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.

“What are you most hoping for in 2020?” I asked sincerely. The pause in her reply made me wonder if another one of my extroverted inquiries had overstepped a boundary.  I’d known her husband for a couple of years, but Emily and I were just getting to know one another.

“A year of cancer-free,” she said with a mix of grim and hope on her thin face wrapped in soft waves of blonde hair.

For over two years Emily’s husband had been battling an aggressive cancer that had refused to stop at his brain. Multiple rounds of chemo coupled with surgeries finally led to a proclamation that there was presently no cancer. They both had hope that their young daughter would still see her father alive at the end of the year.

It’s been 20 years since I heard a doctor say “Stage IV” and that no chemo, radiation, or surgery could stop it.  Although he carefully avoided the word “terminal,” Google gave the rest of what I obsessively wanted to know about the fate of my husband’s future and thus my own.

Eight years after John’s death, I see cancer everywhere. I see my friends anxiously awaiting lab results. I see my friends who no longer have every the part of their faces they were born with. I see the obituaries. I read that one in three Americans will receive a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime.

I strive to follow the wisdom of Byron Katie to “love what is” and not argue with reality. Cancer is a reality. Cancer “is”. But learning to “love” it is a challenge.

My first lesson came in grade school. My mother’s best friend was Margaret. Her husband Ed, who used to pay me a quarter for shining his shoes, had esophageal cancer. I learned to blend his food and put it in the tube attached to his throat. I loved the feeling of helping.

Margaret would become the first widow I witnessed after death from cancer. After that would come my mother and my sister, both of whom lost spouses to lung cancer. I love that these women taught me that even when cancer created the ruin of your existing life, that it was not the end of all of life. There remained something to love.

I love seeing the soup delivered, the company kept during chemo, the beautiful bouquets sent to console the bereaved.

I love seeing the moments cancer reveals the best in humans. The courage of seeing the doctor about a lingering lump. The vulnerability of disclosing of a diagnosis. The tenacity and will to endure years of needles and nausea. The zeal for life when one wakes up to the reality of death.

This year I pledge to love what is, and to join in Emily’s hope for the year.

Coach Koenig

What “is” in your life that you are struggling to love?

What have the darkest times of your life taught you?

What can you love today?

A recent study by Worthy — Building a Financial Fresh Start — examined the experiences of almost 1,800 adult women who were either facing divorce, were in the middle of a divorce, or had completed a divorce.  Overall, the study found that most of the women surveyed found themselves financially vulnerable due to two primary reasons: (1) the lack of financial knowledge; and (2) the lack of long-term financial planning.

The six shocking financial surprises that divorcing and divorced women most often encounter include:

  1. Being unaware of the scope of marital debt;
  2. Not anticipating having to get a job;
  3. Assuming that alimony or child support would be higher or last longer;
  4. Assuming that they could keep the marital residence;
  5. Being unaware of the high cost of health care insurance;
  6. Underestimating the cost of getting a divorce.

According to the study, the majority of women said that living on one income was their greatest financial fear, followed by re-entering the workforce, the cost of getting divorced, and managing finances alone.  Their top financial concerns were paying off debt, saving for retirement, saving for their children’s education, and protecting their assets.

These concerns are decidedly real, as only 9% of women said they were able to stay at home following their divorce. 

The infographic below details the key findings from the financial independence survey by Worthy:

Once you’re on your own, you’re empowered to plan your financial future.  If you’re lost when it comes to financial investments and strategies (you’re not alone!) seek some help from a financial advisor or take a class or two that will teach you how to manage your money.  If you weren’t working before the divorce, you’ll likely need to obtain employment in the future.  If you can, use this opportunity to find a fulfilling career that can add to your new life.

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

The summer of 1969, without warning, a young black girl was shot in the back of the head and killed by a white police officer.  Vivian Strong and her friends were having a party in a vacant apartment, playing music and dancing.  She was 14.

I was 13 that summer. I don’t remember hearing about Vivian, despite the killing taking place in my hometown.  I don’t remember any conversation at home, at school, or with my friends about Vivian’s death. I don’t remember anyone explaining why this happened or how the trial of the police officer resulted in acquittal.

Vivian’s mother had a mental breakdown. Vivian’s younger sister became the caretaker of the even younger children. No one ever talked about these facts either.

A half century later, as we mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day, many of us who live the privileged life of being white, will give the day little more than a brief reflection.

Our experience impacts our perspective. A classmate named Francene was the sole black child in my junior high school. My limited life experiences left me blind to the depth and breadth of injustice King sought for us to see.

If we live a life sheltered from hatred and violence, it can be easy to think the work of creating peace and justice in our community is not ours. Other than reading The Diary of Anne Frank as a girl, I was oblivious to the enduring legacy of anti-Semitism until I was in law school. A 2018 survey revealed that 66% of millennials could not identify Auschwitz as a concentration camp, despite a over a million Jews having been led there to die.

So how do we honor the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. if the importance of his message seems distant from our lives?  While not all of us are born to be activists or advocates, King gave us a path. And like all paths we take, we start where we are and take the next step.  Here are some possibilities:

Start learning. Start speaking up. When you hear that joke that isn’t okay. When you see that there is not a single person of color included. When you see your employer is not living up to its pledge to diversity. Each of us has a voice, and opportunities abound.

The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad person but the silence over that by the good.-  Martin Luther King, Jr.

Start reaching out. When was the last time you invited someone to lunch who was outside of your familiar circle? Can you go out of your way to support a minority owned business? 

People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.-  Martin Luther King, Jr.

Start serving. MLK Day is designated as a national day of service. If you don’t have any formal volunteering planned for the day, who is that person in need who might benefit from your help today?  Is it time you act on that intention to begin volunteering in 2020?

Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Here’s wishing you a day spent living the vision of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Coach Koenig

infographic listing the 4 Ways You Can Help Your Nebraska Divorce Case

Navigating the emotional, financial and legal challenges that come with a Nebraska divorce can be made easier if you avoid making any bad choices or mistakes that can compromise your case.  These mistakes are typically made because of misinformation or a lack of understanding about the Nebraska divorce process.  This is why it is important for you to have an experienced divorce attorney you can turn to for advice, as she or he will want to help you achieve the best possible outcome.

Letting your emotions get out of hand can hurt your ability to get what you want when it comes to child custody, visitation, and division of the marital assets.  Poor judgment can also prejudice the judge in your case or make your spouse more intractable when it comes to negotiating a fair settlement.

Here are four ways you can help your case:

Be patient. 

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

Keep the kids out of the middle of your divorce. 

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

Keep the divorce off social media. 

You may think that your privacy settings will protect you from having social media posts used against you in your divorce case, but you are wrong.  Your spouse can ask for a court order directing you to provide access to your social media accounts, and all those questionable posts will be exposed for everyone involved in your case to see.  You should not post anything on social media that shows you exhibiting poor judgment.  And tell your friends not to tag you in any of their posts or make comments on your posts that could be detrimental to your case.

Obey court orders. 

Trying to get back at your ex by ignoring any court order is a very bad idea.  Judges do not like their orders to be ignored, and could impose harsh penalties on you if you don’t comply.

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

In the fall of 2019, Congress passed the Family Farmer Relief Act of 2019, which increased the debt limit for Chapter 12 bankruptcy. This law financially benefits family farmers in Nebraska. The amount of debt a family farmer may have to qualify for a Chapter 12 bankruptcy almost doubled to $10,000,000.

Expanding Chapter 12 bankruptcy eligibility means that more family farmers are likely to look to Chapter 12 bankruptcy as a viable solution. For the Nebraska family farmer debating a Chapter 12 bankruptcy, here are some factors to consider:

  1. You can’t find a lender for the 2020 season, but you might be able to operate on current or incoming cash from sale of grain, cattle, machinery, equipment, or insurance checks.
  2. Your bank is unwilling to refinance your debt and you have little to no equity.
  3. You want to let go of low performing land leases that lose you money.
  4. You intend to sell land, machinery, or equipment and anticipate a large capital gains tax bill from the IRS.
  5. You attempted mediation, but it went nowhere.
  6. You co-signed, guaranteed or pledged assets as collateral on a family member’s farm debt and that family member has defaulted or filed bankruptcy.

And know that you are not alone! In 2019, there were 40 Chapter 12 bankruptcy cases filed in Nebraska. This is the highest number of Chapter 12 bankruptcy filings since the 55 filed in 2003.  Chapter 12 bankruptcy cases have steadily been on the rise with 8 filed in 2015, 12 in 2016, 20 in 2017, and 27 in 2018. The new bankruptcy law may result in a record number of Chapter 12 bankruptcy filings in Nebraska during 2020.

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

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

Patrick Patino

Voices got loud. Arms waved. Interruptions abounded. We’d had cocktails with our antipasto and wine with our chicken piccata and pasta. Emotions ran high as the talk turned to politics.

Catching a momentary pause in the clamor, Linda spoke. “You know,” she said, pausing for her quiet voice to be heard. “You know, my friends say the same thing about you.”

Linda was the lone person at the long table of eight guests at the candlelit table to hold an opposing view.  “Your critiques are the same ones I hear made about your party.”

I could not hear any gasping, but the shift was notable. Voices got loud. Arms waived. Interruptions abounded. The enthusiastic tried to score points by being right about the booming economy, the raging fires in Australia, and the value of tweeting from the Oval Office.

Wondering if we could return to conversations about the latest good music we’d heard and our travel plans for the new year, I tapped my fork on my glass.

“I’d like to make a toast. To Linda. For being willing to be courageous and vulnerable. For being willing to share her perspective and give us a chance to listen and understand. Cheers.” Everyone raised their glasses and the room fell silent.

The political chatter resumed for a bit before the lemon pound cake and coffee settled us down.

Four years ago I found myself seated immediately next to my first “Linda”. Her name was Lori. A handful of us were relishing Thai food on New Year’s Eve. I’d grown accustomed to my socializing with “like minded” people who shared my political persuasion. I thought—“This is a special occasion. How could my friends have invited this person with such irrational beliefs?”

I’ve had some great teachers in the years since that plate of pad thai.  I’ve made many new friends with the Linda and Lori bravery who would not only share their differing views with me (most people make assumptions about mine based on my biography), but tolerated my many questions about how they came to believe what they did.

With each of these came similar conclusions. There is a shared caring about having clean air and water, being financially secure, and wanting our government leaders to be better humans, starting with bickering less.

As midnight approached we rose from the table, clearing our plates and retrieving our winter coats.

 “I’m glad we had a chance to talk,” said Linda.

“Me, too,” I said. “I hope it’s a great year ahead for you.” And I do.

Coach Koenig

Who inspires you to speak bravely?

How do you stay curious about beliefs different from your own?

What relationships matter more to you than a difference of opinions?

While every divorce differs, the divorce trial process in Nebraska does not.  Here’s what you can expect:

Step 1:  Filing the complaint

The person who initiates the divorce by filing the complaint first is referred to as the “Plaintiff,” while the non-filing spouse is referred to as the “Defendant.” The purpose of the complaint is to advise the court that a divorce has been filed and what issues are involved (property division, alimony, children, etc.). Finally, the complaint informs the court what the filing spouse would like to be awarded in the divorce.

Step 2:  Service/Voluntary appearance

Once the complaint has been filed, the non-filing spouse must be notified of the pending divorce action. This is often accomplished by providing the non-filing spouse with a copy of the complaint along with a document called the “voluntary appearance.” The non-filing spouse should sign and submit the voluntary appearance to the court, which serves as notice that he or she knows the divorce has been filed. By submitting a voluntary appearance, the non-filing spouse can avoid being served with a copy of the complaint by the sheriff at work or home.

Step 3:  The answer

Within 30 days of submitting a voluntary appearance or being served by a sheriff, the non-filing spouse must file an “answer” with the court.  This legal document contains the non-filing spouse’s responses to the allegations contained in the complaint. The answering spouse may affirm or deny each claim in the complaint.  He or she may also file a counterclaim if they want to resolve the divorce differently than what the filing spouse has requested in the complaint.

Step 4:  Mediation requirements for parents

Nebraska requires that divorcing parents attempt mediation to resolve child custody and visitation issues.  The agreement reached between the parents in mediation is then turned into a parenting plan.  Both parents must also attend a class called “What About the Children,” either separately or together.  These steps must be taken before a trial date is set.

Step 5:  Discovery

Discovery is the legal process of exchanging information and documents between spouses that are needed to either come to a settlement agreement or prepare for trial. This process often requires spouses to gather a number of financial documents and to answer questions relevant to their divorce.

Step 6:  Settlement/Trial

Nebraska family courts strong encourage divorcing couples to resolve their issues outside the courtroom, either through settlement discussions between spouses and their attorneys or through mediation.  If the parties still cannot agree, a trial date will be assigned.  At trial, both parties will testify before the judge (there are no jury trials in family court).  Evidence will be presented, and witnesses may be called to testify.  Upon completion of the trial, the court will typically issue its ruling in writing at a later date.

Determining whether to settle or advance to trial is not an easy decision nor one to be taken lightly. Your legal team at Koenig|Dunne is here to provide you with guidance and advice regarding this difficult decision and all of the decisions that you will face throughout the divorce process.

“We looked great 20 years ago,” she said with a sigh, reflecting on the eve of the millennia when we gave champagne toasts to the new decade. We’d been invited to a country club and I wore a black velvet floor length gown. We gathered in front of the ice sculpture for our picture. Hopeful, joyful anticipation abounded.

Six months later my world changed. The husband I’d kissed at midnight in December was diagnosed with cancer in May.  My law practice moved from its office downtown into the century old building we gutted to renovate in between visits with urologists and radiologists and oncologists. We began eating a macrobiotic healing diet (Think miso soup, brown rice, and kale for breakfast). My youngest child moved halfway across the country to start college, at 15.

That was twenty years ago.

As I look to January in my 2020 Frida Kahlo calendar, I realize I look at my life now not just in years but in decades.  A decade ago, my mother was still living. Last weekend we marked the 10-year anniversary of her passing, with family traveling from New York, California, DC, and Georgia. I might have predicted that she would not live past 85, but I hoped she might be like her sister, my Aunt Leona, who still receives visitors at 97.

A decade ago, our law firm had 2 attorneys. Today it’s a team of over 20. A decade ago, this December the decision was made that my husband would enter hospice for the final months of his life. A decade ago, I had never written a blog. I’ve written hundreds since. My children lead happy and adventurous lives. I still own that black velvet number (Yes, my 2020 intentions include more letting go) and it still fits.

I don’t remember many of the details of 1999 or of 2009. What I will remember about 2019 is that it was full of ordinary. Beautiful ordinary.  Tiny bouquets of miniature roses. The best flan I’ve ever made. Starry skies seen from my rooftop. Best of all, days filled with loving and being loved.

What a year or a decade or a day could hold is best not taken for granted. We might notice it more at the milestones, but in a flash everything could change. In time, it all will.

All best to you in the New Year.

Coach Koenig

What do you see when you look back on the past year? The past decade?

What can you celebrate? What have you survived? Transcended?

What might be possible and beautiful in your year ahead?

“It’ll be different,” she said, the tears filling her eyes revealing what her determined smile failed to hide. This Christmas was going to be painful.

“It’s bittersweet,” he said. “This is a hard time of year for my wife.”

“Honestly, I dread it.”

I’ve lost track of the number of people who have exposed their truth that the holidays are hard for them. A death. A deep dysfunction among sibs.  A distance brought on by addiction, geography, or a history of hateful words. A child they won’t see.

For weeks I’ve anticipated the return of my children from across the country. Jack from California, Benjamin from Brooklyn, Marisa from Atlanta. We’ll have days of making toasts, baking pfefferneusse, and telling tales. I decorated my tree with hundreds of ornaments, got out their childhood stockings to stuff, and ordered the perfect pastries from the vegan bakery. Each tidbit of every task boosted my joy.

This is a heart-filled time of year for me.  I am filled with love for my family and friends. I am filled with gratitude for a multitude of blessings. I am filled with wonder at the generosity and beauty  surrounding me. What’s been missing in my heart is sufficient space for those who experience these weeks and days differently.

A drive through the city to see the lights of the season lifts my spirits, while for countless others the Santas bring sadness and the reindeer no cheer. My careless and casual “Looking forward to the holidays?” reveals that I’ve forgotten that for many the answer is “No.”

If what I really want to bring to December days is more peace and more love, I’d do well to be more awake. Instead of assumptions—- “Got all your shopping done?”—-I could be more authentically caring.

                        How is this time of year for you?

                        Not everyone loves the holidays. How about you?

                        What are you hoping for this Christmas?

Stressful or sad. Anxious or lonely. Maybe the most they hope for is to make it through.

So I try to remember. To remember the Christmas I spent in a hospital bed. To remember the Christmas I kept taking photo after photo of my brother because we all knew it would be his last. To remember the Christmas I handed my mother the phone so she could hear the news that my father had died.

My Christmas wish is that all of us can pause long enough from placing our orders on Amazon and filling our carts with candy canes to be present to those who may be silently struggling. I know that if I can, my full heart will be overflowing with what matters most all year round.

With my warmest wishes that your holiday intentions be fulfilled,

Coach Koenig

Is there someone for you to reach out to now?

Have you shared your feelings with someone willing to listen?

How will you be kind to yourself in the days ahead?

Divorce does not have to be contentious.  In fact, you could be making it harder for yourself (and your children) if you approach your divorce with revenge in your heart.  Taking the high road is not always easy, but there are several reasons you may benefit from it:

You can save money.

If you and your spouse can be on good terms during your divorce, you will find it pays off.  Not only will the process go a lot smoother for you emotionally, but you can also save money if you are able to stay out of court.  Settlement is a less expensive and less time-consuming way for you and your ex to reach an agreement that will result in a divorce that both of you can live with.

You can get your fair share of assets.

Your marital estate includes all property, assets, debts, and liabilities acquired by both of you during the course of the marriage.  It does not include property that you brought to the marriage, or that came to you via gift or inheritance.  You and your spouse will need to compile a comprehensive list of all marital property and make decisions about who gets what, typically with the help of your respective attorneys. 

You can protect yourself financially.

One thing divorcing couples may not give much thought to is how a divorce will affect their individual credit scores.  You and your spouse should get your credit reports from all three major credit reporting bureaus (Experian, Equifax, TransUnion) and see if you can resolve any outstanding issues prior to your divorce.  You will then need to cancel your joint accounts and open separate accounts.  Any joint accounts that remain open means you will still share responsibility with your spouse for any outstanding debt.

You can make things easier on your kids.

Hopefully, both of you share a common goal of protecting your children financially and emotionally.  Your concern for them needs to extend to putting the proper financial protections in place.  While your spouse may be the current beneficiary of your life insurance policy, retirement plan, pension plan, or trust, this will probably change after the divorce is final.  Both of you should work together on an estate plan that protects your children should something happen to either or both of you while your children are still minors. 

Determining whether to end a marriage is not an easy decision or one to be taken lightly. Your legal team at Koenig|Dunne is here to provide you with guidance and advice regarding this difficult decision and all of the decisions that you will face throughout the divorce process.

How does one escape an epidemic? Loneliness is rising at an alarming rate despite us having more opportunities for communication and connection than ever.

Loneliness would have been the logical response for so many seasons of my life.  Not only the divorce from my first husband, but also the years of marriage preceding it when I hid a book on intimate partner abuse under my mattress.

I went away to college, and far away to law school, and to Spain on my own for a semester at 19. My youngest went away to college at 15 and today my children live more than a thousand miles away. Separation from those we love certainly leads to loneliness.  

Oh, and death. My brother died at 35, both of my parents passed, and my second husband John died after a long illness.

I’ve lived alone for over eight years.

While I miss the people I love, it never feels like loneliness to me. Am I simply in denial? Is it just my genes of German stoicism that cause me to ignore ever feeling lonely? How is it I’ve been spared while so many have suffered?

I didn’t realize that I’d won the loneliness lottery when I was born. Like many aspects of our personalities, research shows that our genetic coding, in part, determines our propensity for loneliness. The same is true for my extroversion—I was simply born this way.

Unlike many large families—I was one of eight children—many of us siblings can go for months without talking to one another. Still, I know I could pick up my phone and call (for those of us who still do that sort of thing) them any time and they would be there. Surely that shelters me, along with living in the same city where I grew up.

How does one escape loneliness if you don’t have my good fortune? Perhaps it’s creating connection wherever you are. Are you scheduling a coffee to have a conversation or relying on random texts?  Are you connecting with the wonder of who you are when you are in solitude, or on social media comparing your life to people in the pictures?  Are you focused on your aloneness or curious about the lives of those around you? Are you turning down invitations to connect or extending them?

As a life coach I feel the greatest connection to others when they have the courage to be vulnerable with me. When they are willing to share their greatest hopes and dreams and their deepest fears and worries. In that space I can never feel alone. I experience the undeniable connection of being human.

Every day people allow me into their lives through their openness. If we can continue to open ourselves and make it safe for others to do the same, we might all be able to escape this epidemic.

Coach Koenig

What eases your loneliness?

Where can you find connection?

Is there someone waiting for you to connect with them?

It was so much harder than I expected. I had successfully navigated the Christmas holidays all seven years prior as a divorced parent with my two young daughters.  Now, in my 8th year as a divorced parent, the Christmas season was upon us.  Their dad made a request to take the girls away for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  I cannot explain my response in any other way than I thought it was the right thing to do.  I said yes.

Their stepmother’s father had passed earlier in the year.  As the first holiday season approached after his passing, my daughter’s stepmom’s family prepared for what would surely be a difficult holiday and wanted to go out of the state.  They knew, my daughters knew and I knew this was not an easy ask.  I resisted and tried to seek different compromise options to no avail.

There they went. They left on December 21st and did not return until late in the evening on December 26th.  Long gone were the days of belief in Santa – so luckily my mother’s heart was not distressed by missing those magic moments, but it found a new depth of distress no less.

Despite my confidence in being a seasoned divorce parent and knowing many tools to get me through some lonely minutes or hours – this was new territory.  I checked through my usual tricks:  schedule a massage √, plan time to watch some favorite holiday movies √, plan to wrap presents and be present to a favorite task √, and plan time with my family who was here √.

As masterful as I thought I was in being a divorced mom, the melancholy set down over me like the thick blanket I would hide under on my couch.  I could not shake the sadness.  It was compounded with messages from my daughters struggling with being away and missing out on our special Christmas Eve traditions.  Upon the arrival of Christmas Eve I was sad, angry, and resentful.  There was nothing to do but be with it.

Holidays as a divorced parent may be hard.  Really hard.  Try as we might to adapt, shift, strengthen our resilience, and resolve to not be phased – sometimes it is just hard and we have to surrender to the sadness.  And boy did I.  I wept.  I looked at photographs of Christmas’ past.  I arranged and rearranged their gifts under the tree.  I bemoaned my plight to my cats.  I wept some more. I just had to get through these hard days.

I happen to know now there is a happy ending to this story.  And no, it did not happen during the holidays last year I just described.  It has happened this holiday season.  My girls and I have been resolute in the fact that we are making up for last year.  We have already had more holiday joy in the first ten days of the month than we had all of last year.  We have decided we owe it to each other.  My girls even gave themselves pep talks about being helpful and not complaining  AND even cleaning without being asked as we decorated for Christmas. 

We have all collectively harnessed the lack we felt last year and are putting it full force into what we want this year.  I could not have known last year that this would be the result and that I just needed to be patient with life.  That I needed to know that absence does make the heart fonder – even with teenage girls.  I am so looking forward to picking up where we left off and celebrating our Christmas traditions with a much deeper appreciation for it what it means to be together during these precious days.

Happy Holidays.

Angela Dunne

If you are preparing for or are in the process of getting a divorce, you will want to consider whether or not to restore your former name. Nebraska has a fairly easy process for accomplishing this as part of your divorce process.

If you want to have your former (maiden) name restored, you should take the following steps:

Request the change in your initial filing.  If you are initiating the divorce action, ask your attorney to include a request for restoration of your maiden name in your initial complaint.  If your spouse initiated the divorce, be sure that your answer (counterclaim) to the complaint includes your restoration request.

Check final decree. Your final decree should have the name change provision included, but it’s always wise to make sure that the final decree mentions the restoration of your maiden name.

Submit a separate order to judge.  Once the judge has signed off on your decree, have your attorney submit a separate Order Restoring Former Name for the judge’s signature.  You will need certified copies of this order to apply for a new Social Security card, driver’s license, and other official documents you need to reflect your change.

Even if you are unsure whether or not you want to change your name after your divorce, you should go ahead and make the request anyway.  If you do decide to change back to your maiden name, having already made the request saves you the time and trouble of having to amend your pleading. 

If you decide to make the change at some other time after your divorce, you will need to follow Nebraska law for a legal name change, which is an entirely other legal process and more burdensome than doing it as part of your divorce action.

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

“You deserve it,” he says. I’m awkwardly silent. I feel more curiosity than satisfaction.

Why do I deserve it? Would I be entitled to it even if I didn’t deserve it? Does it matter whether I deserve it? Other people deserve it, too, so why didn’t they get it? Am I somehow special?

My charmed life means I hear this phrase often, like the time I got Grigio, my little silver convertible. Why the declarations of my deservedness? Was it because I had the income to afford it? Or because I’d lived enough years to be worthy? I wasn’t sure.

When I fell into a state of mad happiness (which continues to this day) of being in love, people saw my bliss and said, “I’m glad for you. You deserve it.” Did I deserve to fall in love because my first marriage was a sad one? Because my second one left me a widow? It didn’t seem that being happily in love was something one earned.

“You deserve it” is also asserted when the dessert tray with tiramisu tempts me. I eat my greens and manage to fit into the same dress size year after year—surely I deserve this.

I may choose to decline it, but yes I deserve it. I deserve a hot fudge sundae and a new Fiat and a beloved who brings me my morning tea. I do. And you do. We all do. I’m not somehow special.

The question is not whether we deserve joy or peace of love in our life. We all deserve to have good health, loving relationships, and meaningful lives.  The question is whether we can accept that we are.

If there’s credit to be given for the life I live today, I can take a tidbit. But also true is that grace has endlessly influenced my beautiful life far more than most who declare I deserve realize.

My mother deserved a happy love life, too. But her eighth grade education and eight children meant she would remain married in a lonely marriage most of her life. My brother Tim deserved good health, too. But AIDS took his life at 35.  My sister deserves to see our city’s Christmas lights, but she lost her sight as a young woman. They deserved it all no less than me.

The next time I hear someone say, “You deserve it,” I can remember that whether waited for it, worked for it, or previously suffered without it, I still deserve it. Just like everyone else in the world. If it’s good for me, I’ll receive it. A “yes” to the love. A “maybe” to the new purchase. And when it comes to the tiramisu, perhaps I choose a decaf coffee with half and half. Unless it’s my birthday.

Coach Koenig

Can you accept that you deserve happiness?

Might the fact that you “deserve” something be irrelevant to your choosing it?

What do you declare you deserve and say “yes” to?

I couldn’t catch my breath.  I was in a public place and tears were streaming down my face.  The threat of urinating on myself was real.  I could not stop laughing.  It came wave after therapeutic wave – the fits of giggles in between the gasps for air.

When I think back to the four days I recently spent in New Hampshire with two of my dearest friends since age 12, what I most remember is the laughter:  tons of it – days of it – literally stomach hurting from it.  I felt alive, refreshed, and so happy.

Traci and I met in the classrooms of our first year in junior high.  We laugh now and say our friendship was grandfathered into adulthood.  I am far too uptight and introverted to attract a Traci to adult Angela.   But as adolescents, Traci and I fell into every sort of mischief together.  My best, scariest, and smack-your-forehead stupidest stories no doubt involve Traci.

As I reflect now on our friendship and those magical days tucked up in the White Mountains together, I see how rare it is to find this type of friendship and fun and how desperately I need it. 

Laughter is a form of healing.  I can assert with certainty that laughing a lot is not likely on the to-do list of someone divorcing.  But looking back I see how critical it was to my care in my divorcing days.  In that time it was Marcy who got me through.  She was a co-worker turned close friend in the year I was in the depth of my divorce.  We lunched together every day and she made me laugh at least a dozen times every single time we were together.  Whether it was our shared love of reciting lines from Tommy Boy or a weekend trip to Astoria, Oregon to hunt down the Goonies, she brought the gift of laughter into my healing first-aid kit.  Those daily moments of laughter were the triage for my otherwise ruptured heart.

If you find yourself in the midst of dark days, it may not be on your radar to seek out those who are the source of spirited, bellyaching laughter.  Who are those that remind you of the real you?  Who is it that time never seems to pass in between your time together?  Put those names on your to-do list.  Whether it is for a weekend call or a chance to dine together, you may not realize how much you need them.

Some howls of laughter are sure to help your healing.

Angela Dunne

One of the easiest and most common ways to transfer property rights to another party in Nebraska is through the use of a quitclaim deed. This type of deed conveys the interest you have in a property without providing any warranties or guarantees about the interest you are conveying.

If you acquired your home during your marriage, you probably own it together as a joint tenancy with rights of survivorship.  This means that the property passes automatically to a surviving spouse.  When you divorce, the property settlement you negotiate with your spouse will typically include one of these two options for your primary residence:

  1. The home will be sold with the proceeds to be divided between spouses; or
  2. One of the spouses is awarded the primary residence, either by agreement or court order.

When one spouse elects to keep the property, a quitclaim deed is used to remove the other spouse from the title.  The spouse who is being removed from the title will be required to prepare and file a quitclaim deed with the Register of Deeds in the county where the property is located.

If you are ordered to prepare this, you will need to do so within the timeframe specified in your decree. If your former spouse was ordered to prepare this, confirm that it was completed to ensure you own the property outright. If you were ordered to refinance the property, make sure you do so within the timeframe specified in your decree.

Mortgage responsibility

Removing an ex-spouse from the title of a property via a quitclaim deed does not remove that spouse’s responsibility for paying the mortgage if the loan was taken out in both spouses’ names.  To remove yourself from mortgage responsibility, you will need to ensure that your former spouse has refinanced the mortgage in his or her name only.  You should include a refinancing agreement in your divorce decree if liability for the mortgage is being transferred to one spouse alone.

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

Couple arguing in front of small boy.

Nebraska family courts follow guidelines that keep the best interests of the child at the center of legal decisions, and the courts typically believe that children do best when both parents are involved in their lives. Custody does not usually become an issue until one spouse moves out or seeks an order for parenting time prior to moving out. 

Following a separation, the court can grant temporary custody and parenting time orders that will be in place until a divorce is final. If one parent is being unreasonable and denying the other parent sufficient time with their children, a judge will issue a court order mandating parenting time for the other parent.

If there is domestic violence or abuse involved, it is important for you and your children to find a place where you can be safe.  You should also file a police report and work with a family law attorney to file for a temporary order that gives you custody and protection.  If you continue to leave your children in the care of an abusive spouse, the court could take it as an indication that you do not believe your spouse is dangerous.

Parents who are seriously considering divorce are advised to create a shared temporary custody agreement in writing and signed by all parties.  This can be done by the parents alone, with the help of a mediator, or through each parent’s attorneys.  The agreement should include the same provisions as a permanent custody agreement — determination of legal custody (sole or joint), a physical custody schedule, a parenting time schedule, and detailed parental responsibilities.

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.

When a large company files for bankruptcy to reorganize, it can be a warning sign of things to come. On November 12, 2019, Dean Foods, the largest milk producer in the US, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to reorganize. Dean Foods filing for bankruptcy could be seen as the canary in the coal mine. 

“The company’s bankruptcy filing comes as the country’s dairy farmers are also struggling to adapt to the changing milk market. Falling dairy prices, trade turmoil and labor shortage have all hit farmers hard.”1 

Chapter 12 bankruptcy filings are on the rise in Nebraska and nationwide. Poor grain and cattle prices along with the inability to plant or loss of grain because of flooding has started to really hit Nebraska farmers. 

Affecting dairy farmers is the fact that Americans consume less milk than they used to leaving an oversupply in the market. Many dairy farmers operate at a loss or make enough to cover costs. The ripple effect of a bankruptcy the magnitude of Dean Foods may make its way to the producer who is already facing a tough market. 

In Nebraska, there has been a downward trend in the number of licensed dairy farmers since the 1960s. In 1999, there were 748 licensed dairy farmers and by 2013 that number had decreased to only 195. During that same stretch, the average number of dairy cows per farm increased from 98 to 282. The production of milk also stayed steady as the production per cow increased with better diets, management, and genetics.2

Dairy farmers in Nebraska may be faced with unique challenges for addressing the strained milk market in America and how it impacts profits and the ability to survive and grow. For the family dairy farmer with less than $10,000,000 of debt, a Chapter 12 bankruptcy may be the perfect solution to reorganize and keep going. The Chapter 12 bankruptcy may also be a beneficial tool to exit the market by liquidating your dairy farm operation. It may even be the best way to pass your dairy farm operation to the next generation without the burden of overwhelming debt. 

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

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

Patrick Patino

  1. https://www.nbcnews.com/business/business-news/dean-foods-america-s-biggest-milk-producer-files-bankruptcy-n1080586
  2. https://nda.nebraska.gov/promotion/dairysurvey.pdf

By the time I was thirteen I’d concluded that dreaming would not get me that hot pink paisley swimsuit with ruffles on display in the junior department of the Brandeis Department store downtown. I’d been babysitting for years and knew that only money from my summer nanny job and a layaway plan would.

Instead of dreaming, I set goals and made plans. Set a goal to go to college. Plan to finish in three years. Set a goal to have a 100 people protest. Plan a march and get them there. Set a goal to throw a party. Plan the perfect pesto and pecan pie.

I thought the only way to get what you wanted was by hard work and waiting. Dreaming felt like a waste of time when doing seemed to work so well. Besides, who had time to stare out a window when there was a sociology  exam to study for? Even today  the stack of books by my bedside reveals my penchant for the practical. While friends discuss the latest novel offered up by Oprah, I read books with a yellow highlighter in hand.

Hard work and tenacity yielded rewards. Thanks also to white privilege, decent genes, and exceptional teachers.  Student loans paid. Great children raised. More than one meaningful career. Book written.

Dreaming appeared irrelevant to a meaningful life. Why dream about the impossible when you could focus on the attainable?

Then one day, I awoke to realize how many of my unknown dreams had come true without my ever having set a goal or made a plan.

My law partner Angela lived 60 miles away when she invited herself to practice law with me.  I had no plans to hire. Twenty years later she’s running the largest woman owned law firm in the state. Dream come true.

While in California I picked up a magazine and read a description of life coaching. I’d been happily practicing law for twenty years. I’d never considered doing anything else. In that moment my encore coaching career found me. Dream come true.

Last year while on a walk with a coworker she blurted out her certainty that she knew to a man I would make my life with. Being both divorced and widowed, I was happily single without any plan— let alone goal—of finding my perfect mate.  He and I will share our second Thanksgiving together next week. Dream come true.

What else might come true in life without effort? With complete ease?  I may think it unimaginable, but  I have ample evidence that dreams come true. I will always be a goal setter and a planner. I’ll work hard and persist with some measure of patience.  But among my goals is to make some plans for dreaming.

Coach Koenig

When was the last time you allowed yourself to dream?

How does dreaming add to your life?

What dreams have come true for you in your life?

Preservation Paradox

We woke early with our mission in mind.  On this misty morning, we found the tide reaching as far back into the ocean as possible.  We walked quickly on the smooth, sand-soaked surface to discover this spot of local magic.  Here in the tiny town of Neskowin, Oregon (population 134) – just past Proposal Rock – we ventured to Ghost Forest.

Ghost Forest reveals the remnants of an ancient spruce forest.  It is presumed that the trees were likely abruptly lowered due to an earthquake and then were covered by mud from landslides or debris from a tsunami.  The forest reappeared in the late 1990’s when storms shifted the sands and showed what remained.  The tree stumps are over 2,000 years old.

The forest remains because the ocean water rushed in after the earthquake and buried the decapitated tree trunks in mud.  The mud in turn protected the trees from decay and preserved the solid stumps.  The same waters that knocked the forest down paradoxically preserved it for years.

As I walked though these forest ghosts, my heart was tugged simultaneously into sadness and relief.  These solid sentinels stood as a reminder of the roots maintained despite horrific storms.  

Like the nature surrounding me, the divorce paradox mirrors that of the ghost forest.  A divorce may move in as gradually as the tide or may come with the violent force of a tsunami.  Regardless of how it comes, it takes away many of our branches:  Our finances, our housing, our retirement, our neighbors, our family, our belonging (both singular and plural).  The very elements that disrupt are those that bring us back to life – our roots.

As I peer closer to the tree stumps, I see life.  Starfish, crabs, barnacles, and anemone burst all over forming new branches on the weathered trunks.  They create new colors and meaning for these sea-soaked and sea-washed bases.

The ocean whips salt water onto my face to join my tears and I smile standing in this beautiful forest.  We weathered our storms.  We were rediscovered in a new form, with new beauty and meaning, but nonetheless with our roots firmly planted.

Angela Dunne

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.