OUR BLOG

Welcome to the Koenig|Dunne blog. We have three different blog series for you to find inspiration and encouragement as you go on this journey:

  • 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.

When you and your spouse are unable to reach settlement during divorce, one of the first resources available to work past impasse is mediation. In divorces with children, Nebraska law requires mediation, but mediation is often utilized even when children are not at issue.

What is mediation?

Mediation is a way for you and your spouse to talk with the help of a neutral third-party. The role of the neutral third-party, the mediator, is not to take sides, but rather to help you communicate your goals and concerns, while also encouraging you to brainstorm resolutions. While the process of mediation will differ based upon circumstances, the key to all successful mediations is empowering you and your spouse to develop your own lasting solutions.

What does mediation typically look like?

The process of mediation differs by mediator; however, it typically looks like this:

  1. Initial Contact: The mediator reaches out to both parties to introduce himself or herself. The mediator schedules individual sessions and sets expectations for the remainder of the process.
  1. Individual Session: The mediator meets individually with each spouse to gain an overview of spousal perspectives, goals, concerns, and proposed solutions. The mediator gauges the level of conflict between spouses and whether domestic violence is a concern. The mediator follows up with a recommendation on whether a joint session or shuttle diplomacy is the next appropriate step. 
  1. Joint Session(s) or Shuttle Diplomacy: If the mediator determines that a joint session is appropriate, the mediator meets face-to-face with you and your spouse. The mediator empowers you to engage in a forward-looking conversation about resolving issues, and the mediator helps you to evaluate whether your proposed solutions are workable. If the mediator determines that a joint session is not appropriate, the mediator schedules additional individual sessions to facilitate indirect communication between you and your spouse. This form of communication is often referred to as “shuttle diplomacy.” 
  1. Follow Up: If you and your spouse reach a full or partial agreement, the mediator drafts a document to capture the agreement and then confirms with you and your attorney that the document accurately reflects your agreement.

Mediation is a powerful resource to help spouses move beyond impasse. Ask your attorney any question you have about your legal rights before mediation begins. Your team at Koenig|Dunne is here to support you through the mediation process.

David Pontier

In Nebraska, most home foreclosures start with the mortgage company filing a Notice of Default with the Register of Deeds in the county where the home is located. The homeowner then receives the Notice of Default by certified mail. Thirty (30) days after mortgage company files the Notice of Default, it will, through its attorney, publish a Notice of Sale for a minimum of five consecutive weeks. The home is then sold at a foreclosure auction.

This process, called a Trust Deed Foreclosure, is quick because Nebraska state law does not require that your mortgage company file a lawsuit to foreclose as there is not right of redemption. This means that once the foreclosure sale takes place, you cannot reinstate or take back ownership of your home.

A Chapter 13 bankruptcy can be a useful tool if you wish to retain your home. As long as the bankruptcy is filed prior to the foreclosure sale, you will be able to retain your home by paying the mortgage arrearage through a Chapter 13 bankruptcy repayment plan. In Nebraska, you will also be required to make your regular monthly mortgage payment.

For example: You were unemployed for eight months and could not pay your mortgage. You are now $8,000 behind and you have received the Notice of Default. You are now back to work and have started making regular mortgage payments. Because of your current income, you do not qualify for a loan modification. Coming up with $8,000 to bring your loan current is not in your budget. You can file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, stop the foreclosure, and cure your $8,000 mortgage arrearage through a 3-5 year plan.

If you are facing a foreclosure and do not wish to retain your home because you owe more than it is worth, it needs costly repairs, or you can no longer afford  the mortgage payment, filing a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy can protect you from the risk of your mortgage company suing you for potential deficiencies.

At Koenig|Dunne, we know that life can change in big ways in an instant. Our experienced bankruptcy team is here to help you protect your home and provide your family with a secure financial future.

Patrick Patino

I climb up the stairwell to the landing. The door is locked.  Another flight up I open the door. Nothing looks familiar. I slowly walk down the long hallway, peering into empty rooms, hoping to for some sense of where I am. My heart is pounding. I am hopelessly lost. Suddenly my eyes pop open.

Versions of this dream visit me from time to time. Sometimes I’m in massive complex of buildings, sometimes in a foreign country. Always lost. Always knowing I’m supposed to be somewhere other than where I am, but unable to orient myself because I have no sense of the geography of my universe.

In times of change and uncertainty, we often feel lost. We may know when it is time to move forward and even know the direction in which we want to move, but first we must answer the question: Where am I?

When faced with the chance to make a brave change of course, the assessment of where I am can stop me from even looking at the map for directions. At times it has looked like this.

My next direction:                                           My location:

More creativity                                                  I have a dozen unfinished art artistic endeavors

Improved health                                               I don’t know my blood pressure or glucose level

A more financially secure retirement           I have fewer dollars saved than I want at my age

Like my dream, I feel confused and disoriented when I don’t know where I am. Realizing my actual coordinates can be equally uncomfortable at first, especially when I realize I am not where I thought I was.

To be in a new place, be it in family relationships, my career, or having fun, telling the truth about where I am is an essential first step. I may be delighted to discover that I am farther along than I thought, like the time I discovered I’d already outlined four chapters of a book years before.  Other times I’m disappointed, like when I see the boxes of unorganized photos piled up in my storage room.

Either way, with the choice to wake up from my slumber, with the decision to summon enough courage to open my eyes and look, eventually I discover my current location. Once brave enough to face my whereabouts, I am no longer lost. I have found where I am. I can orient myself. I can start to chart my course in a new direction, where what is next is a joyfully hopeful dream.

                                                                                                Coach Koenig

Is there an area of your life where you feel lost?

Are you will to be courageous and face some truth  that will help you discover where you are?

If you see where you are now, how might that help you take your next step forward?

 

Law has its own language. Here’s some you may encounter during your divorce.

Affidavit: A written statement of facts made under oath and signed before a notary public.

Affidavits are used primarily for court hearings. Instead of listening to live testimony, judges may rely on the sworn statements they receive via affidavits. Affidavits may be signed by the parties or, in some cases, by witnesses. The person signing the affidavit may be referred to as the affiant.

Bailiff: The bailiff provides support for the judge and lawyers in the management of the court calendar and the courtroom. He or she helps schedule court hearings and manage documents given to the judge for review.

Bailiffs are the gatekeepers to the courtroom. Most of your attorney’s interaction with your judge’s bailiff will be in regards to scheduling hearings and/or trial. Bailiffs are also an invaluable source of information regarding best practices for his or her judge’s courtroom.

 Ex Parte: Usually in reference to a motion, this term is used to describe an appearance or communication of only one party before the judge, without the other party being present.

For example, you may seek an ex parte temporary custody order seeking emergency custody immediately after you file for divorce, if the circumstances are such that you fear for your child’s safety when he or she is with your spouse.

 Motion: A written request to the court, such as for temporary child support, alimony, custody, or restraining orders.

Motions can also be used during the discovery phase of your case. For example, if one spouse has not timely provided his or her information, the opposing counsel may file a motion to compel discovery responses.

Pro se: This term refers to a person who represents himself or herself without an attorney. “Pro se” translates to “on one’s own.”

Pro se people are commonly being referred to as “self-represented litigants.” The terms are interchangeable.

 Under advisement: This term is used to describe the status of a case, usually after a court hearing on a motion or a trial, when the judge has not yet made a decision.

There is no timeframe by when your judge must issue his or her ruling. Some matters remain under advisement for weeks, while others are under advisement for a couple days.

When navigating the judicial system, it is important to have an advocate who communicates clearly. Your Koenig│Dunne attorneys are well-versed in legalese. We will help you understand each step of your divorce process, even when those steps appear to be in a foreign language.

Lindsay Belmont

 

 

Rosie made a surprise visit the week she died. I entered the room and saw her sitting on the floor looking down at a framed photo of me with a microphone in my hand, wearing a white dress and a fierce face.

The tiny plastic figure of Rosie the Riveter is one of the many bits of inspiration sprinkled about my home. She had fallen off my bookshelf along with the picture of me giving a rallying speech at a women’s march held decades before.

Naomi Parker Fraley, the woman whose photograph inspired the original image of the beloved icon of the “We Can Do It!” movement died just a few days before at the age of 96. She died on the very day thousands in my hometown marched to be a voice for the multitude of messages from #metoo to “I march for my daughter.”  That day as I marched, as I had the day that photo was taken decades before; I wore a single tiny button pinned to my winter jacket: Rosie.

When men went off to World War II, millions of American women took up jobs in factories and shipyards. Rosie represented their strength, competency, and patriotism. Rosie represented hard work, independence, and grit, all of which I’d clung to for much of my life. This strong spirit got me through a lot in life. Law school. Divorce. The death of my brother.

“I can do it!” became such a sufficiently ingrained response that often I barely paused to check my calendar, my clock, or my condition before I declared “I can be there.” “I can help.” “I can keep going.” – my well-worn and worn out versions of “I can do it.”

My mother had eight years of education and eight children and people called her a saint. Who was I, with my career and only two children, to think I should ask others for help? Performing on my own, I carried a secret belief that my martyrdom made me better.

The day I encountered Rosie looking over me, I realized something different in her declaration.  There was a notable part I had misread. She never said, “I can do it.” She said “We can do it.”

I have made my life so much harder than it needed to be because of an ego that refused to admit that I was overwhelmed, hurting, or simply spent. All around me were good people who would have gladly been my “We,” but I had refused to lift my nose up from the grindstone long enough to see that they were right there beside me.

The price of my carefully cloaked arrogance was distance from those who cared about me, because I was doing it alone.

I will keep marching. I will keep my hand on the mic. I will keep looking to Rosie to remind me that, going forward, it’s a “We” and not just a “Me.”

Coach Koenig

Where have you made your life more difficult because you have not let in support?

What is the fear that gets in the way of you revealing what you need today?

If you were being your most courageous self, what help would you ask for?

 

 

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:

  1. I could coincidentally be at that very mall at the exact same time my girls were wandering amidst a crowd of predator strangers;
  2. I could call and tell him exactly what I thought of that plan and threaten to take him back to court;
  3. I could call him and offer to watch the girls while he ran his errand. OR…
  4. 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

 

During your divorce, some issues between you and your spouse are time sensitive and must be addressed before you reach a final settlement, or the court enters a final ruling on your case.

For example:

  • Who gets to stay in our home?
  • What will parenting time look like between us?
  • What amount of child support or alimony will either of us pay?
  • Who will be responsible to pay for our family’s health insurance coverage?

When spouses are unable to reach agreement on time-sensitive matters, either spouse may ask a court for a temporary order to decide these issues.

When does a temporary order end?

A temporary order ends when one of the following events occurs:

  1. A court approves your final agreement, or a court enters its final order after a trial.
  2. Your case is dismissed.
  3. A new temporary order is entered by the court, which supersedes the first temporary order.

Although a temporary order is not permanent, it is important to understand the lasting impacts that a temporary order can have on your case both during and beyond your divorce proceedings.

How can a temporary order impact my case?

Temporary orders sometimes give you an idea what a court’s final order could look like in your case. If a court has awarded equal parenting time between you and your spouse on a temporary basis, it is likely that similar parenting time would be in a final order unless significant new facts are brought to light.

Conversely, temporary orders also serve as important trial-runs. If a court temporarily awards one spouse a significant amount of parenting time, but that spouse routinely fails to exercise that parenting time, then the court may be less inclined to award the same amount of parenting time in a final order.

Finally, temporary orders can influence the willingness of spouses to negotiate settlement agreements. If one spouse receives a favorable outcome from a temporary order, then that spouse may now have less incentive to timely negotiate a settlement.

Your Koenig|Dunne team understands the impact that a temporary order can have on your case, and we are here to help you navigate this critical juncture in your divorce.

David Pontier

Filing for bankruptcy does not have to be stressful. Hiring an experienced bankruptcy attorney can ensure that your path towards a fresh start is a smooth one.

Getting Started

The first step is to schedule a free initial consultation with one of our experienced bankruptcy attorneys. During the consultation, the attorney will listen to your story, addressing your questions and concerns regarding your financial distress. By the end of the consultation, you will find relief knowing your bankruptcy options for dealing with your debt, which are typically a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Attorney’s Fees and Filing Fee

In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the attorney’s fees and filing fee must be paid prior to drafting and filing your case. In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, only a portion of the attorney’s fees and the full filing fee are due prior to filing your case. The majority of attorney’s fees are paid as a part of your Chapter 13 repayment plan. Our Accounts Manager will take the time to ensure that you understand the fees to be paid and the scope of our representation.

Financial Information and Documentation

In any bankruptcy, you are required to provide information pertaining to property you own, debts, income, and expenses. Typical information to provide includes pay stubs, bank account statements, and tax returns. Also, you will be required to complete a Credit Counseling Course within 180 days prior to filing. Once all requested information has been received, the bankruptcy paperwork can be drafted and reviewed with your bankruptcy attorney.

Case Filed

After you sit down with your bankruptcy attorney to review and sign the paperwork, you are ready to file your bankruptcy. Once filed, your creditors receive notice and the bankruptcy laws prohibit them from contacting you or otherwise attempting to collect a debt. You will have to appear one time at court for the First Meeting of Creditors. The bankruptcy trustee, who is assigned to oversee your case, conducts the meeting. We support you to answer the trustee’s questions regarding the documents that we will have reviewed prior to filing.

The Discharge Eliminates Your Debt

At the end of your case, the goal is to discharge or eliminate as much debt as possible. Some debts cannot be discharged, including student loans, some tax debts, and domestic support obligations (child support and alimony). In a Chapter 7, the court typically discharges your debt approximately three months after you file. In a Chapter 13, the discharge is entered once you make the final payment of your 3 to 5 year plan.

If you or someone you know is struggling with debt, the Koenig|Dunne bankruptcy team is here to help. Contact us today to take steps to achieve a better financial future,

Patrick Patino

“Why didn’t you tell me you were getting a breast biopsy?”

“Why didn’t you call me when your car wouldn’t start?”

“Why don’t you let me help?”

One of the best things about growing up one of eight with an alcoholic dad and an overworked mom is that you learn to manage exclusively on your own. One of the worst is that you live managing on your own to the exclusion of others.

The biggest fights I’ve had with my closest friends were instigated by my failure to reach out to them. I had surgery without saying so. I walked miles alone at night rather than “bother” them. I hid hurt without so much as a single story of my heartbreak.

This year I once again I start my year with fervent ambitions to “do better and be better”.

Many have tried to teach me the value of vulnerability. Husbands and lovers, co-workers and coaches, family and friends. If asked how I was, I was always, “Great. You?”  If they tried to  plan for my birthday, I’d keep them at a distance with “I’ll be away on a business trip.” If asked what they could bring for Thanksgiving dinner, it was “Just you!”

I turned away the offers of support, of wisdom, and of love because I had not yet learned how to journey through life allowing others to support me.

I’m one of those people who likes to ask, “Can I support you?” But this year I have a different question. I’ve made a different choice. This year I ask, “Are you willing to support me?”

You have experience I haven’t. I’m asking for your wisdom.

You know things I don’t. I’m asking for your advice.

You see things I can’t. I’m asking for your perspective.

I want your observations. Your reflections. Your toughest questions.

I need your help, and I trust in your compassion as you give it.

This year, I’m not waiting for others to offer. I’m asking now, and I intend to continue asking.

I’m asking for you to engage with me and with others on our journey to what is next.

To let me and others know what you know. To share your wisdom. To help me see my blinds spots. To challenge me. To help me fulfill my intentions this year to do better but mostly to be better.

What will this require of you?  Connection. Vulnerabilty. Okay I’ll say it: Love. If you have a little love to give, please say yes.  If it’s a no, that’s okay, too. The time may not be right.

I’ve waited a long time to ask. If you say yes to joining me on my journey this year, I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Coach Koenig

Join our Facebook Group and join the conversation by clicking HERE.

 

Today we are throwing it back to a time when Angela was reminded that she was not alone – even when facing illness after divorce.

I thought it was heat rash when the red prickly, itchy bumps appeared.  Then the pain set in and my instincts told me otherwise.  The doctor took one look and resolutely said, “Shingles.”  “Adult chicken pox?” I asked.  “At your age the only explanation is that it is stress induced,” he looked at me with what felt like a smidge of silent judgment.  I was on Google as soon as I walked in the door to discern how long this bout would last, my mind already racing to the commitments I had the following work week and how was I going to host my daughter’s 10th birthday party the next day. High on the list of things I am not good at is being sick and being still.

When the text came in from an old dear friend asking if she could bring me a home cooked meal to help, I readily started my message to decline.  I did not want to inconvenience her.  I did not want to be weak anymore.  Then my bare cabinets came to mind since I had not been able to do weekly grocery shopping and I recalled what a fantastic cook she is and my mouth started to water.  I realized my daughters would be back in my care the following day and an already prepared meal would be wonderfully supportive.  I deleted the start of my “thanks but no thanks” reply and accepted.

I was reminded of a time that I wished for the casseroles to come and they did not.  It was September of 2011 and my divorce was newly final.  2 weeks later, my law partner’s husband would pass away.  She was flooded with visitors, her fridge filled with homemade food from friends, and flowers were sent to provide beauty in her now saddened home.  In the days of my divorce being final, although I was grieving in as serious a way for the loss of my marriage, I received none of those signs of sympathy.  The juxtaposition of this left me feeling very lonely.

I share this now for both those who are grieving hard the marriage that has been lost and those who are supporting someone on this sorrow-filled path.  For those divorcing, your grief is real and you should not feel guilty or embarrassed by the number of days it is hard to get out of bed or ashamed for wishing someone would offer to help you out with a warm meal or an errand.  For those supporting, it may be appropriate to offer the same level of care you would for someone sickly or someone newly suffering any other huge loss.  Support is needed more than ever.

As a post-script, I offer the tip to be persistent.  When people find themselves suddenly in a state of new and scary independence, silly pride may interfere while they seek to prove they can handle it.  (I happen to know from personal experience…)  Your persistence will pay off.

When the casserole arrived complete with garlic bread and homemade chocolate chip cookies, my eyes and heart swelled with emotion. I knew I was not alone.  I knew that I did not have to do everything on my own.  I felt cared for and loved.  Not only had I learned to let it in the door, but I now understood the importance more than ever of casserole care.

Angela Dunne

 

If custody and/or parenting time issues are contested, it may be helpful for a neutral, third party to step in to help assess what’s in the best interests of your child. A guardian ad litem (GAL) is someone who is appointed by the court for this purpose. GALs are usually lawyers with special training.

You may ask your judge to appoint a GAL at any point if you believe that the assistance of a neutral person, whose sole purpose is to assess your child’s best interests, would be beneficial.

Talk with your family law attorney about requesting a GAL if –

  • You want your child’s wishes to be heard, but do not want him or her to have to talk to the judge,
  • Your spouse is abusive (physically, verbally, emotionally) towards your child,
  • Your spouse has addiction issues,
  • You’re concerned about your child’s safety during your spouse’s parenting time, or
  • You and your spouse are making other serious allegations against the other regarding parenting.

Your GAL will spend time with your child and observe his or her surroundings. He or she will investigate the facts. Your child will have the opportunity to tell the GAL what his or her wishes are. The GAL may wish to review your child’s school records and medical records. Additionally, the GAL will likely interview those closest to your child to get a full picture of your child’s world.

If your judge appoints a GAL, the GAL will be ordered to prepare and submit a report to the attorneys with the GAL’s observations and recommendations. The report will likely consist of statements made to the GAL by the parents, child, and relatives. It will explain the GAL’s reasoning for how he or she arrived at his or her ultimate recommendation. GALs are appointed to be solution-based. They will not “side” with either parent. Your GAL may also be called to testify at trial by either parent.

There are additional strategic moves to consider before requesting a GAL or determining whether to call the GAL as a witness at trial. Additionally, GALs can be costly. The cost will typically be shared by the parents, but not always. At Koenig│Dunne, we can support you in deciding whether a GAL will bring value to your case.

Lindsay Belmont

We were both nervous.  When I reached for her hand in the car to offer a reassuring squeeze, the clamminess I felt from hers was a sure sign that her stomach was fluttering.  She was facing the unknowns of a new school without knowing another soul.  I was facing the unknowns of how I was going to navigate these last years of hers as she speeds too fast toward adulthood.

Last week I wrote about my eldest daughter’s upcoming high school open house.  I described my emotions as I approached the day and wished that I wasn’t a divorced parent so that I could have the support of a spouse – my daughter’s father – who shares the same love I have for her.

When the day arrived, we kept ourselves busy and distracted until it was time to depart.  As we walked up to the giant stone building up on the hill, I pulled her aside to snap a quick photo.

“Mommmmm.”

“Real quick.”  I said.

She feigned annoyance but smiled into the camera.  As she did, she released some of her pent up nerves.  I hugged her and we moved on.  The focus on her that I had hoped to have was the right one.  I felt affirmed.  She needed her mom.  I needed a box of tissues.

A dear friend was texting me throughout.

“You doing ok?”

“Hang in there mama. This is a good thing.”

He then sent me a reminder of a funny memory to make me laugh and relax.  It worked.  I felt steadied and grounded by his support.  I felt his symbolic hand hold.  My pseudo spouse #1 had come to my rescue.

The next morning after the big event, my sister arrived with her enthusiasm gushing about Anna starting high school.  She said the things we both needed to hear.  “You are going to love it!  Ohmygosh, look at all of these fun extra-curricular activities!!!  Yay!”  My pseudo spouse #2 relaxed me and offered perspective.  I started to get excited about the future.

That night my best friend of 32 years called.  “Oh my heart aches for you.  I know how difficult and scary this is for you.”  Her sincere empathy – even though from miles away – felt like a hug.  I cried and my pseudo spouse #3 loved me.

I had been fretting the week before that my needs would not be met during this milestone.  The day after it was over, I learned a valuable lesson.  I have several “spouses” who support me on my journey.  The support I thought I needed in the form of one person, instead presented in three.  I felt thankful I had declared I was going to be present to my daughter.  In doing so, I in turn, was present to those supporting me.

Angela Dunne

If custody is a contested issue in your divorce, you may consider seeking a custody evaluation. A custody evaluation, performed by a child custody expert, is used by the court to determine what custodial arrangement is in the best interests of your child.

A child custody expert is a neutral evaluator, usually a licensed psychologist, whose role is to determine the bests interests of the child and to make recommendations to the court regarding custody and parenting time. He or she will conduct a complete evaluation of the parties, conduct psychological testing, interview the parents and the child, and evaluate the interaction between the child and both parents.

The expert is also authorized to review and receive information, records, and reports concerning all parties involved. He or she will prepare a report with recommendations. The expert may have their deposition taken at the request of a parent, and may be subpoenaed to testify at trial.

If you believe a custody evaluation would be beneficial to resolving the custody issues in your case, and your spouse disagrees, you can ask the court to appoint a child custody expert. The court must know why you believe a court-appointed child expert is warranted. For example, you may ask for one because your spouse has substantial mental health issues and you want a custody expert to evaluate fitness for joint custody.

Courts are not obligated to order a custody evaluation nor are they required to receive expert testimony regarding the best interests of the child. It is within your judge’s discretion whether an evaluation and/or expert testimony would be valuable to his or her decision. If there is ample evidence regarding the child’s best interests already before the court, the court may decide a custody evaluation is unnecessary. Or, your judge may find that ordering both parents to undergo evaluations is unreasonably invasive and there aren’t enough facts to warrant such an evaluation. Be clear as to why you are seeking an evaluation and that your spouse’s actions (or inactions) warrant one.

If you think a custody evaluation would be beneficial to your case, contact your Koenig│Dunne family law attorneys to discuss your options. There are pros and cons to these evaluations. Your attorney will be able to advise you as to whether a custody evaluation is appropriate for your circumstances.

Lindsay Belmont

It innocently arrived in my mailbox – a small plain postcard.  Four short lines announcing an open house for my eldest daughter to attend at our neighborhood high school because she will be entering its halls in the fall.  The flutter felt in my stomach soon folded into a pit.  I was wrapped in emotion as I took a screenshot to send to her dad so he too could plan to attend.

When he responded “ok” indicating that he got the information, I tried to reach out.  I feebly replied that I promised I would try not to cry through the whole thing.  He responded with a smile face emoji.  I set my phone down and let the tears fall.

Our daughter is heading to high school.  As with most things new and unknown, my thoughts and emotions are a mix as I try to steady the scary.  In past parenting moments when one of my daughters was experiencing a milestone, he was at my side.  He would comfort me in these moments, nearly from presence alone, because I knew we shared the same hopes, worries, and fierce love for our daughters.

He was the person who found me in her nursery at 3 a.m. thirteen years ago exhausted and quietly singing 100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall, in a desperate attempt to soothe her.  He took her out of my arms and told me to go sleep.  We later laughed at the only song I could recall in my brain-blurred state.

He was the person who kept me upright during the first day of kindergarten for each of our girls and reminded me to bring my sunglasses.  He is the person who knows each of my parenting weaknesses, preferences, failings, strengths, and tendencies.  He is the person who likely most understands how I am feeling in the face of my Anna moving too fast toward this milestone.

On Saturday at the open house, I will not get a reassuring squeeze of my hand or a slight nod urging me to keep fighting back the emotion and just be cool and keep walking.  I will not get an acknowledgement from him that he knows and that all is well.  I will not get what I most want and need – an emotional connection from the father of our daughters.

I will instead be clear on the next best and most important focus – what my daughter most wants and needs on Saturday.  I will be present to her needs instead of making it about mine.  I will do what every parent does every day in the face of parenting – set aside the “me” and make it about her journey.  A journey I am so lucky to have a place in. And while she and her parents will not walk about of the school together in a small huddled family clan processing the fears, excitement, and hopes for the next school year, we will still walk out with the ties of family binding us and each of us getting what we need – the reassurance that this journey is great and all is well.

Angela Dunne

DO’s

  1. DO tell your children they are still loved and that they are not getting divorced from their parents. Remind your children that they still have the right to love each of their parents. They don’t need to choose sides.
  2. DO encourage your children to communicate with you about how they are feeling. Your children may feel angry, sad, or confused, and they have the right to have these feelings. Keep an open line of communication so they know they have a safe space to express their feelings.
  3. DO maintain as many family traditions as possible. Although your family is experiencing significant change, keeping these traditions maintains a sense of comfort and calm.
  4. DO work with the other parent to present a united front on handling problems with your children. Be willing to discuss parental matters with your co-parent in a reasonable, businesslike, and courteous manner. Try your best to work together for the benefit of your children.
  5. DO encourage your children to continue good relationships with the other parent’s extended family. Support your children’s relationships with both sets of grandparents and extended family.

DON’Ts

  1. DON’T discuss any court related matters with your children (meaning custody, child support, parenting time, or financial issues). Likewise, if you know your spouse is discussing court matters with the children, kindly ask him or her to stop. A judge may also order you and your spouse to refrain from discussing legal matters with or in front of your children.
  2. DON’T exhibit angry feelings toward the other parent in front of your children. Don’t allow your relational difficulties with and emotions towards your co-parent affect decisions regarding your children and parenting time. Make every attempt not to argue or speak negatively of each other to, or in the presence of, your children.
  3. DON’T bring your new significant other around your children during the divorce process, and until the relationship has progressed to the point of becoming a meaningful relationship. This is a time of upheaval for everyone involved. Talk with your children (and co-parent) and use your best judgment to determine when an introduction is appropriate. Remember, it’s what’s in your children’s best interests, not yours.
  4. DON’T withhold parenting time with your children from the other parent unless the child is in danger. Your children have the right to have a relationship with each parent. Don’t use parenting time as a means of punishment for the other parent. Respect your parenting plan.
  5. DON’T ask your children for secrets regarding the other parent. Your children will be processing enough during this time of change. Don’t put them in the position of “telling on” their other parent. It’s unfair to them.

Lindsay Belmont

I weigh myself.  Ugh.  Add that to the list of resolutions.  I stare into my messy closet. Ugh.  Add that to the list of resolutions.  I can count the number of vegetables in my house on two fingers.  Ugh.  Add that to the list of resolutions.  And I keep going until my list is in the double digits and my energy is deflated.  I start my new year off eating a donut and putting Christmas décor in my closet to put away later.

“A new year.  A new start.  A new you.”  The predictable and tired advertisements come rolling in with the hanging of the new year’s calendar.  I confess that for more years than I haven’t, I have fallen quickly in step with beating myself up by assessing all of my deficiencies and resolving to remedy them in the following 365 days.  The cycle I described to start, I fell victim to year after year – until the year after my divorce.

Divorce, and I suspect most major life hardships, shine a spotlight directly on how you are living your life.  Out of the darkness, vividly taking shape are your old habits, excuses, and beliefs.  A significant life change jolts you into looking at how your “that’s how I have always done it” is serving you.  I no longer had a spouse to blame for interfering with time such that I didn’t have time for that sewing class I always wanted to take.  I didn’t have the excuse that exercise time wasn’t available to me once I was solo every other weekend.

On January 1, 2012, the first New Year’s Day that I showed up as a divorced mom, I had no energy to beat myself up.  I had done plenty of that in 2011 during my divorce.  My coach suggested a different strategy.  What if I focused instead on what I had to celebrate from the year prior?  Here is a segment of what I wrote that day:

I celebrate:

Children that weathered a storm with ease and grace and smiles

Family that loved me no matter what

A job that I love and that supports me

People that have carried me this year:  Mom, Susan, Genelle, Marcy, Christi

Traveling to Ireland this year with my Mom – the most special of memories

Being self-sufficient

Standing up for myself and my happiness and the happiness of my children

Knowing myself better than before

Pets that provide me joy

Additions to family and sweet sweet baby smells and smiles

I remember the tears of gratitude dropping onto my laptop as I reflected on all that I had and was.  I shifted my focus from feeling inadequate to feeling fueled for the year ahead.  It isn’t too late on January 11th to shift your focus too.

Focus on what you have to celebrate like if your friend passed you tissue while you sat terrified in the lawyer’s office for a divorce consultation – celebrate the strong and meaningful friendships you have.  If your child lashed out at a punishment and told you they want to be at their dad’s house – celebrate that your child expresses their feelings to you instead of bottling them up in a teenage abyss.

Resolutions help us live out our intentions.  By celebrating your intentions already fulfilled, may you resolve to be inspired with confidence that you’ll have a lot more to celebrate in the year ahead.

Angela Dunne

A premarital agreement (sometimes referred to as a “prenuptial agreement”) is a contract entered into between two people prior to their marriage. Before marriage, a couple may contract with respect to property rights, alimony, inheritance, and which state’s laws will govern the enforcement of the agreement in the event that their marriage ends in divorce.

In Nebraska, premarital agreements must be in writing and signed by both people. Because the agreement is made in contemplation of marriage, it only becomes effective upon marriage. Premarital agreements are treated as ordinary contracts.

Generally speaking, people may include provisions in their premarital agreement regarding anything they want. However, if there is a divorce, the issue then becomes whether the premarital agreement is enforceable.

There are two main ways to contest the enforceability of a premarital agreement. First, one spouse may argue that he or she did not sign the agreement voluntarily. A spouse may claim that he or she was forced to sign the agreement and did so under duress. The court will consider when the agreement was signed in relation to the marriage. Was it on the eve of the wedding or months before? The closer the agreement was signed in relation to the wedding, the stronger an argument a spouse may have of signing under duress.

Another way to challenge the enforceability is to argue that the agreement is unconscionable – that is, the agreement is so unfair to one spouse that it “shocks the conscience” and goes against public policy. For instance, if one spouse fails to disclose all his assets such that enforcement of the premarital agreement would be unconscionable, the agreement may be unenforceable.

In regards to alimony, people may agree to waive alimony in their premarital agreement, but this will only be enforceable to the extent that it keeps both spouses off public assistance. If enforcement of the premarital agreement impoverishes one spouse and that spouse will need public assistance, the provision regarding alimony may be deemed unenforceable.

It is important to note that provisions regarding your children will almost always be deemed unenforceable. Courts will look at the best interests of the child during your divorce, not at what your premarital agreement states.

If enforceability of your premarital agreement is an issue in your divorce, your judge may also consider whether each spouse had his or her own lawyer at the time the agreement was signed. If you are thinking about signing a premarital agreement, it is also advisable to have a skilled family law attorney review the document first.

If you are getting a divorce and have a premarital agreement, make sure your family law attorney has a copy of the agreement. Be sure to provide your lawyer with a detailed history of the facts and circumstances surrounding reaching and signing the agreement. Your family law attorneys at Koenig│Dunne will be able to advise you regarding how your premarital agreement may affect the dissolution of your marriage.

Lindsay Belmont

We are all guilty of it. You go to Target for that one pack of batteries. Next thing you know, you’re at self-checkout, the total incrementally increasing as you scan each item and place it in the bag. Before you know it, you’ve spent $30. Some days it is $15. Other days it is $50. Over the course of a month those trips to Target can really add up.

I once had a client who would go out to eat or buy a Starbucks coffee every day. I asked how much they estimated they spent daily on those items. It was around $15. To keep the math simple: 52 weeks in a year x 5 work days in a week x $15 =$3,900. My client was surprised to discover they were spending around $330 per month or about $4,000 per year on these small expenses.

In many instances, micro-expenses are often overlooked or not thought about when creating a budget. However, it is these small items that make a big impact on your budget. Most budgets I see don’t take into consideration miscellaneous monthly expenses. Including a buffer in your budget for micro-expenses will help.

The best place to start taking control of micro-expenses is by reviewing your monthly bank statements. You may not even realize how much you are spending on multiple transactions of less than $5. Another tip is to set a fixed budget for the micro-expenses. Cash is still king. Withdraw a fixed amount of cash for the week or month to be spent on certain items. Once you run out of the cash, you stop spending. If you can’t live without your Diet Coke, that is cool. Maybe it makes more sense to buy it in bulk instead of picking one up every day at the convenient store.

We could replace Starbucks or Diet Coke with new clothes for your growing child, school supplies for that class project, or cough drops for your ailing spouse and the same principles still apply. It is amazing how $5 spent here and there impacts your overall financial well-being. Living is expensive. Being mindful and aware of where your money is going will help you make those day-to-day financial decisions.

We all know the big expenses we have to pay every month like the rent or mortgage payment, insurance, car payment, etc. Make it a priority to understand the micro-expenses in your life as well. Life can change in big ways in a flash. If and when that occurs, you or someone you know may find it difficult, if not impossible, to keep up with the expenses of everyday life. Remember that Koenig|Dunne is here to help.

Patrick Patino

Joy. Calm.  Beyond.  These words start to fill up my social media feeds at the first of the year when people are apt to choose “one little word” to set a specific intention or provide inspiration for the year ahead.  Some chose companion words to provide subtext for a goal:  grit, glory, gumption.  Over the years, I’ve had some of my words gifted to me in bracelets by friends as a reminder to keep focus.

What if this year your one little word is “divorce?”  What if you have been struggling in your marriage for years and this is the year that action will be taken to make a life shift?  What if you are blindsided by bad actions on the part of your spouse and this leads you to a divorce filing?  What if now is the time to stop living with someone who has become nothing more than a housemate?

In 2011, this unwittingly would have been my word. Companion words were inevitably worry, fear, and depression.  Divorce is a permanent state of mind and the perpetual focus when you are making your way through the action.   It impacts your immediate and extended families, neighbors, friends, finances, and personal belongings.  The expanse of divorce ensures that not a day goes by without divorce occupying your thoughts.

The concept behind the word for a year is that you attract that which holds your focus.  You can use the word as a barometer to measure decisions and actions.  How close or far away are you from your word when mapping out goals and to-dos?

If your word for the year becomes divorce, what do you want that to mean?  What will that signify?  Heartbreak or healing?  Anger or acceptance?  You have a choice on what divorce will mean to you.  You can choose how you want to show up in the divorce experience.  Will this be an awful word or a word that signifies one of the biggest changes you have seen in your life?  You can use your word for power or pity.   I have found that when I am going through a very difficult time and I hate the life circumstances confronting me, that having a word or a mantra to pull me away from my distracted negative thoughts is useful.

If you find yourself facing the year that your word will be divorce, I encourage you to pull yourself up to your intentions.  How do you want to be?  What do you want you want your companion words to be?  Try on courage, support, and calm as alternatives to keep your emotional focus on easing through the hard days. I assure you that as time passes you will surely see that it comes to be just one little word.

Angela Dunne

During your divorce, hard decisions regarding your children are made. For example, where will they live? How often will they see each parent?  The paramount concern in any decision regarding custody, parenting time, or other child-related issues is what is in the minor child’s best interests.

But what happens when your child expresses a preference regarding who to live with? Nebraska, unlike some other states, does not allow a child to choose who to live with. Rather, the court may consider the well-reasoned preferences of a child, at any age. Nebraska law provides that your child’s preference regarding custody will be considered if your child is of sufficient age of comprehension, regardless of chronological age, and the child’s preference is based on sound reasoning. “Sufficient age” can be as young as 10, if the ten-year-old child is capable of vocalizing and reasoning.The older the child, the greater the weight given to the preference.

Your child’s reasoning, regardless age, is also important. If your child’s wants to live with the mother because she is less strict, doesn’t impose rules or curfews, or gives a bigger allowance, the judge may give less weight to that child’s wishes. If your child expresses a preference to live with the mother because she helps with homework, counsels during emotionally-trying times, or reads and plays with the child, the judge may give greater weight to the child’s wishes.

There are multiple ways your child’s wishes can be conveyed to the judge. It is possible for your child to speak with the judge. Again, there is no set age at which children are allowed to speak with the judge about their preferences as to custody. If either you or your spouse wants the judge to listen to what your child has to say, a request is ordinarily made to have the child speak to the judge in the judge’s office (or, chambers), rather than from the witness stand in the courtroom. This is called an “in-camera interview.” (Note: there are no actual cameras present. Rather, a court reporter may be present to transcribe your child’s testimony.) Typically, the parents are not present for this interview. Depending on the judge’s decision, the attorneys for you and your spouse may be present, or it may just be the judge and the court reporter.

It is possible that the judge may also allow the attorneys to ask questions to your child. If you have concerns about the other parent learning what your child says to the judge, talk to your lawyer about requesting to keep your child’s testimony confidential.

Finally, consider how going to a courthouse and speaking with a judge will affect your child. It may not be in the child’s best interests to go through this process if he or she is already struggling with the divorce. Or, perhaps you have a strong-willed child who is adamant about having his or her voice heard. Also, keep in mind that it is not unusual for the child to say one thing to one parent and something completely opposite to a judge when neither parent is in the room.

Discuss the implications of having your child testify with your experienced family law attorney. Knowing the unique circumstances of your case, your Koenig|Dunne family law attorneys can advise you regarding the pros and cons of having your child speak with the judge.

Lindsay Belmont

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.