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.

Her dark hair hung over her face as she furiously took notes. She barely spoke the entire semester. But she heard my “Me too.”

My lecture that week in my Women and the Law course was on domestic violence. I wanted these future lawyers to have an understanding beyond the legal definition of “credible threat” and which documents to file at the courthouse.   

I wanted them to see that “Why didn’t she leave?” was the wrong question. I also wanted to answer it.

We argued about the garlic in the guacamole. He backed me up against the kitchen wall. He was furious. I remained calm. He berated.  “This is abusive,” I said in my quietest voice, looking into his angry eyes.

He stormed outside. I took off my apron and went upstairs to finish my makeup. We were about to leave for his family reunion.  I stood at the bathroom mirror focusing my shaking hand on my mascara when I heard the front door open and his footsteps coming up the stairs. Without warning he punched me squarely in the gut and calmly stated, “Now you can tell your friends I’m abusive.”

How had I been reduced to justifying the purchase of a two-dollar tube of lipstick? Of defending why I wanted to see a movie with a girlfriend?  How did I stay with a man who threw the bowl of my freshly made Ocean Garden Pasta against the kitchen wall as I set the table, cracked the windshield with his bare fist as I drove, and smashed the bouquet of mums against the mantle as I wept?

I was a young lawyer and the president of our local chapter of the National Organization for Women when I had found myself joining the millions of women who lived silently and secretly with the unspoken shame of intimate partner abuse.

If it could happen to me, it could happen to you or someone you love.

Fifteen years before the Me Too movement I had my MeToo moment in that classroom. Fifteen years later, I would learn the impact of my story. My student found herself having every hour of her day monitored by her abuser as she struggled to safely escape with three children and her life. My story had mattered. Yours might too.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month.  If you or someone you know is experiencing the warning signs of domestic abuse, let in support now.  Call the 24 hour domestic violence hotline at (800)799-SAFE (7233). Develop a safety plan. Call an attorney knowledgeable about protection orders. Don’t wait. 

And if you have a story you feel safe to share, share it. It could save a life.

Coach Koenig

Do you know the signs of intimate partner abuse?

Do you have a survivor story that might support someone to get to safety?

Are you a voice for respect, safety, and dignity in your world?

She said it in such a whisper I could barely tell she was talking.  “I still love him,” she said with a shiver of shame running over her.  My heart moved over to make room for her.  I had met this sadness before – from the hims and hers who came in throughout the years ahead of her. 

They told me about the struggles living with a spouse addicted, with a spouse turned paranoid, or with a spouse now violent.  Their sadness you could nearly cup in your hand it was so palpable.  They sought options to end the cycle they were in:  a drunken episode resulting in destroying their daughter’s Halloween costume that was to be worn in three days time, then apologies and more apologies followed by a devout resolve to make amends and change behavior only to have the cycle return in an endless orbit.

Now they arrived opposite me at my desk to stop enabling, to stop this season of co-dependence, and to look at a different future for them – a future devoid of the draining tiptoe around the shattered glass shards that were now their relationship.  When they looked at the mess around them they could often see beauty if the light caught the pieces just right, but one step could mean a painful slice and more bloodshed.

How do you divorce when you still deeply love your spouse despite the bad behaviors? This is the question they confront.  They are asked to look past the bruises – both physical and mental.  To look past the promises that piled up over the years without action.  They are asked to surrender to this love and let go.

Surrender.  Sigh. The hardest of love lost lessons. It feels counter-intuitive that loving them can mean the need to let them go.  It means stepping into the realness – the wholeness of your world.  If you choose a path other than the cycle, you are called upon to surrender to reality.

You do not want to end this marriage and you do not want to stay in this cycle of hurt and hopelessness.  In facing the realness of your circumstances, the choice becomes clearer.  The path is paved ahead of you with the clarity to step away from the cycle of despair in which you currently reside and move toward fiercely loving yourself.

Angela Dunne

money traveling from one envelope to another envelope

When it comes to property division in a divorce, there are often retirement or pension plans that are on the table to be split between the divorcing spouses. Splitting a qualified retirement plan or pension plan in a divorce requires the preparation of a QDRO (qualified domestic relations order).

A QDRO allows for the division of qualified plan assets in a tax-deferred manner for the receiving spouse, and provides that spouse with 60 days in which to roll it over into an IRA without penalty. If you want to take some money out for divorce expenses, you can make a one-time withdrawal before you do a rollover without incurring a 10% penalty, even if you are under age 59 1/2, but you will still have to pay income tax on that withdrawal.

Some IRA plans do not require a QDRO, so it is important for you to check with the company administering the IRA to determine if one is required.  Some administration companies only require a copy of your final Decree and completion of a transfer form. 

With a QDRO, administrators of your retirement plan or pension are officially notified that benefits are to be distributed according to a court order in a divorce action.  Properly drafted, the QDRO will address issues like survivor benefits so a surviving spouse can be assured of continuing to receive funds if the plan participant dies first.

How to Get a QDRO

Start by asking your qualified retirement account or pension administrator about their QDRO process.  Some have standard forms and others require that the QDRO be prepared by an actuary or a special QDRO preparer.  Don’t try to DIY it.  Ask your attorney for guidance.

Once approved by the plan administrator, the QDRO is entered as an order by the court and sent to the plan administrator to be fulfilled.

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.

Figuring out when is the best time to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy doesn’t have to be hard. In many situations, the person dealing with financial distress has been trying to figure out how to handle their debt for months or even years. The person is constantly juggling money, deadlines, and how they’re going to get it all accomplished. Chapter 13 bankruptcy exists as a solution to allow people in Nebraska to consolidate debt and handle it all in one place at one time. The creditors get dragged into the bankruptcy system and must partake in the 3-5-year repayment plan.

There are some factors to evaluate when figuring out whether Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a viable solution for the financially distressed Nebraskan.

  1. Good Income, But Not Enough. You always pay your debt on time, but you run into a situation where you never get ahead. The Debt continues to grow with no sign of stopping. On paper, you make good income, but it is not enough to pay down your debt or to build any savings. The Chapter 13 bankruptcy is largely based upon your disposable monthly income or excess monthly income, basically the amount of money you have left over ever month after considering general living expenses.
  2. Temporary or Permanent Reduction of Income. You were out of work for a short period of time or now have taken a new job with a significant pay cut. Your income no longer stretches as far as it used to, and you have fallen behind on your bills. You do not have an ability to catch up or get ahead.
  3. Behind on Mortgage or Car Loan. For whatever reason, divorce, job loss, death of a love one, etc., you have fallen behind on your mortgage or car loan. You’ve tried to complete the loss mitigation packet with your mortgage company and have gotten nowhere. You’ve tried to work out a deal with your car lender, but they want too much. The Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows you to cure the arrears, the amount you have fallen behind in your 3-5-year repayment plan.
  4. Tax Debt. You have recent income tax debt or other tax debt that you cannot afford to resolve through a repayment plan. You can resolve your tax debt by handling it through a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
  5. Status Quo Keeps You in Debt Cycle. Iusually spend some time comparing the Chapter 13 bankruptcy with the alternative, which is the status quo. I call it the “do nothing” approach. You always have the option of doing nothing other than what you’re currently doing. However, there is typically no clear light at the end of the tunnel with this option. For example: I had a client who was faced with $2,500 per month in minimum monthly payments. In a Ch. 13 she was able to repay 100% of her debt through a 5-year repayment plan making monthly payments of $1,000 and will be debt free at the end of the Chapter 13 plan.
  6. Asset Retention. In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you keep your property. The plan is funded through post-filing excess/disposable income. Pause before you start liquidating your retirement accounts or other assets before considering Chapter 13 bankruptcy as a viable solution to handle your debt. I have seen countless times where a client liquidates assets to handle debt when they could have retained the asset and still handled the debt.
  7. Accelerated Debt Recovery. If you successfully complete your repayment plan, you are debt free in 3-5 years. That is a much better situation than paying minimum payments on credit cards indefinitely. I frequently am asked, “how will bankruptcy negatively impact me?” I usually respond with the fact that a Chapter 13 bankruptcy puts you in a better position financially quicker than if you were trying to resolve this with another non-bankruptcy solution.
  8. Creditors Must Participate. The bankruptcy automatic stay, the provision in the bankruptcy laws that protects you, prohibits creditors from attempting to collect a debt directly from you. What that means is that all the phone calls, collection efforts, and lawsuit stop. The general unsecured creditors (i.e. medical bills, credit cards, consolidation loans, etc.) must file a claim within 70 days of your case being filed in order to participate in the distribution. If they snooze, they lose. Also, it is a lot easier to deal with all your creditors in one place instead of scattered all over the place.
  9. Stop Garnishments. The garnishment laws in Nebraska allow for 15% to 25% of your gross adjusted wages to be garnished. For some people, this involuntary repayment of debt causes you to default on your other debt such as your house or car. It creates a domino effect. You can get into a Chapter 13 to stop the garnishment and propose a repayment plan based upon your budget as opposed to an unforgiving percentage of your income.

Deciding whether to file a bankruptcy is a complex and emotional decision. Finding the right attorney to work with you to make that decision is crucial. Instead of worrying what will come next, you should meet with a bankruptcy attorney to discover your options for dealing with your financial situation.

If you are someone you know is bracing for or already experiencing financial distress, the bankruptcy attorneys at Koenig|Dunne are here to help.

Patrick Patino

I always note the day. Each year on the first Monday of October the United States Supreme Court begins its session.

A wave of anxiety annually washes over me as I think of how lives and futures of countless Americans will be changed by decisions placed in the hands of nine people. I have fretted over affirmative action for colleges, reproductive rights for rural women, and how hard the court might make the rules for any sexual harassment victim to get justice.

Five years ago, when the freedom to marry for same sex couples case—Obergefell v. Hodges—- was to be decided, our law firm was fighting the same cause in the Midwest courts on behalf of seven couples who sought to protect their relationships and their rights.  Rulings from the black robed and too often ivory towered intellectuals in our top court feel personal when those impacted are people you care about deeply like your clients.

“Don’t take things personally” I tell myself. One of Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements for living wisely, it’s a principle I believe in. It’s a perspective I encourage others to hold. But this year,  on the first Monday in October, I struggled to apply it.

The court on Tuesday heard arguments to determine whether transgender employees are protected from discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The court will decide whether employers in our country have the legal right to hurt my child.

My child graduated with recognition from a community college, a state university, and Harvard Law School.  He got his first job when he was a teen and has worked hard ever since. He has served in our military, fought wildfires in our forests, and been a public servant on Navajo Nation reservation. Still, the Supreme Court will have the power to deprive him of his dignity in the workplace.

These judges will decide if my youngest can lawfully be demoted, paid less than the person working alongside him, harassed, or fired. They can declare whether he can be hired for his dream job or even get a chance to interview for it.

The decision to be made feels personal because it’s my child. Yet there are over a million transgender Americans who will be impacted, along with their co-workers who risk losing valued team members and their families who risk losing financial support.

The ruling of the court will not be personal. But the implications for my child and my transgender friends are.  My hope is that the justices imagine for a moment what it would feel like to be this mom on the first Monday in October.

                                                                                                                Coach Koenig

                                             How to you re-frame your worries about loved ones?

                                    What decisions of others might you be taking personally?

                                                What hopes do you hold in the face of fear?

man pointing to himself

Being married —  then divorced — from a narcissist is bad enough, but when you must co-parent with one, the difficult becomes the almost impossible.  Your co-parent narcissist thrives on dysfunction, which makes for a miserable co-existence. 

However, if you are aware of their tactics, you’ll be in a better position to deal with them.  Here are some tips for identifying those tactics and how to cope:

Expect spiteful behavior and learn to ignore it

The narcissist thrives on getting an emotional reaction, and is often able to get one by making nasty comments to prompt your response.  Learn to ignore these comments and recognize them for what they are: an attempt to manipulate your emotions.  Don’t get drawn into their trap.

Be on alert for triangulation

This tactic is common among narcissists; it’s when they try to line up others against you.  In a divorced family situation, they usually try to align the kids against you so you are perceived as “the bad guy.”  You can deflect this if you first assess whether a situation is unsafe.  Say your ex-spouse allows the children to eat ice cream for dinner.  This is not ideal, but it’s not really unsafe so you should ignore it.  However, if your ex-spouse allows your children to ride in the car without seat belts (or car seats if they are very young), this is an unsafe situation.  You need to document when this happens, and then talk to your kids about the importance of staying safe in a vehicle.  Email your ex-spouse and calmly request that he keep the kids safe while in the car.  If he responds with anger, ignore him and then talk with your attorney about your documented evidence of his putting your children in harm’s way.

Don’t give in to guilt. 

If your ex-spouse is constantly interrupting the time you have with your kids with phone calls or texts, ignore him.  You need to establish health boundaries and protect the time you have with your children without feeling guilty.

Watch for a tendency to play favorites

While this is grossly unfair to the other children, a narcissist will often play favorites with one child.  Don’t try to talk to him about it; narcissists by definition have little ability to understand another person’s point of view if it differs from his own.  Instead, talk to your kids about the importance of sharing their feelings and empathize with them when they do share.

Parent with empathy

Narcissists lack empathy, which is harmful to a child’s emotional development.  You will have to compensate for this lack of empathy from their other parent by making sure you stay emotionally attuned to your child, empowering and encouraging them and validating their feelings.

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

I was sitting in the hospital waiting room. My friend was getting a new hip and I was happy to await the news of a successful surgery.

I’d been doing my best to ignore the latest daily bad news of our country running nonstop on the big screen television when my phone alert popped up.

“Oh no,” I said aloud to no one.

The television suddenly had my full attention. I stood up to read the news ticker at the bottom of the screen—-Breaking News:  Cokie Roberts Dead at 75.

I  go weeks without turning on my television in my home. But on this morning I took in every word.

Cokie was one of the founding mothers of National Public Radio (NPR). I first heard her voice in July of 1981. 

I worked on family law cases in a small law firm while studying for the bar exam. Our boss would alternate between public radio with his reggae cassette collection. I remember listening to Cokie as she  explained the implications of President Ronald Reagan appointing the first woman to the United States Supreme Court, Sandra Day O’Connor would then go on to be sworn in to the court that September, the same month I was sworn in to the bar.

For nearly 20 years of the last century and nearly 20 years of the current one, Cokie used plain language to help U.S. citizens understand how politics and government worked. She, along with Nina Totenberg and Linda Wertheimer—known as the Three Musketeers—revolutionized political journalism. Close in age and friendship, they supported one another to transform a once all-male industry into one where they played major roles in political news.

It would be Nina Totenberg who, a decade after the Day appointment, would give the reporting on another important time for the Senate Judiciary Committee: the testimony of Anita Hill at the confirmation hearing of nominee Clarence Thomas to the United States Supreme Court. Totenberg would later comment that the sexual harassment story Hill told was “her (Nina’s) story,” as she had been similarly treated by a former boss.

October always has me thinking about brave women. It’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month and I think of the those who have the courage to start a new life, even risk being killed when they leave a violent relationship. It’s also Breast Cancer Awareness Month which makes me I think of the millions of women who live with it, survived it, or fear it.

Cokie Roberts died of breast cancer. I cherish anew all of the women in my life who are by my side on my journey. My Ninas and my Lindas. With them, we, too, can be a part of some small revolution.

Coach Koenig

Who are your Musketeers?

Which courageous women inspire you?

Are you a part of some small revolution?

I live in constant fear.  Walking on eggshells, whispering my first words in a conversation and bracing myself when I hear the door shut from their arrival have become the norm.  It started about 2 years ago when my oldest turned 13.  My household now includes a 15 ½ year old and a 13 year old – thus the reason for my perpetual state of panic. 

I worry about them driving.  I worry about what is happening on their phones.  I worry about why they don’t talk to me.  I worry about when they do talk to me.  I worry about if what they wear is appropriate.  I worry about if they are where they say they are.  I worry about them being seen for their authentic selves.  I worry about them in the face of a culture of social media, sexual assault, bullying, and school shooters.  I worry about drugs and addictive substances that now taste like bubble gum. 

There is not a day that passes that I don’t experience distress from these thoughts.  The last time I felt this fear my children were 7 and 5 and I was in the midst of divorce.  I was a newly minted single parent with the weight of seven worlds on my shoulders. 

My worries were many.  Was the divorce ruining them?  Would I have enough monthly income to support my household?  How would I pay down the debt? How was I going to survive a Christmas Eve without them?  Where were we going to live?  The constant stream of scary thoughts overwhelmed me daily.

I learned how to cope with my many fears in that season. I set up a budget.  I made magic happen during the holidays for my children – even if it wasn’t on the exact day.  I was present for all of our feelings around our changing family structure.

In hindsight, I see that I learned to shift my focus to those things that I could control.  I no longer fell captive to my spinning thoughts but instead moved into action to prepare for and prevent the worries.  To-do’s provided a balm to my rattled state of being. 

During this season of scary, I see that now I can schedule a driver’s ed class.  I can set limits for phone use.  I can insist on meeting their friends and getting those parents’ phone numbers.  I can choose to be present and listen when they talk.   I, once again, can shift my focus to that which is in my control and set my fears aside.

Angela Dunne

Congress passed a new law to increase the debt limit for Chapter 12 Bankruptcy, which will benefit financially distressed family farmers in Nebraska obtain bankruptcy relief. Under the new bankruptcy law that just went into effect, the Family Farmer Relief Act of 2019, the amount of debt a family farmer may have to qualify for a Chapter 12 bankruptcy almost doubled to $10,000,000.

For family farmers who are in financial distress, this change opens the doors to a viable bankruptcy solution. Previously, when a family farmer in Nebraska didn’t qualify for a Chapter 12 bankruptcy because he or she exceeded the debt limit, there was few other viable bankruptcy solutions.

This typically meant that the only bankruptcy solutions the Nebraska family farmer could utilize was either the Chapter 11 or Chapter 7. The Chapter 11 bankruptcy may work well for some larger family farming operations but works poorly for many smaller family farms. This has to do with the requirement that family farmers end up having to pay back all the debt in full, which is infeasible for many cash strapped farmers. The Chapter 7 may work well for a family farmer looking to orderly liquidate assets and obtain a discharge, eliminating legal obligations on debts, but not for the farmer that is looking to continue farming in Nebraska.

The ongoing trade war with China has impacted the Nebraska farming industry tremendously. Add that to flooding and low grain/cattle prices and Nebraska family farmers are bracing for disaster.

Expanding Chapter 12 bankruptcy eligibility to more family farmers, hopefully means that more family farmers will look to Chapter 12 bankruptcy as a viable solution to reorganize.

  1. Capital Gains Tax. Outside of Chapter 12 bankruptcy, capital gains tax from sale of farm assets (machinery equipment) and arguably end products (grain, cattle, etc.) is a priority unsecured debt, which means the family farmer must pay it in full. In a Chapter 12, those same taxes are considered a general unsecured debt, meaning that the family farmer may only pay a pro rata or percentage of the debt based upon amount of disposable income or equity in property.
  2. Cure Defaults. Through a confirmed Chapter 12 plan, the family farmer can cure defaults of secured debt in order to retain property such as equipment, machinery, and land.  
  3. Controlled Sale of Assets. In many situations, the family farmer uses the Chapter 12 bankruptcy to downsize operations, selling assets and tapping into equity to pay down debt and to operate on. Using the Chapter 12 bankruptcy, the family farmer can avoid the fire sale or having to sell an asset at a less than ideal time.
  4. Designed to keep family farms intact. The Chapter 12 exists specifically to provide family farmers with a bankruptcy solution tailored to their unique needs.
  5. Opportunity to Pay Unsecured Creditors Less than 100%. In some instances, the family farmer may be able to pay general unsecured creditors (i.e. credit cards, vendors, suppliers, medical debt, etc.) less than 100% of the debt owed through the 3-5 year Chapter 12 bankruptcy plan.  

Deciding whether to file a bankruptcy is a complex and emotional decision. Finding the right attorney to work with you to make that decision is crucial. Instead of worrying what will come next, you should meet with a bankruptcy attorney to discover your options for dealing with your financial situation.

If you are someone you know is bracing for or already experiencing financial distress, the bankruptcy attorneys at Koenig|Dunne are here to help.

Patrick Patino

“My name is Peggy. May I help you?” 

“Peggy,” I said, pausing for the surprise little lump in my throat  “I really hope you can.”

I was embarrassed by my emotion. Years ago I placed countless calls to cancel my husband’s name on accounts and remove it from many charity mailing lists. That was an understandable time for emotions.

But a call to a customer service rep to get your bank password changed? 

I was on day three of a quest to solve a series of technological challenges. In my effort to live out my intention to “simplify in September” I focused on technology.

  • Start using your bank’s mobile app you’ve had for years (release the relationships with neighborhood tellers) √
  • Invest in better spam filtering (I don’t need diabetes drugs nor am I looking for any “hot girls” thank you very much) √
  • Choose a password manager ( Download the app to your desktop, your laptop, your iPad, your phone ) √
  • Get a new computer √

I was on day three of my quest to resolve the myriad of issues big and small that come with a system change. I’d chatted with Chakrit online. I exchanged seemingly endless emails. I’d thrice forfeited my computer for others to assist. I’d been on perpetual loops of “Listen carefully to these options.” 

But on this morning, the mere sound of Peggy’s voice meant everything.

It was the morning of my grown son’s birthday. He lives a thousand miles away. I wanted to start his day with some Venmo cash. I tried to check my bank balance.  But since I couldn’t remember the name of my favorite musician—- Bruce Springsteen? Or the guitarist I was dating when I opened my checking account.—I called yet another dreaded 800 number.

“I can help you with that,” Peggy said.

I wanted to weep. It was a human voice. It was the feeling that help was on the way.

I loathed that I’d allowed the petty to make me cranky. My problems were temporary first world ones and I knew it. Still, the sound of Peggy’s voice was like reaching a hotline in a hurricane.

In under two minutes, Peggy had me up and running. She left me uplifted and with a tip to not use my password manager for this particular institution. Note made.

We may prefer technology to facilitate much of our communication. But for me, there is no substitute for the sound of a human voice to provide both comfort and connection.

Thank you, Peggy.

Coach Koenig

Is there a voice you need to hear when you are feeling frustrated?

When the help you need can’t be found, is there someone who can just listen?

Is there someone who needs to hear your voice today?

I’d had a lot of conversations with Doug over the years. At times understanding his speech was a challenge for me. After a second ask that he repeat himself, I turned to Dave for interpretation.

Dave and Kenny, who have been a committed couple for 40 years, are Doug’s home teachers. Doug has Down syndrome.  I first met Doug when he was a little boy. We met at a local community center where, thanks to my junior high teacher Miss McCrae, I had my first introduction to volunteering.

Doug is 56 now. He still has those big eyes and, as he spoke to me, it seemed as though his smile were every bit as big as the one he always had as a little boy.

“He had an anniversary,” Dave explained.

On this summer evening, I had stopped to visit. Dave and Kenny were surrounded by pots of colorful flowers, relaxing on the front porch of their beautiful brick Tudor.

Dave went on to explain. “Kenny and I were celebrating our anniversary.  Doug asked if he could have an anniversary, too. I researched the date he came to live with us. We decided that date would be the one to celebrate.”  It was 26 year ago.

To have an anniversary is to observe that there was an event in your life worth remembering. I could only imagine all that Dave and Kenny had to celebrate on their anniversary. Kenny is black and Dave is white. For so many years as I celebrated wedding anniversaries of my own, I never appreciated the privilege that being straight and white gives me. I think about how simply because I was a woman married to a man I could have fostered children without my sexual orientation being questioned.

I think about anniversaries a fair amount. In just a matter of days I noted three.  I joined our entire country as we marked the 18th year since the horror of 911. Our law firm celebrated our paralegal Michaela’s 5 year “Firmaversary” with a happy hour.  And I honored the 8th anniversary of my husband John’s death.

Anniversaries help us to pause. Sometimes it will be to raise a toast in reflective memory; sometimes in a joyous cheer. When I remember to be in gratitude for what life has brought and taught me, and like Doug, I always like to ask, “Can I have cake?”

Coach Koenig

            Is there an anniversary that helps you reflect on what you learned?

            Is there a special day that you want to start celebrating each year?

            What privileges in life can you be grateful for?

10 things not to do when you divorce

Divorce is a time of conflicting emotions — anger, sadness, and even relief.  Typically, emotions are all over the place, which can make it difficult to make good decisions about issues that will likely have an impact on your life long after the divorce is over.

The things you should be doing during a divorce — taking care of yourself and your children, planning for a new financial future, etc. — you probably already know about.  But there are also some important things you should NOT be doing during a divorce that could harm your case.  Here are 10 of them:

  1. Make a major purchase.  Buying a new house or car or making any kind of major purchase makes it more difficult to divide the marital assets, which could have a negative effect on your final share of those assets.  Delay any large purchases without first talking with your divorce lawyer about how it may impact your divorce. 
  2. Hide assets.  While hiding assets may be tempting, it is never a good idea.  If you hide assets and it’s discovered, this could mean court sanctions against you and put the judge firmly on your spouse’s side.
  3. Destroy property.  Destroying, damaging, or giving away marital property so your spouse doesn’t get his or her share is another way to get on the wrong side of the court.
  4. Withdraw money.  Making unreasonable withdrawals from joint accounts could be seen as an attempt to hide assets or to waste marital assets. 
  5. Withhold information.  You will need to disclose lots of personal information during a divorce, and withholding any of that information during the discovery process may hurt your case.  Be truthful and open with your lawyer. 
  6. Post on social media.  Social media today is a divorce lawyer’s best friend.  Posting photos that call your personal judgment and integrity into question will only harm you in divorce proceedings.
  7. Badmouth your spouse.  Speaking negatively about your spouse to your children is tempting, but you are only hurting the children and you could run the risk of being accused of parental alienation, which could reduce your access to your children.
  8. Keep bad company.  Don’t hang out with people who have bad habits like substance abuse or are involved in criminal activities.  Everything you do during your divorce is being watched and judged.
  9. Threaten your ex.  Whether you mean it or not, making threats against your spouse can land you in big trouble and provide him or her with a reason to seek a restraining order against you.
  10. Remove access to marital assets.  Unless directed by your attorney, removing your spouse’s access to joint financial accounts or credit cards, taking him or her off an insurance policy, or having the utilities turned off in your former home may impact your divorce. 

The best thing you can do during your divorce is control your emotions and listen to your attorney’s advice so you don’t sabotage your own case.

Determining whether to end a marriage 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.

I will not likely ever forget the pit in my stomach.  It was in the wee hours of the morning when sleep evaded me.  After a recent break-up, my thoughts were not yet managed, nor healed.  I rolled over in bed to open my laptop and before I knew it there he was in a tuxedo looking better than ever.  A tear pricked and my stomach rolled as I tried to process something that I simply could not.

How was he smiling a few weeks after our break up when I hadn’t even been able to attempt that feat?  Where was he?  WHO was he with?  Why wasn’t he at home, unable to sleep, with restless unavoidable thoughts of our wonderful times together?

I dare say we have all been guilty.  Our curiosity creeps into our fingers and types the name into social media before we can stop it.  Down we fall into the rabbit hole of exes, new boyfriends, new girlfriends, the exes of the exes, until we are depleted and yet mysteriously still dissatisfied.

Post-divorce or post-breakup, what we seek is evidence that their world without us in it is not nearly as good.  We seek validation that we were highly valuable to them and that our contribution to their lives through marriage or partnership still exists.  Of course we don’t find this.  In the world of social media perfectionism and both figurative and literal filters, we are bound to fail in our search.

Worst yet – this initial punch in the gut can lead to regrettable action.  Calling the ex immediately after spying that smile (in my case), looking for another past fling to start up a flirtation, posting a scathing comment publicly  – you know the list.  In our weakest moments, we are unable to reel in our rightful reactions.

To avoid common social media mistakes, add this list to your phone as a post-breakup tool:

Hide.  Hide. Hide. Hide.  Hide the exes on social media (or unfriend if you must).  Hide mutual friends, hide former in-laws, hide mutual social groups, hide mutuals of mutuals.  Deny yourself access to comparison, to a heart-breaking reaction, to any exposure that hinders your healing.

Hibernate.  Take a social media break.  Spend the time you would otherwise be online on a jigsaw puzzle, a good book, journaling – something that will quiet your mind and serve to restore you.  Change your social media password and give it to a trusted friend.  Allow in this support of accountability until your heart has built back its resiliency reserves.

Heal.  Feel your feelings.  Talk through your sadness.  See a counselor.  Acknowledge your part and find your learnings for next time.

Angela Dunne

Unless you have already gone through one, it can be easy to make mistakes as you navigate the emotional, financial, and practical details of a divorce. To help you avoid making any big mistakes that could negatively impact your future, here are 10 things you should NOT do when you divorce:

1.  Don’t Dismiss the Idea of Mediation

Mediation can work for just about everyone involved in a family law matter, whether it is a divorce, a child custody dispute, or divorce order modifications.  One of the biggest benefits of mediation is that both parties have control over all the decisions and the final outcome of their divorce case. The mediator is there to facilitate decision-making, not to make the actual decisions for you and your family. Because you retain control of what goes into the final divorce agreement, it is much more likely that all parties will follow the final order.

2.  Don’t Forget to Update Your Will

There are many stories of former spouses who inherit an entire estate because a will was not changed following a divorce.  If you don’t want your ex-spouse in your will after your divorce, be sure you make those changes.

3.  Don’t Forget to Change Beneficiary Forms & Advance Directives

Other estate planning documents you should change following a divorce are beneficiary forms for your retirement and investment accounts and your life insurance policy (unless your final order includes a provision requiring you to have life insurance with your former spouse as beneficiary).  You’ll also want to change your advance medical directive, unless you want your former spouse making medical decisions for you.

4.  Don’t Delay in Seeking Support

Divorce is tough.  Seek support from your support system, but if that isn’t enough, enlist the support of a counselor or therapist during this time of transition.

5.   Don’t Use Your Kids to Get Back at Your Former Spouse

Most parents try to do a good job of keeping their children out of the middle of their divorce disagreements, but anyone can succumb to using their kids as leverage to hurt the other parent when emotions run high. If you are ever tempted, remember that this behavior not only hurts your children, it can also be used against you when it comes to custody and visitation.

6.  Don’t Hide Assets

While it may be tempting, it is never a good idea to hide assets. If you do and your actions are discovered, this could mean court sanctions against you and put the judge firmly on your ex-spouse’s side.

7.  Don’t Post on Social Media

You should not post anything on social media that shows you exhibiting poor judgment. Your privacy settings will NOT protect you from having social media posts used against you in your divorce case. Your spouse can ask for a court order directing you to provide access to your social media accounts, and all those questionable posts will be exposed for everyone involved in your case to see.

8.  Don’t Settle Too Early

While you probably want your divorce to be over as soon as possible, letting impatience take over compromises your ability to make good decisions on issues that you will have to live with for a long time. Even under the best of circumstances, divorce takes time. By rushing through important decisions, you may be compromising the quality of life for you and your children long after the divorce is final. Take time to consider the key issues of importance to you and discuss them thoroughly with your attorney.

9.  Don’t Neglect Your Health

When you are going through a divorce, it is important for you to take care of both your physical and emotional health.  A good therapist can help you deal with the wide range of emotions you’ll likely be facing throughout your divorce and give you sound advice on helping your children too.

10.  Don’t Forget About Taxes

Under the new tax law, for all divorce agreements entered into after Dec. 31, 2018, an ex-spouse paying alimony will no longer be able to deduct it from his or her federal income taxes. The ex-spouse who receives alimony will potentially benefit since he or she will no longer have to declare alimony as income and pay taxes on it. In short, this new change in the federal tax law shifts the tax burden of alimony from the payee to the payor.  In addition, if you are the spouse keeping the house, you need to be sure you can afford the property taxes.

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.

“You wait here,” he said. I’m going to go get her.” Jack took off running. I sat on the concrete stoop of the veterinarian’s office, taking in the scenes of life in a small town just outside of Guadalajara. My son had flown from California and I from Nebraska to savor three precious days enjoying the palm trees, plazas, and pico de gallo of Mexico. We got more than we came for.

In less than a half hour, Jack returned, dripping in sweat and cradling the little listless pup he’d wrapped in my sweater. He laid her on the glass case that would serve as the exam table. The vet shaved a spot of her soft brown hair and poked a needle into her tiny stick of a leg to start an IV. The pup’s eyes did not open.

We were strolling down a quiet tree lined street when we first saw the small dog lying on her side in the burning midday sun, panting heavily. Heat stroke? Injured?  She was too weak to drink the water we poured for her.

A group of workmen with wheel barrows stood nearby. With our limited Spanish we got directions to the nearest vet. She had been lying there since ayer —yesterday. We got help. Jack moved her off the hot concrete to a cool place on the ground in the shade.

We were mindful of being seen as arrogant Americans thinking we could or should swoop in and try to rescue every poor perro on the street. That seemed an insufficient excuse for walking away.

Now it was time to make a decision.  It would be hours before we would know her condition. “Are you sure you don’t want a puppy?” he asked, looking up at me with his big brown eyes begging. I shook my head slowly.

Should we try to sneak her into our AirBNB back in the city and then try to find another vet to treat her? Then what? Her temperature was slowly moving toward normal–perhaps our driver could find someone on Facebook who would take her?

No matter what we did, she would be back on the streets even if she survived. How could we give her a chance at making it? Relieve her suffering? We concluded that her odds in the small town were better than in a city of four million.

We persuaded the vet to care for her until noon the next day. He promised he would call to let us know how she was doing.

The call came. The message left was in Spanish too fast for our ears. A Columbian man touring the same cathedral as us interpreted. He held the phone to his ear, looking down. “It’s bad news…We did everything we could….She didn’t make it.”

The tears rolled quietly down my face. I was without the courage to look at my tender-hearted child. Knowing we had done what we could did not take away the loss.

“How was your vacation?” people ask.

“Meaningful and memorable,” I reply.

Coach Koenig

  • How does your heart of compassion guide your choices?
  • How do you honor the limits of what you can give?
  • Can you hold compassion for yourself when you’ve done what you could?
 How to Navigate Through a High-Conflict Divorce

If you are getting a divorce from an angry, vindictive spouse, then you know that just about every interaction you have will be full of conflict.  While it’s uncomfortable to be the target of your former spouse’s animosity, you should realize that many people with anger issues use anger as a way to deflect other emotions they are unequipped to deal with — and the stress of a divorce only intensifies this reaction.

So how do you deal with a high-conflict ex-spouse when you’re trying to reach an equitable divorce agreement?  Here are some tips:

Stop trying to change him/her.  Give up on any notion that you can control or change your ex-spouse’s behavior and accept that you have to deal with this person as they are. 

Detach.  Detach yourself from the fantasy that you will be able to have an amicable divorce and stop trying to get your ex-spouse to do what you want.  Becoming detached does not mean you have to be a doormat; it simply means that you should not let yourself become invested in your ex-spouse’s emotional turmoil.

Examine your own behavior.  Are you doing anything that feed your ex-spouse’s anger tendencies? Responding to his or her angry emails emotionally?  Letting his or her anger stoke your own so all your interactions are filled with conflict?  By looking for and taking responsibility for any role you may play in fanning the flames, you can identify triggers and stop doing things that increase the drama. 

Establish boundaries.  The only reason you would have to do what your ex-spouse says is if it’s written in a court order.  Beyond that, you should not give your ex-spouse any power over what you do or say.  If your ex-spouse violates a court order, be sure to let your lawyer know about it so you can ensure he or she is held accountable for not respecting established limits or rules.

Keep your end of communications neutral.  If you’re dealing with an angry ex-spouse, you are undoubtedly the recipient of lots of volatile texts and emails.  Don’t give in to a desire to respond in kind.  Instead, let some time pass and your own anger cool before responding.  Make your responses neutral and you are likely to find that the angry communications will lessen once your ex-spouse knows he or she can’t get a rise out of you.

Try parallel parenting.  You will likely not be able to utilize conventional co-parenting strategies with an angry ex-spouse.  In this case, parallel parenting — where you limit contact as much as possible and stop trying to coordinate parenting styles — may work best for your family.

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

I knelt on the floor at his feet. He sat in his arm chair, a red pack of Pall Malls and brown quart of beer nearby. We didn’t speak. I tugged away, loosening the leather strings of his heavy work boots, using a fork on the most stubborn knots.  I pulled with all my might, freeing his feet to rest in their thick white socks. It’s one of few fond memories of time with my father.

My older siblings tell me Dad was exceptionally intelligent. An intuitive once told me he was horribly abused as a child. He never had the chance for an education beyond high school, suffered from addictions, struggled to support a family of 10.

One Christmas, six weeks after a lung cancer diagnosis, my father died at the age I am now. Dad would have turned 100 this week.

My father’s death left my mother widowed at the age of 59, just four years older than I would be when I was widowed. She would live to 85.

The last time I was with my mom was a snowy December day. She was in the hospital.  Her heart was failing.

She was sitting up in a chair. I knelt on the floor at her feet. I never knew my mother’s legs to be anything other than thick and riddled with purple and blue bulging veins. Nine pregnancies and years of standing for long hours waiting tables took their toll even before her battered heart began to give out.

I carefully removed her stockings. I slowly massaged her swollen feet with lotion. As her heart was nearing its final beat, mine was full of gratitude for the moment.

Global teacher Thich Haht Nanh reminds us that our feet are made of the feet of our mother and our father. He encourages us to imagine their feet as we walk. He says that this way our parents are always with us.

My parents walked paths of hardship, heartbreak, and broken dreams. Because of who they were to me and for me, I walk a path of grace. My feet are firmly planted. My heart strong and open. My dreams coming true.

Happy 100th birthday, Dad.

Coach Koenig

Can you call forth compassion for the path of your parents?

What gifts did your parents’ lives leave you?

How do your parents travel with you on your journey today?

 How to Protect Your Premarital Assets from a Divorce

Protecting premarital assets from a divorce means understanding the difference between marital property and non-marital property — and taking the necessary steps to shield your non-marital property before divorce may even be a consideration.

First, you need to know what constitutes non-marital property, which is:

  • Property you brought into the marriage that was kept separate from marital assets
  • Any gifts you received from a third party
  • An inheritance you received that was kept separate from marital assets
  • Any property designated as separate in a separation or settlement agreement in a divorce

In 2017, the Nebraska Supreme Court issued a ruling that changed the way courts divide appreciation on non-marital property. This rule is called “active appreciation,” where all appreciation accrued during marriage on all property (including non-marital property) is divided between spouses so long as either spouse took actions to cause the appreciation.

There are additional circumstances where non-marital property can become marital property, making it subject to equal distribution in a divorce.  The best ways to prevent this from happening include:

  • Prior to your marriage, execute a prenuptial agreement specifying what property remains yours in case of a divorce.
  • Do not mix non-marital property with marital property.  If non-marital assets become intertwined with marital assets and subsequently cannot be distinguished from marital assets, they may be subject to equitable distribution.
  • If you own a business, be sure you keep it separate by executing a prenuptial agreement or a buy-sell agreement.  The rules are different if your spouse is a partner or employee, so be sure you consult with your divorce attorney on the best ways to protect your business in a divorce.

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

“Can you stay after school?” she asked. As a second grader, home wasn’t an especially happy place to hurry to. Dad’s drinking had worsened over the years and Mom had bigger worries than after school milk and cookies.

“We’ll wait until the others are gone,” Sister Leodegard said. I was the teacher’s pet, so I suspected that I might be the recipient of some special privilege that she didn’t want my classmates to see.

The hallways eventually emptied and she opened the wooden closet door. She pulled out a woman’s red wool coat. In the 1960s we would have called it a car coat, one that fell to the hip on an adult. On me, it fell below my knees matching the mandatory length of our navy blue uniforms.

Mom’s best friend, Margaret—seamstress of my First Holy Communion dress that year— transformed the oversized garment into a perfectly tailored winter coat for me.  After that, Sister continued to privately hand me bags of castaway clothing.

As a college student stretching my work study dollars, I learned my budget went farther at thrift stores than at shopping malls. I continued to enjoy thrifting as a hobby even when my salary as a lawyer no longer made it necessary.

I was proud of my cleverness. When someone would complement my newest dress, I would boast about its $4.97 purchase price. One such day, I was cautioned in a low whisper, “You don’t have to tell anyone.”

I was an adult before I understood the subtle shame messages sent since second grade.

While I felt pride from using my money wisely to acquire a wardrobe I loved, my embarrassment came from of not knowing what everyone else knew:  You gain status if you carry a designer bag costing hundreds of dollars. Your status is diminished if that same bag comes from Goodwill.

I didn’t know the rules.

At this season of my life I still enjoy a steady paycheck and can choose to shop wherever I like. I still enjoy an occasional stop in a consignment shop for a piece of vintage jewelry or some other irresistible item. This summer I was in New York City and came home with a hand embroidered summer frock with lime green polka dots and a gorgeous black beaded cocktail dress. Total tab: 35 bucks.

No one can shame me without my permission.

Coach Koenig

Do you ever try to hide what you really love?

Is it time to reclaim your authentic self in some small way?

What would you be delighted to do if you weren’t afraid of judgment?

 The Grounds for Annulment in Nebraska

Under Nebraska law, if your marriage is annulled, it is as if it never happened.  Even in 2019, there are still some people who believe that divorce carries a stigma, so opt to pursue an annulment instead.  A civil annulment is not the same as a religious annulment, which can only be granted by a church and has no legal effect on your marriage in Nebraska.

Nebraska allows for an annulment only under certain conditions:

  • If your marriage is prohibited by law (for example, If you or your spouse are too closely related to be married, making the marriage illegal)
  • If you or your spouse were unable to consent to the marriage because of a mental condition
  • If you or your spouse were induced to marry because of threat or fraud
  • If you or your spouse were already married to someone else (bigamy)
  • If you or your spouse were impotent at the time you married

To obtain an annulment in Nebraska, either you or your spouse must be a resident at the time you file your Complaint for Annulment in the district court of the county where you live.  The judge will hold a hearing and make a determination based on your testimony and other evidence.

Once your marriage is annulled, it is as if you were never married.  If there are children from the marriage, a parenting plan and financial support order will be put into place.  A spouse from an annulment may also be eligible for alimony if it is appropriate. 

When it comes to the division of property for a short-term marriage, each spouse will leave the marriage with what they came into it with, depending on the title on the property and the duration of the marriage.  If you and your spouse held joint title to any property, it is divided equally.  If the annulment is granted after a longer period of marriage, a judge will divide marital property based on fairness.

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

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