaking. The shame of my yelling in stress at my daughters was slowly seeping over me. We were too tearful and tired in that moment to laugh at the prime time comedy in which we had been placed.
That night, Anna said, “Mom, I ruined our whole night.” I replied “No Anna, you made a memory that will last us a lifetime.” We all laughed at how ridiculous everything was about this tree and how much we loved it. This tree in all of its imperfections, frustrations, and failings was a lesson in letting go of our expectations for an ideal moment and finding the beauty in bonding (and laughing hard) over a total, but perfect, disaster.
In my own life and in listening to my clients year after year, I have found that during the holidays we are particularly susceptible to striving for perfection in every magical holiday moment. We set and live for unrealistic expectations. Once divorced, our December days with our children are limited. These days become more precious and our perfection-prone parenting kicks into high gear. Our need to shelter our children from memories of years past with extended families and their parents all joined together in celebration skews our good intentions. Divorced parents tend to overdo it. I am just as guilty as the rest.
But this ill-fitting, ginormous, and tilted tree reminded me that rarely do I recall perfect moments. I remember the funny, the fallible, the dysfunctional times. What I actually remember are the times I was being present enough to take it all in. Sitting on my couch with my girls several hours after what will now forever be dubbed as the “2015 Christmas Crash” and laughing until tears streamed down our faces is the memory that stays with me. The imperfection is what made the moment so dear.
In all of our messiness, life unfolds. No doubt, divorce is one of the messiest times you will muddle through, but I promise you that as you do, your life is still unfolding. You are on a new path, having not been able to ignore the painful parts any longer. Your new life will not unfold just the way you plan either. There will be days when the landscape was not at all how you imagined, when nothing fits, and when your dreams collapse around you no matter the might with which you try to hang on. During the holidays, in the season of pending or post-divorce, embrace the imperfections, pull yourself present, and smile at your perfect mess.
In Nebraska, child support is calculated by using a mathematical formula established by state law. While determining child support is an inevitable issue to be resolved in divorce involving minor children, many parents may not understand the specific nuances of child support. For example:
- How can child support be spent?
- Am I responsible to pay for anything else beyond my monthly payments?
- When does child support begin and end?
Answers to these questions often surprise divorcing parents. Below are five common misconceptions about child support in Nebraska.
- Misconception 1: If my ex-spouse and I share joint custody, no child support is owed by either parent.
The amount of parenting time awarded directly impacts the amount of child support owed in Nebraska, but this is not the only factor used to determine whether child support is owed. In addition to parenting time, the income of both parents is considered as well. If two parents share an equal amount of parenting time, but one parent earns significantly more income than the other, then the higher-earning parent may still owe child support.
- Misconception 2: My share of daycare and out-of-pocket medical expenses are covered by my monthly child support payment.
Daycare and out-of-pocket medical expenses are shared between parents apart from monthly child support payments. These expenses are shared proportionally based upon the relative percentages of both parents’ incomes. For example, if Parent A earns $6,000 per month, and Parent B earns $4,000 per month, then Parent A would be responsible for 60% of these costs while parent B would be responsible for 40% of these cost—above any monthly child support obligation.
- Misconception 3: A parent paying child support can demand an accounting of how that child support is being spent.
Nebraska law does not allow parents paying child support to demand an accounting of how such child support is being spent by the other parent.
- Misconception 4: Child support begins as soon as a parent files for divorce.
Child support does not begin as soon as a parent files for divorce. Instead, child support begins as soon as a Court orders child support to begin, which occurs at the time of a temporary hearing or in the final divorce documents. Temporary hearings can take place within a month or two of filing for divorce.
- Misconception 5: Child support ends when my child turns 18.
In Nebraska, the age of majority (adulthood) is 19 under state law, and thus child support does not terminate until a child turns 19.
The gravity of misconceptions surrounding child support cannot be understated. Your legal team at Koenig|Dunne is here to answer your questions about child support and to advocate for your rights in determining child support.
I love to talk. It is a natural state for me. I think by talking aloud. For 25 years I made a litigator’s living by talking. The fifth of eight children, talking was a serious survival skill.
I enjoy talking to a room of hundreds or walking into that same room and making a connection with another person within a matter of minutes. I’ve been known to delight a stranger with the story of how I fell in love. While many of my dearest friends are tortured by social events, I leave a party exhilarated while they decline my invitation to talk into the wee hours over a late night breakfast.
I talk because I love ideas. I talk because I’m afraid people won’t think I bring anything of value if I don’t. Sometimes I talk because I think what I have to say will be helpful. Other times I talk because the silence scares me.
I may love to talk, but what I love more is connection. My connection with people comes less from my talking and more from my listening. When I talk I am not listening. When I am not listening I am not connecting. When I am not connecting I am not being my best self.
As a lawyer I got a lot of years of practice listening to the stories and the detailed facts. As a coach I got training and feedback on being attentive and present without words. And seven years of being a widow gave me more quiet practice than ever.
I finally have learned to choose to place myself in the quiet or to quiet myself. Lighting a candle for a morning meditation rather than rushing into the world of words. I no longer use the absence of a companion as an excuse to skip a walk. A solo winter retreat with no one to talk to but myself has become an annual ritual.
I am a wisdom gatherer. Plenty of it has come to me through failures and funerals. Much of it has also come to me in the thousands of hours I have spent sitting across the table from others, listening. It is the quieting of myself that has allowed me this gift.
After a lifetime of talking, I remain a student of silence.
In the quiet with others means I listen well to them. In the quiet with myself means I listen to the wisdom within myself. Either way, while it may not come naturally for me, I know it’s necessary if I’m going to hear what really matters.
How will you allow quiet throughout the season ahead?
How might you listen better?
What do you need to hear what matters most?
I stitched every inch of this holiday advent calendar. I could spend an equivalent number of hours delighting in it as I did creating it. However, if I had to pull from the pocket the felt toy from each of the days I would not have my daughters with me in December, the calendar would be only half-filled. That old familiar frustration of having to share my daughters with their dad during the holidays stings anew.
In 7 years of sharing holidays, I confess it has not become as easy as I had hoped. In fact, for me, it is still one of the hardest parts of being a divorced parent.
In the first years after my divorce, my only strategy was to mope. In fact, I fancied myself an expert “moper” when it came to missing holiday or special occasion time with my daughters. When I saw that my poor attitude was impacting the rest of my family and their enjoyment of the holidays, I knew I had to make a shift in strategy. Over the years, I have found the following to be helpful.
Be Intentional. Get clear about how you want to show up during the holidays with and without your children. What are your expectations versus the realities when looking at your emotional, spiritual, physical, and/or financial needs or limitations? What do you need at this time or what do you want? What don’t you want?
Create Your Calendar. If you are facing a long stretch without your children during winter break like I will this year, consider these questions to be more intentional in the time without them: What would bring meaning to the season during times when you may be alone? Working more? Volunteering? Tackling an outstanding project at home? Map out the days to assess whether your expectations, wants, and needs can be met with reason. If not, start prioritizing and mapping it out on your calendar to bring clarity to what the days will look like. Are you allowing for rest? Are you providing time for spontaneity?
Use Support. You will need support and accountability during these days. Who is going to check in on whether or not you accomplished that winter hike you were talking about? Who will be your mope buster?
With these strategies in place, here’s wishing you a holiday season where every day is savored whether you have to share or not.
All divorces end by either settling or going to trial. While the vast majority take the former route, settlement is not always the best or most appropriate option. Determining whether to settle or to take your case to trial can be a difficult decision. Here are some questions to consider when making your decision.
- How fast do I want my case resolved?
If completing your case as soon as possible is important to you, then settlement may be favorable to trial.
- How much money am I willing to spend on my case?
Trials can add a significant cost to your case in terms of legal fees. However, these costs should always be weighed against the cost of a poor settlement agreement.
- How important is it to me to tell my side of the story?
If being able to share your case publicly with a judge is important, then trial will provide the only avenue to do so.
- How much stress am I willing to take?
Going to trial is stressful. It is important to weigh your tolerance for stress before choosing to do so.
- How much do I stand to gain or to lose by going to trial?
Is it worth it to go to trial? Your attorney can help you to assess the possible outcomes of trial to help inform your decision of whether to settle.
- How well could I live with the worst-case scenario at trial?
If the worst case happens at trial, will you be able to live with that outcome?
- How will my relationship with my ex-spouse be affected?
Trial is an adversarial proceeding, where emotions often flare. If you need to maintain a relationship with your spouse beyond divorce, it is important to consider the impact of trial on your relationship.
- What is my tolerance for risk?
While settlement provides certainty, trial inevitably provides risk. Sometimes the risk is worth it—but how capable are you of tolerating that risk?
- What are my chances of succeeding at trial?
Your attorney should provide advice regarding what the likely outcome of trial could be in order to help you to weigh your options.
- Am I willing to forgo my right to a trial?
The outcomes of your divorce are often permanent. Are you willing to accept these outcomes without invoking your right to a trial?
Determining whether to settle or advance to trial is not an easy decision nor one to be taken lightly. Your legal team at Koenig|Dunne is here to provide you with guidance and advice regarding this difficult decision and all of the decisions that you will face throughout the divorce process.
You want to save more for retirement. You want to save for your kid’s college. You want to plan for your financial future and set financial goals. Standing in the way is your debt. You can’t seem to get ahead or make a dent on the amount of debt you have. It is the ever growing gobstopper. Each month your debt seems to mount even though you never miss a payment. You are current on everything. However, that $50,000 credit card debt is now sitting at $75,000. Everything is maxed out.
As is human nature, we have two immediate responses fight or flight. For the fighters out there, you start searching for ways to solve this problem head on. You start looking at what you have that you could turn into cash to throw at the debt. Maybe it is your retirement account or the equity you have in your house. Maybe it is your mother’s wedding ring. Whatever it is, you’re willing to part with it to deal with the debt problem that you are faced with. That may be a shortsighted response.
A much overlooked financial planning tool is a personal bankruptcy. A bankruptcy is an opportunity for a fresh start, a new financial beginning. It allows you to address your debt and move forward with setting and achieving your financial goals. You no longer feel stuck.
Example 1: John is 50 years old, married, and the guardian of his two minor grandchildren, ages two and five. He qualifies for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. He has $50,000 in credit card debt and is current on making the payments. However, he has now maxed out all of the cards and is stuck. He and his wife have a goal to start saving something for their grandkids college, but can’t because of their debt. He has $50,000 in a retirement account that he is thinking of withdrawing to pay down his debt. If he does this, he will have $0 saved for retirement and will have to pay taxes on the amount withdrawn. Alternatively, he could file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and be debt free in as little as 3-4 months. At the same time, he could keep his retirement account in place because it is exempt (protected). The money he was spending making minimum monthly payments on credit cards can now be used to save for his grandchildren’s college.
Example 2: John has $250,000 in his retirement account and a house with $60,000 of equity. He has $100,000 in credit card debt and does not qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy because his income is too high. Rather, he qualifies to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which involves a five (5) year repayment plan where he will pay some or all of his debt back. The amount paid on debt depends on John’s income and the value of his assets. At the end of the plan, he will be debt free. John gets to keep all of his assets, including his retirement account and his house, which will most likely continue to accrue value.
If you or someone you know is in financial distress because of debt, bankruptcy should be considered as a viable solution. Liquidating an asset may ultimately do more harm than good. A bankruptcy may allow you to move forward with setting and achieving your financial goals.
Figuring out how to handle your debt by yourself can be overwhelming. Contact Koenig│Dunne today and schedule your free consultation with one of our experienced bankruptcy attorneys who can help you become debt free through a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
I stare at the photo as though I’d never seen it before. Alone in my living room, I hold the black and white Polaroid in my hand and start to choke up. It’s been twenty-fours since Tim died.
When I returned home for the holiday break Tim overheard me talking to our mom in the kitchen about my first experience at a gay bar as a college freshman.
“I need to talk to you,” he said.
We walked down the wooden stairs to his bedroom in the back of the basement.
“There’s something I need to tell you. I’m gay.”
I was the fifth and Tim the sixth of the siblings in the Koenig clan. The trust that Tim and I shared would be the foundation of our relationship for the next twenty years.
Tim moved to North Carolina. I went to law school in Boston. We stay connected. Tim moved to the south and I returned to the Midwest. I got married, bought a home, started practicing law and became a mom. Tim and his partner opened the Neon Peach restaurant on Peachtree Street and renovated a Victorian home with six fireplaces. We stayed close.
Things got hard. It was the 1980s and the height of the AIDS crisis. Fear gripped all young men in Atlanta as funerals of friends came faster and faster. Tim’s partner John was diagnosed. The early drug trials weren’t going well.
Things got worse. With John too sick to work, the Neon Peach was forced to close. John died. Tim lost the house. Gone were his beloved, his business, and his home. Tim returned home to us for his final season which would allow us to love him and be loved by him until his death in 1994.
As I continued to arrange the order of the few dozen photos, I look at Tim’s life. The house we grew up in. The houses he renovated. His adorable smile that turned adoring when with his dog or his cat or his family. That smile turned stoic when the pain was at its worst. His muscular tanned body lying on a beach in Hawaii. His frail one barely able to stand in the months before he died.
This weekend I celebrate perhaps my most meaningful night of the year. Dozens of my friends and family will join me in honoring Tim at my annual Night of A Thousand Stars party. We raise money for supporting prevention of HIV/AIDS and for helping those who live with it. We enjoy a buffet of delicious food that I think Tim would approve of. We gather together to celebrate the privilege of being with loved ones still alive.
As I steam the wrinkles out of the red party tablecloths and assemble tiny red ribbons for my guests to pin on as they arrive, I reflect on the story these photos tell. I hope Tim trusts me to tell the tale of his life of continuous contribution to others, creating bountiful beauty, and celebration life. I trust he will guide me.
Who do you trust to share your stories with?
Who inspires you with their courage and strength?
How do you celebrate and honor the memory of loved ones?
My daughter is grumpy. She keeps complaining that we are having our Thanksgiving in two days – on Saturday. When I mentioned getting our Christmas tree earlier this year, due to a complicated holiday schedule and adjustments that were made, she nearly game unglued. Tears, pouting, and teenage angst have been triggered by any discussion around the holidays this year.
“Anna,” I said one evening when the tears were welling up in her eyes. “Don’t you remember you are the one who taught me the lesson that holidays have very little to do with the actual day on which they are celebrated.”
“What?” She blinked back tears. “Let me tell you the story,” I replied. It went like this:
One year their dad mentioned switching weekends around the Thanksgiving holiday because he was travelling to Texas to visit his parents. His plan was to drive. Our daughters had not seen their grandparents, whom they absolutely adore, since May of that year. He did not make a request to take the girls to Texas with him – in fact he was asking if I could keep the girls longer over the holiday while he traveled.
That year was my year to celebrate Thanksgiving Day with my daughters. I knew that with absolute clarity because the year prior when they were with their dad on Thanksgiving Day, I had persistently pouted and eaten pizza for what I declared to be my “un-Thanksgiving.” I was very much looking forward to my childhood tradition of watching the Macy’s Day parade with my girls in my year. I was to host my family and make my very first turkey – complete with stuffing the bird myself. I already had all of the foam pilgrims and turkeys ready for the kids to assemble for place settings, the menu planned, and the post-dinner holiday movie selected.
Their dad said to me: “I would never ask to take this holiday away from you.” He remembered how important these days are for me.
“You should take them with you to see your family,” were the words uttered out of my mouth before my heart caught up to my brain. What was I saying?? It was MY turn! I love the holidays and I love my holiday rituals.
But the right thing to do was to send them to see their far away family.
When my daughter, Anna, was excitedly talking to me about her upcoming Thanksgiving trip to Texas, I mentioned that we would do our dinner the Saturday before they left. She replied “Yeah Mom – well we would have had Thanksgiving with Daddy this year anyway since we had it with you last year.”
I retorted, “No you didn’t.”
My all-knowing 8 year old said, “Yes Mom, we did. Remember…” and she went on to recite many lovely details of the Thanksgiving dinner we had last year. She did not remember that we did not have dinner on the actual holiday. She simply remembered the celebration, love, and good food that surrounded our table. It made no difference to her that the meal had been shared on Saturday instead of Thursday. It made no difference to her that two years in a row our family Thanksgiving would be held on a day that was not the actual holiday. It only mattered to me.
As a divorced parent, I have several times confronted the question of what holidays really mean. I have been forced to assess my own rigidity when it comes to holiday traditions and celebrations. Prior to divorce, this stubborn old Taurus had years of experience perfecting the art of being inflexible. I have learned in parenting as a divorced parent that attaching too much meaning to a specific date or event causes suffering only to myself.
I see that it was not serving me to attach the specialness of the holiday to the actual day. Instead I should have been present during the celebration when I was serving the sweet potatoes. One of the most profound lessons learned while parenting post-divorce during holidays is that the true gift to be received is the gift of being present to the moment – whenever it may be.
Can my co-parent book airline tickets and travel out-of-state with our child? Does he/she need my consent first? Is our child allowed to leave Nebraska with either parent? The country?
These questions are common for parents transitioning into their new normal of co-parenting. With the holidays right around the corner, you may be wondering what rights you have to take your child out of state. Or, perhaps your co-parent has already booked plane tickets, but you disagree with your small child flying on an airplane. Can anything be done?
Parents have the right to spend holiday or vacation time with their children, and generally there is no restriction regarding where that time can take place. Parents can take their children out of the state during their parenting time, unless the court has ordered otherwise. Consent from the non-traveling parent is usually not required for out-of-state travel.
If you are concerned about your children being out of Nebraska with the other parent, you may consider including the following provisions in your parenting plan:
- Limits on the duration or distance for out-of-state travel with the children;
- Notice requirements;
- Information on phone numbers;
- Information on physical addresses;
- Email address contact information;
- Information on flight itineraries;
- Possession of the child’s passport;
- Posting of bond by the other parent prior to travel; or
- Requiring a court order for travel outside of the country.
Judges are not ordinarily concerned about short trips across state lines, but you should let your family law attorney know if you are concerned that your child may be abducted by the other parent so reasonable safeguards may be put in place. If you strongly object to your co-parent traveling out of the state with your child, you may ask the court to decide whether it is in your child’s best interests that he or she be permitted to travel with your co-parent.
Important Note: Neither parent can permanently remove a child from Nebraska without securing the court’s permission. If you (or your co-parent) is moving to another state and you (or your co-parent) would like to move your child as well, contact your attorney immediately to discuss your rights.
Your child may have never left the state without you before, but now, in your new normal, it is bound to happen. Talk to your Koenig│Dunne attorneys if you have serious concerns about your child’s out-of-state travel and see whether certain precautions may be put into place to give you some ease of mind.
“They just don’t care,” he said. His disgust infused his disappointment. The silver haired man in a suit with bright blue eyes scanned the room of the anxiously hopeful awaiting results on the big screen?
“Where are the young people? They just don’t care.” “They just don’t” he repeated, shaking his head.
He spouted off his support for his belief, providing a litany of facts for his conclusion. By now the polls were closed and I was done trying to persuade anyone to a different point of view on anything. I resisted the urge to argue about how wrong he was. I also recognized a familiar pattern in my own thinking.
We often make the wrong conclusion that others don’t care based upon what we see in the moment.
We don’t see it.
I gave my big Susan smile. He didn’t smile back. “There’s something green in your teeth,” he said. It’s not that I didn’t care about my appearance. It’s just that I couldn’t see it. We all have blind spots.
We didn’t know
The first time a friend took me to a hair salon other than the Capital Beauty School of my childhood where bad bang cuts were the norm. I failed to leave a tip. “Did you forget something?” my pal asked. I stared at her blankly, not grasping her friendly nudge about a social norm. It’s just that I didn’t know.
Their attention was elsewhere.
I care about my peace of mind. Meditation helps. When I had two toddlers, was running a law firm and volunteering, I cared about my peace of mind, too. But my attention was on the piles of dirty laundry and not a prayerful meditation practice.
They’ve lost hope.
Hope is a belief. It is an expectation that something we desire will happen. If a person has seen enough evidence that they should have no good expectations, it’s easy to lose hope. And without hope, what’s the point in in taking action?
At the conclusion of this year’s midterm elections, I will persist in believing that most people care. If I don’t, it will be impossible for me to take another step in the direction of all that I care about in the world. Which is plenty.
Have you been judging others as “not caring”?
Have you lost hope is something that you once knew you cared about deeply?
Have you convinced yourself you “don’t care” about something that truly matters to you?
I excitedly combed through my hair and put on lipstick. I double (maybe triple) checked the location and tried to temper the nervous feeling in my stomach. I felt like my face was going to be sore the next day from smiling. Sorry to disappoint Mom, but I was not about to leave for a date, I was instead headed to the polls to cast my vote.
I love voting. I appreciate the feeling that my opinion counts. Voting makes me feel hopeful, important, and engaged. I love that our democratic system says to each citizen – your voice matters. Whether my candidate choices win or lose, it does not negate the powerful impact of having felt heard.
One of the most exasperating and frustrating feelings when going through divorce or co-parenting after is when you feel your voice is not heard or that it doesn’t matter. It can happen when your lawyer has to tell you that it is a no-fault state and the horrible way your spouse treated you is irrelevant or when you have a strong opinion about an activity for your child and your former spouse tells you that it is their time and they will make the decision without your input. It leaves you feeling helpless.
When the stakes are high, frustration is compounded when your voice is silenced. This frustration may lead to anger, vengeance, or resignation. It leads you away from your integrity and your authentic self. When we feel this pull, we need support in knowing how and when to use our voice.
Pick and Choose
If you did not have a mama telling your wickedly stubborn self your whole life to “pick and choose your battles,” then let me be the one to pass on this gem of wisdom. Left to my own devices I would insist that my voice be heard on all things – and I mean all. My mom’s mantra to me was “pick and choose.” She encouraged me to prioritize my positions. To give and take – but give more often than take. She reminded me over and over again that I did not need to be right about everything and some battles were just not worth fighting. As I continue to work on being intentional about when my voice needs to be heard, I find a great sense of peace and control when I am actively choosing when it is most important that my voice be heard.
Get it out
How many times have you authored an email that felt delightfully satisfying only to delete it upon completion? Or giggled with a girlfriend or guffawed with a guy pal as you complained about a situation? The act of using your voice in a practice run often makes us feel better. But in this practice, you are using a conversation colander and keeping only the important pieces. It helps us see what we really want to say or not say.
When we are mindful about our messages it magnifies the value of our voice. Our integrity, credibility, and authority are given more weight when we chose those best moments to be vocal and when we are able to prioritize. It will be then that your value is seen when you vote to use your voice.
When meeting with an attorney for the first time in the divorce process, it is important that you receive candid advice to any questions or concerns that you may have. While your attorney may not be able to answer all of your questions during the initial consultation, your attorney should be able to provide you with guidance and insight. When preparing your list of initial consultation questions, here are five suggestions to add to your list:
- What information do you need from me?
To complete a divorce, a number of documents have to be collected. Ask your attorney to provide you with a specific list of documents and other information expected from you so that you can begin collecting all of the information that your attorney needs to complete your case.
- How long will the divorce process take?
Each divorce in Nebraska differs in the length of time it takes to complete, but it is still important for you to ask your attorney for a general expectation on how long your case will last. This will help you to make preparations for the pendency of your divorce.
- What are our first actions?
To make sure that you and your attorney start strong, ask your attorney what the first steps on your case will be—both for you and your attorney.
- What concerns do you have about my case?
Ask your attorney for an open and honest evaluation of your case. Specifically, ask your attorney if he or she has any concerns about your case that you may not have already mentioned.
- What style of attorney are you?
Every attorney is unique. Some divorce attorneys are more aggressive advocates, while others are more focused on dispute resolution. Make sure that your attorney fits the style that you expect in your attorney.
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.
“I just hate him,” she said. She started to cry again. My hug felt like a petty comfort to the searing pain the blast had left.
It was 72 hours after the Tree of Life Synagogue slaughter. She was referring not to the shooter but to the president of the United States.
I knew which facts forged the basis of her emotion. I also knew that her suffering was exacerbated by her hate. Being a tender-hearted person, she was not being herself.
Later that day, I told a friend, “Trump’s going to Pittsburg.”
“Good for him,” my friend replied.
Shame washed over me as I observed my own form of hate— judgment. I muttered my hope that he might say something comforting, something inspiring, or at least something hopeful. I silently feared he would say something that aroused more hate.
I’ve long believed in the power of words. Years ago I decided to remove “hate” from my vocabulary after hearing someone say, “I have no room in my heart for hate,” I decided I didn’t want hate taking up any of the precious space in my heart. I needed it for loving.
I love to love. A great performance on any stage. Speaking up for those who cannot. A moist bite of chocolate brownie. And people. Oh people.
The moment that hate occupies any part of my heart, I feel the pain of my love bumping up against the hard edge of my mind’s harsh criticism. My love shrinks.
The next day the president solemnly laid stones and the first lady laid white roses for the victims. He made no public remarks. My fear of him speaking words that would worsen the suffering was unfounded.
Two days later, he referred to the Central America caravan—thousands of desperate, impoverished and frightened migrants walking with hope to salvage their lives—as invaders. I notice my heart with the vigilance of a monitor. How could I keep it from closing?
When the Dali Lama was asked who his greatest teacher was, he is said to have replied, “Chairman Mao,” referring to the repressive Chinese leader who violently expelled him and his Buddhist people from Tibet into exile.
My heart works its way open anew.
Do you have any judgments which cause you to not be your best self?
Do you sometimes make assumptions that are false?
How will you keep your heart open when you notice it closing?
We almost forgot about fall. Not intentionally. But it happened with booked up and busy weekends and a failure to plan ahead. In a mad dash to tackle our fall traditions, we headed to the pumpkin patch on October 28th to pick the perfect pumpkins and return home to carve them.
The day was beyond beautiful. Blue skies, no long lines, and the perfect pumpkins had waited for us in the patch. Inhaling the crisp fall air and hearing the crunch of leaves under our shoes was good for our souls. We were happy.
We returned home where my parents joined us for pumpkin carving and I prepped a chicken potpie for dinner. It was idyllic to say the least. That is, until the carving knives and kits came out.
My youngest, 12 year old Sophia, picked the hardest pattern in the approximate 7 pattern books we have accumulated over the years. Her sole and stubborn aim was to win my office pumpkin-carving contest. She would not concede to my appeals to select a simpler style. Her pumpkin skin was about 3 inches thick. We argued for the better part of 2 hours while she incessantly stabbed at the pumpkin to make tiny slivers of ghost eyes. She kept complaining and asking me to fix it. I steadfastly declined, forced smiles, and stabbed at my own carving.
My eldest, 14 year old Anna, printed a Charlie Brown pattern from the internet. It would require skill, and by this time I kept my mouth shut. Within 45 minutes the design caved in and left a gaping hole. Anna fought back tears and pled with her sister to have the remaining small yellow pumpkin Sophia had planned to paint. She and Sophia fought for a half hour. Finally a shamed-by-her-mother Sophia caved only to have Anna’s pumpkin design cave in again.
When my dad and I finally finished (while Sophia was about 1/2 way through hers), we turned off all the lights. I excitedly lit the candles. I blinked. Then realized, I had been distracted by the bickering. Instead of Happy Haunting – my pumpkin read “Happy Huning.” I had not even noticed my mistake it was lit up.
We all burst out laughing. Anna declared it an official pumpkin disaster.
I was reminded for the umpteenth billion time that in all of our messiness, life unfolds. That some of our best memories with our children unfold in the complete imperfection of our days, and that our expectations versus realities can bring tears, bickering, and ultimately belly-aching laughter.
Attend First Meeting
Now that your bankruptcy case is on file, you will have to attend the First Meeting of Creditors. The Meeting is typically a fairly straightforward ordeal. We will support you with answering the Trustee’s questions regarding the bankruptcy documents that we have reviewed with you prior to filing In order to reduce your stress about going to court, we want to let you know what to expect by providing you with the most common questions and answers.
- Certification Regarding Domestic Support Obligations. Your attorney will provide you with a certification regarding court-ordered domestic support obligations (child support and/or alimony). If you have a domestic support obligation, then you have to state that you are current on your post-filing domestic. If you don’t have a domestic support obligation, you simply state as much. The reason why this is necessary is that you have to be current on post-filing domestic support obligations in order to have your plan confirmed.
- Tax Returns. In order to have your plan confirmed, you must have filed all required tax returns. If you have not done so, you will need to prepare and file your tax returns as soon as possible after filing.
- Your creditors, the Chapter 13 Trustee, and other parties in interest have an opportunity to review and object to your plan. The Chapter 13 Trustee almost always finds a reason to object to the plan.
- You have an opportunity to provide a response to any objection. Your attorney will prepare and provide this to you and file it with the bankruptcy court.
- The ultimate goal is to have your Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan confirmed. Sometimes your attorney will have to prepare and file an amended plan to address the issues presented in any objection. Once the court confirms your plan, it will remain in place for the next 3-5 years unless it is modified. More on that next.
Modifying the Plan
- Limited Motion to Modify. After the plan is confirmed, you may file a Limited Motion to Modify to temporarily stop or reduce the plan payment for a period typically not longer than 3-4 months. If you have a temporary hardship arise, such as a loss of job or increase in medical bills, please reach out to your attorney to explore this option.
- Change in Household Income/Expenses. If your household income permanently decreases/expenses permanently increase during the course of your Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you may be able to file an amended plan to permanently reduce your plan payment. If your household income permanently increases/expenses permanently decrease during the course of your Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you may have to file an amended plan to permanently increase your plan payment. This is because you are required to commit your full disposable income during your 3-5 year plan.
Creditors File Claims
- Most of your creditors have 70 days from the filing date to file claims. Once the deadline passes, the Trustee will provide you with a list of creditors, designating which creditors filed and providing the amounts and treatment of each claim.
- Unsecured Creditor’s Failure to File. If an unsecured creditor (i.e. credit card) fails to file a claim by the deadline, it will receive no payment in your plan and your legal obligation will be discharged at the end of the plan as to that creditor.
- In some situations, it becomes necessary to object to a claim to have the claim disallowed in part or in full. Your attorney and the Trustee review each and every claim filed to determine if an objection is necessary.
Keep your Attorney Informed
- Change in Employment. Your attorney will inform the Chapter 13 Trustee’s Office so that your new employer can be informed to set up the wage withholding for the plan payment.
- Change in Household Size. A change in your household size may impact your household income and/or expenses, which may require an adjustment to your plan payment either temporarily or permanently.
- Temporary Increase in Expenses/Decrease in Income. You need new tires for your car or you had a larger than normal medical bill arise. In these situations, you may have the option to temporarily stop or reduce your plan payment.
- Need a replacement vehicle. Before you finance a replacement vehicle, you will need to file a pleading, asking for the court’s permission to incur the new debt.
- The interplay between bankruptcy and divorce is complex. You will want to inform your bankruptcy attorney if you or your spouse have filed for divorce.
- You Did It! You will want to take the opportunity to celebrate this accomplishment.
- Notice of Final Payment. Once you have made your final payment, the Chapter 13 Trustee will notify your employer to stop the wage withholding and will file a Notice of Final Payment with the bankruptcy court.
- Another Certification Regarding Domestic Support Obligations. Your attorney will provide you with a certification regarding court-ordered domestic support obligations (child support and/or alimony). If you have a domestic support obligation, then you have to state that you are current on your post-filing domestic. If you don’t have a domestic support obligation, you simply state as much. The reason why this is necessary is that you have to be current on post-filing domestic support obligations in order to have your discharge entered.
To explore your bankruptcy and non-bankruptcy solutions, contact Koenig|Dunne to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced bankruptcy attorneys.
I stopped in the hallway to listen. History was about to be made. President Reagan announced the nomination of the first woman to the United States Supreme Court.
It was the summer of 1981. I had just graduated from law school, I was working for a small law firm while awaiting my bar exam results. There being no cell phones or computers, the radio informed me.
My emotions were mixed. She was a Republican appointee, and I had some vague concern about how she would vote on issues that mattered deeply to me. But she was raised an independent cowgirl, which boded well.
Hers was the first televised hearing for the nomination of a judge to the Supreme Court. It lasted three days. The main topic was abortion. 17 yeses and one present were the votes from the judiciary committee. Her nomination was approved by the Senate unanimously.
She had been turned down for 40 jobs after graduating from Stanford Law School near the top of her class. When she finally was hired, it was for no salary and she shared an office with a secretary.
On September 21, 1981 Sandra Day O’Connor was sworn in as a member of the highest court in the land. That same week I was sworn in to my state bar.
Years later Justice O’Connor spoke at the annual meeting of our state bar association. I arrived early in the room to ensure I got a great seat. I don’t remember what she said, but I remember her dignity and how honored I felt to be in her presence.
Justice O’Connor believed in the rule of law over party politics. My fears about how she would rule were mostly unfounded. The second woman appointed to the Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg called her “the most helpful big sister you could have” referring to the advice she gave when RBG joined the court twelve years later.
At a commencement speech to Stanford graduates Justice O’Connor said:
Triumphs over justice can seem inevitable…if you know how the story ends. You cannot expect that your efforts will be met with immediate success. But the ever-present understanding that you are a part of something bigger than yourself, and that your efforts are paving the way for those who will follow, make a life of public service worth the bumps along the way…At every step of the way, I felt the thrill of doing something right for a reason…It was the thrill of building bridges.
Justice O’Connor’s husband lived with dementia for 20 years before he died. This week, she announced her withdrawal from public life due to her own diagnosis of dementia.
We honor Sandra Day O’Connor for being our graceful bridge, 37 years since that October when she first took her seat on the United States Supreme Court.
Are you willing to persist despite others closing doors to you?
Are you a part of something bigger than you?
How can you be a graceful bridge builder?
“I agree with the parenting plan for our son and the child support amount.” Pause. “I agree with receiving half of the retirement accounts and home equity.” Pause. “I agree with how the debt has been distributed and it is fair.” Pause. “But I want the snow blower.”
If I had a snow blower for every time negotiations in a divorce action came to a screeching halt over an item of personal property, I could pass them around like Oprah at Christmas. “You get a snow blower, and you get a snow blower – snow blowers for everyone!”
Although it doesn’t feel like it for those in it, all divorce actions do come to an end. For most, it is a welcome reprieve from the stress, anxiety, and roller coaster they have been on as their marriage deteriorated. Bringing a divorce to a close requires a substantial amount of energy, grit, and level-headedness from spouses (and their lawyers).
Often near the end, we see a renewed wave of regret or newly engaged obstinance. For some people, it is an item – the old dryer in the basement, the mushroom cookie jar, the Terry Redlin painting in the den. For others, it is the last dollar or fifty. And for the remaining it may be the last word. But there is always the last thing to be resolved.
Deciding how you want to approach “the last thing” well before it presents itself can be useful. These are some tips I have seen clients successfully employ:
Track. Set your intentions at the outset of the action or negotiation. Write down those issues/items that matter most to you. Custody. Financial security. Equity. Prioritize them. When it comes to the end of the negotiation, where were the Christmas dishes on your list?
Talk. Find a friend who understands your fondness for the last item in contention. Talk it out. Talk about what makes the item/issue meaningful. Is there a way to recreate it or make it anew? Is there a way to let it go? Talk out the options.
Take it. The high road I mean. Determine if holding on to the last word, item, or dollar is worth continuing the divorce action and the angst for you and your family. Determine if it is worth risking the peace of having a negotiated resolution and instead have a judge unfamiliar with your case and situation make the decisions about all of the issues.
So while you may be giving up on the last thing, it will be the first thing leading you into your new and independent life.
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.