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.
If you’re struggling financially, you may be wondering not only if filing bankruptcy is a good option for you and your family, but how you will know when the time is right to seriously consider it.
The American Bankruptcy Institute has provided a useful bankruptcy checklist for consumers and recommends that if three or more of these factors apply to you, you might consider bankruptcy:
- You have had your paycheck or your bank account garnished.
- The majority of your debt is unsecured debt ‐credit card bills, medical bills, etc.
- The amount you owe creditors – beyond your house and car payments – is more than you could pay off in five years.
- You are getting calls from collection agencies.
- You have more than one bill that is more than one month past due.
- You have had lawsuits filed against you by creditors.
- A large portion of your debt includes medical bills that your insurance does not cover.
- Your income taxes have not been paid.
- You do not have many assets.
- You have no – or very little – savings.
- You have had a car or other property repossessed.
- Your home is currently threatened by foreclosure.
There are many misconceptions about the bankruptcy, but the reality is, there are many benefits to filing for bankruptcy, including that you can potentially:
- Stop foreclosure of your home.
- Stop creditors from contacting you.
- Wipe out medical debt.
- Wipe out credit card and other consumer debt.
- Get back a vehicle that has been repossessed.
- Immediately stop wage garnishment.
- Reduce tax debt.
- Even wipe out a second mortgage.
Determining out whether to file bankruptcy can be overwhelming. Contact Koenig│Dunne today and schedule your free consultation with one of our experienced bankruptcy attorneys.
If you endured a high-conflict marriage and a high-conflict divorce, chances are you will be facing many of the same challenges when it comes to co-parenting with your ex. Here are some tips on how to successfully co-parent with a high-conflict ex:
Control your reactions. Ongoing conflict between two people is pretty much a product of habit. To keep peace in your co-parented family, you need to break this habit. First, realize you only have control over you, so work on your communication skills by remembering to take the high road, no matter how nasty your ex may get on email, the phone, or in person. It takes two to tango, so if you simply refuse to engage, that will de-escalate any conflict quickly.
Realize you cannot change your ex. No matter how much you may want to, you cannot change another person. This is probably why you got divorced, yes? You wanted them to be X, and they were always Y. Stop trying to control your ex and work on controlling your reaction to their choices or actions instead.
Set and keep boundaries. People who have high-conflict personalities love to push other people’s buttons, usually by running over any boundaries they have established. Some people just love to create drama and leave the emotional mess for others to clean up. To keep your sanity, you need to disengage from a person like this as much as possible. Don’t feed their drama with your own volatile reaction. Don’t reply to every text or email that minute; wait until you are in control of your emotions and either respond rationally if a response is called for, or don’t respond at all. Don’t try to get your ex to see it your way; you’re wasting your breath. And if your ex has violated a court order, don’t go after him or her yourself; let your attorney handle it.
Model good behavior for your children. Children are a lot smarter than most parents give them credit for, and can usually sort out for themselves which parent is the more stable influence. That’s the parent you want to be. High-conflict personalities will probably try to plant seeds of doubt with children, but you can help them understand better by not reacting to any personal insult by your ex and instead tell them, “When Mommy says bad things about me, just realize that she is feeling angry. But feelings are not facts, so if you have any questions about me, please ask me.” Also let them know it is OK for them to ask either parent to stop talking badly about the other parent.
Your legal team at Koenig|Dunne understands the nuances and complexities of co-parenting, and we are here to help guide you through the process.
“I’d like to go with,” I say.
“Don’t you have something on Saturday?”
“Just another funeral,” I say, stifling a small nervous laugh.
Five funerals in six weeks is a record in my world. For the first time I grasp a glimmer of what it must have been like for my brother Tim during the AIDS crisis of the 80’s when deaths of his friends kept coming, warning him of his future.
As we walked in bitter cold toward the luncheon of ham and cheese sandwiches and hot coffee, another mourner remarked, “I don’t remember temperatures this cold since the winter of 1983. Do you remember that year?”
I did. It was the winter my father was diagnosed with lung cancer and died weeks later on Christmas Day. I remember.
I looked around the room filled with tables with centerpieces provided by the church ladies. Faces of the grieving are familiar. They reveal the understanding that life will never be the same.
When I returned home from Margaret’s funeral last month, I studied the small card that had her image and a prayer on one side and an ancient image of the Virgin Mary on the other with the words “Our Mother of Perpetual Hope” written below.
Hope. When all is lost, hope is the last to leave. It is the most tenacious of all.
We lose our money and we have hope we can earn more. We lose our health and we have hope we will heal. If our great love leaves us yet we have hope we will find love again.
Winter, even without death, can evoke hopelessness. The overcast days deprive us of sun on our face. The subzero air takes away the sound of a chirping bird. When we go to work in the dark and return home in the dark it’s hard to have hope for a bright new day.
I keep Our Mother of Perpetual Hope next to me on the small round table where I sit to coach. It’s where people bring their uncertain futures and dreams along with their grief and goals. My life as a small Catholic girl bowing her chapel veil covered head is far behind me, yet the inspiration to infuse hope to the hopeless remains.
Hope is the one guarantee we can give to those seeking solace or possibility. Hope can always be found because, like so much in life, it is a choice. We may not feel hopeful, but we can choose it. When we do, we can see the impermanence of all things, including the deep suffering of any moment. When we choose it, we can see a bigger picture for our lives. When we choose it, we can make a difference in the life of another.
At least, I choose to hope so.
- What are you willing to be hopeful for?
- Is it possible to hold both grief and hope?
- How might you infuse hope today?
Sophia wanted her turn. We sat at the dinner table going through our days and she was anxious to share. It was a 7th grade drama – a mild version of mean girls. Sophia set the scene. “We were playing a trick on Josie and hiding her book. I don’t know why. It’s just a thing. So I told her I had her book. I didn’t. So I don’t know why I said it, but that’s what I told her.” I could see the snowball forming as she moved through her story.
“Sophia, you are too dumb to have my book,” Josie replied. Then out of nowhere from across the table, Mary piped up. “Yeah Sophia, you are too little and just stupid.” I could still see the remnants of the sting on Sophia’s face as she repeated the words.
“Mom, Mary wasn’t even a part of it. So I said ‘Well, Mary that was really rude.’ Then Mary said ‘Well I am a rude person so get used to it.’”
If you asked me to describe Mary in all of my personal interactions with her I would describe her as quiet, shy, really really smart, and sweet. So this came as a surprise to me.
Sophia continued. “Then about two minutes later, Mary asked if it would help if she said she was sorry. I said not really. Because Mom, it was so rude.” She was still suffering under her indignation. “Then in religion class, we were doing a prayer and we always say names of people we want to pray for, like grandparents and sick people and stuff. Mary said my name! In front of the whole class! Then at play practice she was crying to her brother because she was mean to me.”
I sighed and replied “Poor Mary.”
“What?!?!” Sophia was shocked. “Why poor Mary?”
I acknowledged to Sophia that of course it was rude, and that Sophia had every reason to have hurt feelings. But Mary had realized immediately that she was wrong. She was not a rude person and the disconnect from her integrity came out immediately as she tried to remedy this with Sophia.
I told Sophia how just 5 days before, an attorney 15 years my junior – in front of a room full of people – told me I was unbearable and that I didn’t know how to prepare for a case. I said if that attorney had called me today to apologize for her poor behavior and rude comments, I would gladly accept her apology.
Because every human has been caught in a moment when a war of words come out of their mouth and then felt the instant raw regret. I see this near daily when listening to my distressed clients navigating divorce and lashing out at their soon-to-be-former spouses.
If only we all kept our innate and inner gut check intact from childhood the way Mary had. If only we didn’t let our justifying brains get in the way to continue conflict. If only we didn’t have to be right and wrong.
Mary’s vulnerability is a lesson and model for us all. Sophia is going to school today to thank Mary for her apology from yesterday. I look forward to the next dinner time story of mean girls turned more wise girls.
*Names have been changed to protect identities.
Unlike some states, Nebraska family courts do not use specific alimony calculators to determine spousal support in a divorce. Instead, the Court will weigh several factors, including:
- The duration of the marriage
- The current financial resources of each spouse
- The contribution of each spouse to the marriage (child care and education, home maintenance, etc.)
- The ability of each spouse to be gainfully employed
Whether your divorce is headed for a courtroom or mediation, here are some tips on how to effectively negotiate alimony:
Consider your budget. Before you determine the alimony amount you think you need — or believe you are entitled to — you first need to have a firm grasp on all your post-divorce budget. It is not unusual for one spouse to want to remain in the family home while the other spouse wants to sell and split and proceeds. If you want to keep your house, you need to consider whether or not that will be financially practical for you. Before determining the amount of alimony you want to request, you will need to consider the size of your monthly mortgage, and the other monthly expenses you will have after the divorce is finalized.
Consider taxes. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed in late 2017 stipulates that for all divorce agreements entered into after Dec. 31, 2018, an ex-spouse who receives alimony will no longer have to declare it as income and pay taxes on it. The ex-spouse paying alimony will no longer be able to deduct it from his or her federal income taxes. In short, this change in the federal tax law effectively shifts the tax burden of alimony from the recipient to the payer. If you are the spouse who will be paying alimony, you will need to take this new tax change into consideration and should talk over the ramifications with your financial advisor.
Consider the legal intent of alimony. Permanent alimony is rare today; instead, the courts view alimony as a temporary means of support to help one spouse transition to a new life independent of an ex-spouse. Alimony is not meant to penalize bad behavior by one spouse nor is it awarded in order to equalize incomes between two spouses.
Regardless of whether you’re the payor or the recipient, talk with your Koenig│Dunne family law attorneys to decide the best way to protect your interests.
Standing behind me he said, “I’m going to place my hands on your hips. Now as you walk forward, I am going to be behind you, slightly lifting up either side of your hips. Are you ready?”
Wearing only my bra and underwear, I sought to set aside my nervousness. I focused. I began to step forward. I tried to remember everything he’d taught me. Breathe. Relax your shoulders. Connect your feet to the floor. Lead with your heart.
It was day 10—-the final day of an intensive program to realign my body. Deep massage of the fascia– the body’s connective tissues—was the main method. Every day I arrived at 5:15 p.m. to lie on a table and have my body pressed, moved, and stretched. I breathed, flexed my toes, lifted my legs, and turned my neck for an hour and a half.
Randy was my practitioner. A pediatric dentist from North Carolina, Hellerwork, as this work is known as, was an encore career. A black man who looked younger than his 40 something age, he was trim with strong arms and a head shaved on one side. He had giant smile and a beautiful way of saying my name throughout each session. “Nice deep breath, Susan.” Is the pressure too much, Susan?” “Are you warm enough, Susan?”
Because there was some pain involved, I decided from the start that my tolerance for discomfort was a 7.8 on a 10 point scale. I only needed to stop him once.
Each session had a lesson. How to relax my neck when I reach. How to let my head bobble a bit when I walk. How to stroll or stride or strut like Susan.
As Randy creates space between parts of my body unseen to the outside world, I did my own inside work. Randy guided me on an exploration of the connection of my body to me. He loosened tight space between my ligaments and we looked at my capacity for flexibility in my life. He pressed the tissue on my legs with sufficient strength to change my stance and we explored where I resisted letting in support. He placed his hand on my clavicle to clear the tightness and I spoke of the many times my heart had been broken open.
I cried. I laughed. I listened to Randy. I listened to my body. I learned.
A lot of life happened each day outside of the ninety minutes I spent being cared for by Randy. One friend had a stroke and entered hospice. Another shared he was separating from his wife. The wind chill sunk to a negative 32 degrees. I gave a talk on grief. I got a bouquet of roses. I had two waltz lessons.
At the conclusion of our work together, Randy flew south to his hometown of Ashville, North Carolina. I re-entered our Midwest winter having stretched my mind, my body, and my heart. My season was warmed from head to toe.
Have you listened to your body lately?
Who might you partner with for your learning this season?
What might warm your heart in winter?
My stomach and heart clenched up when I received my daughter’s message. “Dad is going to drop us off at the mall while he runs an errand.” My children were 6th and 4th graders at the time.
“He what????” I wanted to reply. But I didn’t. First I fumed for a full two minutes. Then I surveyed my options:
- I could coincidentally be at that very mall at the exact same time my girls were wandering amidst a crowd of predator strangers;
- I could call and tell him exactly what I thought of that plan and threaten to take him back to court;
- I could call him and offer to watch the girls while he ran his errand. OR…
- I could do nothing and let him make his own parenting choice (and God help him if my girls died as a result of it…).
My co-parent and I share joint custody. Oftentimes parents think this means that all decisions must be joint decisions. This isn’t so. Legal custody is limited to major decision making primarily related to healthcare, education, and religion. Leaving the girls unattended at the mall did not fall into any of these categories.
Neither do any of the following examples I hear from distressed parents:
“My former spouse got my nine year old a phone? Can he do that?”
“My ex-wife let the children stay home alone and they are 11 and 9. Can she do that?”
“She let our 17 year old get a tattoo! Can she do that?”
“He feeds them Mac and Cheese for EVERY meal! Can he do that?”
The short answer to all of the questions is “yes.” Parents have a right to make parenting decisions and choices during their parenting time. But herein lies one of the single most difficult parts of co-parenting. What do you when you do not agree with a decision made during the other parent’s time?
Parents disagree with each other all of the time. Married, unmarried, or divorced – parenting conflict is normal. However, while married, parents still maintain a level of trust between each other. They do not doubt the other parent’s motives as being retaliatory or to make a point. They presume good intentions. When parents are together and still “have each other’s backs” the decisions a parent makes on behalf of his or her child is not taken personally.
When co-parenting in separate households and faced with a strong resistance, opinion, or judgment about the other parent’s decision, we are prone to taking it personally. We think the other parent is doing it on purpose to make us mad. Or get back at us for a decision they disagreed with on a prior occasion. Maybe they are doing it to become the favored parent (!). Or even worse, they made the decision to satisfy their new partner (double!).
Assessing how you show up when you are taking a decision made by your co-parent personally is the first step. Are you angry? Resentful? Afraid? Indignant? Consider whether you want to voice an opinion while you are in the depths of your reaction emotion.
We will continue to look at these important distinctions and hard emotions that surface in the gray non-legal area of decision-making while co-parenting in the series ahead.
Angela Dunne is a divorced mother of two and the managing partner at Koenig|Dunne. Throughout her nearly 20 year career as a divorce attorney Angela has received many honors and distinctions, including being named a fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. She has enjoyed success in and out of the courtroom and finds fulfillment in being a source of support when life changes in big ways for her clients. By the end of 2011 Angela’s own divorce was final and as a result, she began writing Doing Divorce: A Thoughtful Discussion About Divorce exploring all the motions and lessons that come with a divorce, especially ones that involve children. In 2018, Angela authored Patched Up Parenting: A Guide to Co-Parenting which was born out of this very blog and the stories told about her own co-parenting journey after divorce.
It is estimated that one-third of American children live in a single-parent household, and single parents are well advised to create an estate plan that provides protection for their children. Having an estate plan can also provide you with welcome peace of mind. Here are the elements of an estate plan designed to help you protect your children:
Will. A Will is a legal document that details your wishes for how your assets should be distributed after you die and designates a guardian for minor children. If you die without one, a Nebraska probate court will make those decisions for you.
Revocable Living Trust. Since minor children cannot conduct business in their own names, they are precluded from inheriting money, property, stocks and other assets directly. Setting up a revocable living trust enables you to specify the age at which you want your children to receive their inheritance, allowing you to make decisions according to each individual child’s needs and circumstances. Creating a revocable living trust for minor children also protects the inheritance from creditors and even divorce.
Durable Power of Attorney. This provides a person of your choosing with the legal power to handle your finances should you be unable to do so. Powers of attorney can become effective immediately or through a triggering event like a sudden illness or incapacity.
Advance Medical Directive. This document provides the legal right for the person of your choice (your representative) to make healthcare decisions for you in case you become incapacitated and unable to make those decisions for yourself.
Beneficiary Forms. If you are the owner of a qualified plan – an IRA, 401(k), annuity, life insurance policy or another plan that qualifies for income tax benefits – then you need to name a beneficiary for each of these financial plans. If you fail to do so, the assets in each plan will be distributed according to the rules established by the financial institution that regulates the plan. If you leave qualified plan assets to a beneficiary who is a minor and don’t name a guardian, those assets will be managed by a guardian appointed by the court – someone you may not necessarily want to be performing this duty or who may not follow your wishes.
Your legal team at Koenig|Dunne is here to answer your questions about protecting your children and to advocate for your rights .
Divorce can not only be emotionally draining; there are times when it can be downright embarrassing. There may be some circumstances you experience that you wouldn’t even tell your best friend about. However, there is someone you should tell: your attorney.
Here are five pieces of sensitive information you should definitely share with your divorce lawyer:
You had an affair.
Infidelity is one of the most common reasons why couples split, and if there has been infidelity in your marriage, you need to let your attorney know so he or she is not put at a disadvantage when defending your case. In Nebraska, the court will not hear evidence of infidelity unless it has had a direct and negative effect impact on the children. . A court also has the ability to evaluate whether a cheating spouse depleting marital funds by extravagant spending on a lover, is a reason to award additional marital assets to the non-cheating spouse to compensate him or her for the imbalance.
Cheating does not generally affect child custody unless there are extenuating circumstances — for example, if the cheating spouse’s lover is a sex offender or addict. In these cases, visitation may be restricted so as to not expose the children to an objectionable person.
You got an STD.
If you think your spouse has given you a sexually transmitted disease (STD), you need to disclose this information to your lawyer, as you may be able to be financially compensated for medical bills, pain and suffering, emotional distress, etc.
There was domestic abuse.
Your attorney definitely needs to know if you have been in an abusive relationship so they can help protect you during the divorce and, if necessary, obtain a restraining order against your spouse. Safety planning will also be another important discussion to have with your lawyer as a result.
Project Harmony has been involved with your family.
If Health and Humans Services has investigated your family for the potential abuse or neglect of a child, your attorney needs this information. Even if the complaint was years ago, you still need to disclose it to your lawyer. You do not want the court to assume you are trying to hide this, especially if custody or support is an issue in your divorce.
You hid assets or debts.
It is not unusual for spouses who are divorcing to try to hide assets, but it is always a bad idea. These things are usually found out during the discovery process, and it is incredibly damaging to your credibility if your spouse’s attorney turns up evidence of hidden assets, property or debt. If you lie about it under oath, you could be charged with perjury. If your spouse has to spend money on forensic experts and additional legal fees to uncover your deception, you could be on the hook for those costs as well as court sanctions.
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 pull the thick flannel sheet a little higher over my shoulders without opening my eyes. As I lie on my side in the morning darkness, the temperature is in the single digits and the wind chill puts it below zero. Winter is really here.
I roll on to my back with my eyes still closed. I snuggle more deeply into sheets and try my usual tricks.
I mentally scan my body to notice how it feels.
I consider the good that lies ahead in my day to have a flash of gratitude.
I slowly wiggle my toes.
My body isn’t buying it this morning, but I manage to open my eyes. I reach my arm over to the night stand and press a button to hear news of the Supreme Court’s decision to allow Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military. On this day, news that might otherwise inspire me to “get up and at ‘em” sinks me lower into the dip in my mattress.
Next up in the news: Donte Colley spreading joy on Instagram with videos of exuberant dancing and enthusiastic messages like “You matter!”
Okay. This gets the job done. My feet hit the floor. I turn off the news to stay with the high energy and limit my intake of sad stories about murdered children, endless addiction, and my friends still not getting their paychecks from our federal government.
What gets us out of bed on winter mornings? The Japanese have a name for it. Ikigai—pronounced “icky guy.” Its English translation is “thing that you live for” or “the reason for which you get out of bed in the morning.”
In the winter we travel more inward, be it to our hearts, our heads, or our beds. We slow down, like last week’s snow day when I spent hours preparing a roast chicken dinner that included homemade hummus to start and egg custard with a berry sauce to finish. When our pace is slowed, rushing is not required.
When we are cozy, we long to stay under the covers of comfort and our seeking to stay safe and warm lures us back to slumber. But even moving slowly, we can find delicious reasons to rise.
Within an hour I am out the door to meet my friend Arlene for breakfast. Arlene is a tall, beautiful blonde with a smile almost as big as her spirit. She has been single for the twenty or so years I’ve known her. On this day, she shares that she has found the person she plans to spend the rest of her life with.
My day has only just begun, and Arlene has reaffirmed for me just one source of my ikigai. To be present to the joy in the lives of others.
If I had no meaningful work (which I have) or no people to love (which I do) or beauties of nature to see (always), being present for a story of a friend’s joy would be reason enough to step gratefully into the world of winter any day.
Have you reflected on your ikigai?
How do you allow for any slowing in this season?
What helps you to remember your reason for getting out of bed?
I slowly unpacked my essentials:
Stack of books√
White satin slippers√
Each winter I take a solo retreat for reflection. While living alone gives me ample opportunity for solitude and sitting on my sofa, I know myself. Without a boundary of distance and drive time, my mind quickly reverts to my To Do list telling me I still have not hung that picture, organized those photos, or cleaned beneath my bed. Any call from a friend to see a good film easily becomes an excuse for not allowing myself time to ponder.
I try to pack some good questions in my bag, too.
What are my intentions?
What questions will I ask myself?
What do I want to leave with?
I had chosen a simple room at the lodge of a state park. The certainty of quiet coupled with a view of the sky and the Platte River was perfect. Like most years, I was going to look at something that I had been thinking about for a long time.
Thinking. Thinking. Thinking. Being prone to overthinking, I can have thoughts that swirl round and round, bumping into one another, repeating themselves, and creating chaos. My thinking can confound me, causing confusion rather than clarity. Time away helps me focus on observing my thoughts more than simply repeating them in my head.
My first morning brought a view from my room of a fire orange sunrise. I had a cup of tea. I lit my small candle. I lit some incense, pausing for a moment to make sure I would not set off the smoke alarm. I meditated. Then yoga. Next up, journaling. I had a second cup of tea.
Three hours had passed without my checking the time. “Wouldn’t it be lovely to start every day like this?” I think to my centered-for-a-millisecond self. I catch my mind going traveling from quiet to thinking. I bring myself back from the thought of having a daily 4 a.m. wake up alarm to the peace in my body and my breath.
It was sunny and without wind—a perfect day for an unhurried winter walk along the woods. I paused at the burial site for prehistoric Native Americans who once farmed, hunted, and buried the bones of their dead. I sense my tennis shoes are not worthy of the sacredness of the ground on which I stand. I breathe.
By my second day the sky was gray. No sunrise to see. No blue above. Too cold for a walk. I slid open the glass door leading to a small patio. Away from the bustling city intersection where I live, I take in the soft browns of the season’s landscape that comfort me like a cup of hot chocolate. I look up. A flock of geese flew overhead.
I forgot about thinking of the answers to my questions about my life. About 4 a.m. alarms. My answers were there all along. All I needed to do was notice.
How might you create time in your life for reflection?
Have you been overthinking lately?
How could you notice your breathing or the beauty in your life more?
I thought it was a misprint. 14 children. I reread it. My logical mind struggled. I convinced myself “that must include grandchildren.” I was reading the obituary of a beloved Saint Cecilia Elementary teacher – Mrs. Margaret Swanson. She taught both of my daughters in their first grade years.
Mrs. Swanson perfectly struck the near impossible balance of being both strict and sweet. She cherished her first graders and I have no doubt loved them wholeheartedly. I recall her showing extra patience with my spunky Sophia.
It was during Sophia’s year that Mrs. Swanson received her cancer diagnosis. That would be her 41st and last year teaching.
I learned after her funeral that she did have 14 children… and 28 grandchildren… and 23 great-grandchildren. Her husband brought 12 from former marriages and they had 2 as a result of their marriage – his last marriage of 33 years. One of her stepdaughters revealed that Mrs. Swanson always treated all of the children as her own – never wavering in her love and support of each of her children.
My reaction was mixed.
I instantly admired this woman even more upon learning this detail of her life. No doubt we have seen the hearts of teachers. Not only those working with our own children, but too often as of late we are seeing teachers love their students so much that they use their bodies to shield their students during school shootings. Teachers show us everyday the endless capacity to love. And we never doubt it. In fact, we want it.
I then felt shame wash over me. How many times have I succumbed to the judgments held by my clients about a stepparent? How many times have I scrutinized the relationship between my daughters and their stepmom? How many times have stepparents not received the benefit of the doubt and are treated differently?
I know without hesitation what the worry is for parents about stepparents. We worry that a stepparent will reduce the love our children have for us. Yet I know from experience that I launch my daughters into school every year hoping that their teachers love them. I hope they are loved by their friends and mine.
But fear of too much loves makes us draw an invisible line.
Oh, Mrs. Swanson. If only you knew now the rich and valuable lesson you have taught me. Thank you for your example. Thank you for your unwavering and oceanic sized heart. You have taught me well.
- Chapter 7 bankruptcy will ruin my credit for 7 years
It is true that the bankruptcy is reported for up to 7 years after you file your bankruptcy. However, it does not negatively affect you for that long. At the end of your Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you will be debt free (with some exceptions like student loans), which positively impacts your credit. I’ve had clients finance car and home purchases without issue after their Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases.
- I’m going to lose my house and car
This almost never occurs in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. In Nebraska, you can protect and keep your home in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy as long as you are current on payments when you file and your home has $60,000 or less in equity.
As for your car, you can retain and keep it, if you’re current on payments and your vehicle has less than $10,000 in equity. This is because in Nebraska, you can use the vehicle exemption, which is $5000, and the wild card exemption, which is $5,000, to protect one vehicle. For a couple filing the Chapter 7 bankruptcy jointly, those amounts can be doubled.
- Filing bankruptcy is only for people that are behind on making payments
You don’t have to be behind to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Actually, the best time to look into whether to file is prior to or soon after defaulting on payments.
Example: Your monthly minimum payments are $1000. You were able to keep up with the payments until your former girlfriend decided she was going to move out. With less income coming into your household, you won’t be able to make next month’s credit card payments.
- I make too much money to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy
The bankruptcy law includes something called the Means Test, which takes an average of your monthly income for the last six (6) months from all sources (excluding Social Security income), annualizes it (multiplies by 12), and compares it to the median income for your household size. If you’re below the median, you are good to go with a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If you are above median, you usually are not. However, the Means Test has a 2nd step if you’re above median income that takes into account qualified and allowed expenses (i.e. child support payments, taxes, child care, etc.). Sometimes you may still qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy after this 2nd step even though initially your income was “too high”.
- If I file, my spouse has to file bankruptcy with me
You are allowed to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy without your spouse. Sometimes this makes a lot of sense. Two common scenarios are when your debt was incurred prior to marriage or you have business-related debt that is only in your name. If you are married and decide to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy without your spouse, you may still have to provide your spouse’s income and assets. However, your spouse’s identifying information, such as Social Security number and name do not have to be disclosed.
There is a lot of misinformation and fear on the internet regarding Chapter 7 bankruptcy, much of which is false and keeps people from using a viable solution to address their debts and move forward.
Figuring out whether to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy can be overwhelming. Contact Koenig│Dunne today and schedule your free consultation with one of our experienced bankruptcy attorneys.
When I was a child, I rarely interacted with any of my extended family members. Uncle Leonard sporadically sat at our table for a fried chicken dinner. Two of my father’s sisters occasionally brought panic with unannounced visits to our home. And I cannot recall a single birthday, holiday, or wedding celebrated with a cousin.
Four of my five brothers each gifted me a sister-in-law. Being wed I gained more. Marriage, divorce, death, and choice can determine who we declare family. One of my stepdaughters once referred to me as “my friend who married my father.” She was grown and married with a child of her own before her dad and I married. This was both an accurate description of our mutual affection and an honest acknowledgement that for her I am more friend than family.
My sister-in-law Sharon died this past summer on an August morning. Four months later, my sister-in-law Bobbie died on Christmas Eve. My childhood did not instill in me the deep appreciation of extended family. The beauty of these women did.
Sharon was younger than me by three years, and Bobbie was a single year older. Sharon had long lived with lupus, spending her final weeks in the hospital with my brother Mel’s utter devotion beside her. Bobbie’s holiday death in her living room shocked us all.
Born on Valentine’s Day, Sharon had a complexion as delicate as her tender soul. As a small girl, she was once chosen to be the special playmate to a bedridden classmate. My brother fell in love with her when she helped him heal after a knee injury. I never heard a complaint from her lips despite years of living with crushing fatigue and pain that robbed her of her career but never her gratitude.
Bobbie was a vibrant redhead with an ever ready smile and an easy laugh. Because we married brothers from the same family, we shared mutual appreciations and mutual frustrations. While her grandchildren were her greatest joy, time on the dance floor was a close second.
The more people you love and the longer you live, the more people you will see leave this earth. Every time it happens to me, the resounding “I wish I had known them more” revisits.
Because my brothers had the wisdom to marry women who could tolerate a Koenig spouse for decades, my joy of sisters-in-law remain in Jan, Andrea, and Penny. Before I have a farewell to them or they have one to me, I vow to know them more while I still can.
Do you have someone in your family you want to know better?
When was the last time you reached out to a member of your extended family?
Have you let your loved ones know who they are to you?
My Christmas tree died a week before Christmas. The branches were weighed down to the floor in a giant 8-foot droop. The star on top tilted to the left along with the sagging sapless branches. I should have known it was a sign. I should have known it would contribute to the sadness that would settle down over my usually happy holiday home.
My daughters left my home the morning of December 19th and didn’t return until the late evening of December 26th. It was my first attempt in 14 years at not being with my children on either December 24th or December 25th.
This was my 8th Christmas as divorced mom. Surely I was a pro by now at readjusting holiday expectations and schedules to accommodate a divided family. I had several times already experienced the truth that holidays and birthdays can be celebrated with just as much joy on any day you decide. I am not sure why this time was so different.
I tried my normal tricks. First, I planned our traditional Christmas Eve for December 26th and told my teenage daughters that Santa was trapped in a snowstorm and he wouldn’t be able to get to our house until the morning of December 27th. Next, I made sure I had a project slotted into the time I would be spending alone on Christmas to keep me busy and distracted. Lastly, I was keeping a daily gratitude log to remind myself of what I love about the holidays to keep my focus positive.
Christmas Eve day (normally my favorite day of the year) I woke up with a dark cloud above my head that refused to retreat. By 10 a.m. I had two good cries under my belt. I couldn’t snap out of it and that just made me feel worse. I felt like a failure.
Then a thought crept in. What if this was okay? What if I gave myself permission to be sad? What if I was gentle with myself and permitted my heartache to take over on a Christmas without my girls? What if I wasn’t Super Divorce Mom today and it was just going to be hard and sad? What if fudge was going to be my breakfast and pajamas were going to be my outfit for the day?
This reminder to myself that I was human was a relief. I felt my energy stir. I shed a few more tears before smiling at myself. This did suck and it was okay. I called my mom (my go-to) and we readily made plans to go to a movie to get me out of the house.
I made it. The twenty-four hours came and went. Followed thereafter by the heart-bursting, joy-filled reunion with my daughters forty-eight hours later. As hard as the non-holiday was, I needed the reminder that I am human and that my divorce experience will continue to have highs and lows. In digging into the low, I found it made the high all the more wonderful.
The enthusiasm is palpable. I see energy in the actions. The new gym membership. The new meditation practice. The new juicer. My coaching calendar fills with appointments.
Recovering from the holiday hullabaloo, we set our sights on the year ahead. Some set SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-based) goals. Some identify intentions. Some resolve to be better or do better.
Some simply pick a single word. One focus for the year.
Regardless of the strategy, in a few weeks or a few months, many of us will have not only lost the zest of the new year, we will have completely forgotten what were once sincerely pledged promises.
I’ve set hundreds of goals in my life. Many small. Some giant. I’ve hit the mark on enough of them that a few years ago I told myself I needed no more mandatory achievements. While I would continue to set meaningful goals, I gave myself permission to no longer have to prove myself to the world by doing more. (Not that the world was asking.)
So why did the word “Confidence” come calling as my surprise word of the year?
As a woman who is closer to the end of her career than the start, my crossed off list of To Do’s is respectable. Attorney, teacher, business owner, author, speaker, executive coach. I’ve enjoyed numerous awards as well as accolades from loved ones.
How could confidence be so compelling now?
Confidence is that feeling of self-assurance that one gets from appreciating her own qualities. When your life has focused on performing, the evidence of your worth appears obvious. A book with your name on the spine. A building or a business that says you built something of value. A baby grown up who makes you proud.
But what happens when instead of all the doing, you are focused on being. Being compassionate. Being loving. Being present. When there is less of the “doing” that can be counted in numbers and dollars and doing, how can we be assured of our value?
“How do you gain confidence?” I ask my clients. “Practice,” is their predictable reply.
I may not know how to grow confidence without doing. But this year I am willing to practice. I am confident that with continued practice, come this spring I will not have forgotten to be the person I promised myself I most want to be.
What will your word of the year be?
Is there something you will practice to gain more confidence?
What qualities do you have that you are confident you have?
Arlyce asked for two things. One: To celebrate on the actual day. Two: Cards.
Arlyce was clear. Her birthday falls four days before Christmas. For decades it has been gifts “for your birthday and Christmas” wrapped in Santa paper. She understood that the birth of Jesus trumped her special day. But still.
After too many times of feeling like a footnote to Jingle Bells, Arlyce marks this milestone differently. For her 90th Arlyce asked for what she wanted.
I admire Arlyce. She zips around in her scooter on her daily walks with her dog Mojo. She lives in an elegantly appointed apartment. She dresses with style for every occasion. When she was in her eighties she had the audacity to begin dating a younger man. (He was 79.)
Arlyce reminds me of the importance of asking. I have always been impressed by those who can ask with ease for what they want. More than one substitution of something on the menu. My most personal data. A discount on anything from legal fees to Lysol.
Asking may be an aptitude, or perhaps it is a skill to be learned. If you realize it gets you things in life, see how other people do it, and then practice, no doubt it could be the latter.
Old stories that stop me from asking include “I don’t want to be a bother,” “They’ll think I’m picky/cheap/lazy,” and “I don’t really need it.” In short, what Brene Brown calls the shame thoughts of unworthiness, swinging between “Who do I think I am? “ and, “I’m not worthy.”
Which brings me for the one thing I don’t need to ask for: permission to ask. While asking might evoke the judgment of others, what other people think of me for asking is none of my business.
Asking requires no permission. Asking creates no obligation. The answer to an ask can always be no.
To ask is my right. To say no is theirs.
I already blew out the candles on my December birthday cake. But thanks to the inspiration of Arlyce, I won’t have to wait until my 90th to ask for more sour cream, more feedback, less email, and anything else that is my heart’s desire.
What will you give yourself permission for?
Does fear of judgment stop you from asking for what you want?
What are you willing to ask for?
I didn’t want to think about it. Let alone talk about it. Worse even to write about it. All of those actions would make it more real. Several weeks ago, I reluctantly agreed that my former spouse could take our daughters on a trip over the holiday. The rub is that they will be gone from December 22 through the morning of December 26th. I will miss all of Christmas with them. A first.
I have preached more times than I can count that holidays are “just days” and can be re-created on a different day. I have advised repeatedly that parents should give a little and be flexible. I have tried to be an example even when my own heart was resistant.
This one hurts. My daughters are distressed and feel placed in the middle. Their dad gave them a choice to go on the trip or stay home. It is an impossible one. They want to spend time with both their parents over Christmas Eve and Christmas. They want to adhere to their traditions and see their extended families. My daughters and I have all felt the pang in the days leading up to their departure.
In the face of this difficult decision, I immediately rallied my family. It is what I am best at. I sprung into action to refocus us from what we won’t have to what we could have. Christmas would be December 26th. Santa will be trapped in a snowstorm and be delayed by a day. Then I planned a New Year’s getaway with my entire family, with the girls bringing friends, to give us a focus for our special time together. What else says family like a road trip to Missouri?
I learned last week that the girls would not be returning until close to 8 p.m. on December 26th. I started crying. My sister had taken the day off work for the 26th and my whole family had put their plans on hold and now another delay. I was angry, sad, and embarrassed.
I called my family to explain – yet again. For all of the focus I put on parents co-parenting, I forget the sacrifices our families make for the sake of our divorce. It is one thing to counsel parents in how best to take the long view and co-parent their children effectively. These parents signed up for the changes. The extended families did not.
I am ashamed when I feel like I have to take advantage of them and ask them to change plans and put their traditions on hold. I feel like a walking apology. I see my parents and my siblings biting their tongues.
With a fresh wave of tears it hits me. In these hard post-divorce moments that require flexibility that extends far beyond me, I see my family pitching in. Doing their part. Why? The singular explanation is that they so fiercely love my daughters and me.
This holiday season, with this reminder, I will appreciate, love, and cherish my family even more. I will be present to them revealing this love wrapped in a sacrifice. Here is a heartfelt thank you to all of the families who are supporting children and parents of divorce.
The amount of your spouse’s income has two significant impacts on your divorce: child support and alimony. While most spouses are forthright about their income, some minimize or hide their earnings in an attempt to improve their outlook on child support or alimony. This is especially true in cases where spouses are self-contractors, business owners, or cash laborers. Here are three legal techniques your legal team can employ to provide an accurate calculation of your spouse’s income:
- Discovery Requests
Discovery requests are written demands to your spouse to produce information and documents. These demands are typically the first technique used by attorneys to obtain evidence about your spouse’s income. Under Nebraska law, your spouse is required to respond to discovery requests and to provide documents related to income. Failure to do so can lead to court fines, sanctions, and even jail time.
If the documents produced by your spouse in the discovery responses are incomplete or misleading, then your attorney has the option to issue subpoenas to supplement or corroborate your spouse’s discovery responses. A subpoena (formally referred to as a “subpoena duces tecum”) is an order sent to a third party to provide documents relevant to your divorce. In the context of spousal income, subpoenas are often issued upon employers to obtain accurate pay stubs or banks to obtain accurate financial statements.
In some cases, there is no documentary trail of spousal income, which means that discovery requests and subpoenas are ineffective. This is especially common when a spouse receives cash income or has sole control over business records. In this situation, your attorney may use depositions to gather evidence about your spouse’s income. A deposition is an interview with a witness under oath, which means that a witness must provide truthful answers or else face the consequences of perjury. To gather evidence of your spouse’s income, your attorney can depose cash employers, business clients, or other persons with direct knowledge of your spouse’s income.
If you are concerned that your spouse will attempt to minimize or conceal income during your divorce, it is important that you work with a legal team well versed in identifying hidden income. Your legal team at Koenig|Dunne has over 70 years of collective experience in gathering evidence pertinent to proving spousal income.
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?
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.