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.
- NEXT: An Empowerment Series: Attorney and life coach Susan Koenig guides, supports, and inspires you on the journey of creating a life you love.
“A friend in need is a friend indeed.”
She was a court reporter. I was a lawyer. We bonded over our German heritage, working in the juvenile court system, and having alcoholic fathers.
Each year I endure three months of teasing from Gretchen that she’s “younger” than me. Today the annual ribbing ends as I celebrate the birth of my friend of nearly 40 years.
We expect our closest friends to show up for our big life events. Gretchen was there for the funeral of my father, my brother, my mother, and my husband. But Gretchen always went beyond. She opened her home for one wedding, one memorial service, and plenty of parties just because she loved me.
Gretchen can create a room that looks like it came straight out of Architectural Digest. When it’s redecorating time for her, I am the lucky recipient of an occasional prize like my living room sofa and my vintage bedroom dresser. With fingers that can record courtroom testimony with exceptional speed and accuracy, Gretchen is also an artist whose most recent gift was a cheerful watercolor of red, green and blue.
While Montessori moms together, watching her teach her children not to interrupt or to jump on furniture were among the many lessons she unknowingly gave me about how to parent. When she hosted Christmas Eve for a houseful of people who had no family near, she let me see what it means to grow a family you were not born into. Never wanting to be the center of attention, she’s shown me what humility looks like.
Gretchen has a quick wit and a great sense of humor. Her brief words occasionally hurt like a paper cut—painful for a moment but short lived and fast healing. But more often, they make me laugh deeply and help me practice a desperately needed skill of not taking myself so seriously.
Gretchen has given me everything from an elegant winter coat to her Russian tea cakes. But I treasure most all the lessons she gave me that I didn’t know I needed.
Happy Birthday dear friend.
What do you treasure in your friends?
Are you willing to receive the gifts you receive?
How might you be a good friend today?
I spy the basket full of folded newspaper pages. They are the pages pulled from The Oregon Coast Today and Lincoln City News Guard – two local papers my dad picks up from the grocery store on Tuesdays and Thursdays. In my six-month absence from a coastal visit, the accumulation is large. Comprised only of 5 star or highest difficulty puzzles, my dad has silently offered the challenge and I feel wonderfully loved.
It takes me back to the beginning of this tradition with my dad from another spring break visit with him on the coast. Eleven years ago, when I was in marriage counseling, my counselor Bob taught me about the concept of “accepting influence.” This principle is used by Dr. Gottman (world-renowned for his work on marital stability and divorce prediction over the last 40 years) in his analysis of whether marriages will fail or succeed. “Accepting influence” means that you are willing to relinquish control in a relationship and accept the influence of your partner and respect their feelings and opinions. Sounds basic, maybe, but most people find they are unaware and do not practice this.
To demonstrate accepting influence, you do not give a gift or do something nice based on what you think would be nice, but what your loved ones would most love and appreciate. You relinquish control over your opinion and defer solely to what they would value. You can accept influence with anyone – this is not limited to marriage.
My dad and I talked about accepting influence on my trip that year as I was struggling with how to do and be better in my marriage. My dad, without words, went on to show me. He would pay attention to what I liked, my preferences. One morning when I was visiting him, there was peppermint extract next to my coffee mug. He knew my favorite creamer was peppermint mocha, but the store was out. He made an effort for the next best thing. I felt loved. He observed that I liked to do the sudoku and crossword puzzles from the paper. He too began enjoying the sudoku. He started saving the hard ones just for me. I felt loved.
So last week on a visit with my parents, as I pulled out my morning sudoku from the pile he created for me, I once again was reminded about how we can best demonstrate love or care for those in our lives with which we want to shine that light. Even better, we can accept influence from ourselves. This is a particularly helpful focus when going through divorce when it feels like there is an absence of all love.
You can tell yourself you should do this or you should do that or you can accept your own influence and relinquish control of what you should be doing and instead respect your own feelings and opinions as you make your way through your divorce. Pay attention to what you need most and honor it. Need a good cry? Grab the tissue and do it. Don’t keep a stiff upper lip to “show him or show her.” Need a nap? Take one. Don’t wear yourself thin because you think a parent going through divorce should be engaged in every minute of parenting time you have. Accept your own influence and the self-love is sure to follow.
I stopped attending art openings. I took up lifting a kettlebell, staying inside instead of going out to the gym. I was unsure how long before it would be over and whether life would ever be the same again.
It wasn’t a winter with coronavirus. It was the last winter of many winters of John living with cancer. Ten years ago, the rooms of tea parties with macarons and brunches with bubbly became a home hospice and I became the gracious hostess greeting guests arriving to say their goodbyes.
The same sofa to which John trekked to and from each day from our bed—proving to himself and the world he wasn’t quite ready to leave— became a place of rest again this winter after my son Benjamin had two limbs crushed in a head on crash. The walker, the pillows, the next round of meds. It felt familiar.
This week I received word that I have fulfilled the requirements of a certified end-of-life doula. Like a birth doula, those who serve as support to the dying give comfort and companionship. Just weeks before Ben’s accident I’d committed to the University of Vermont program to study and practice how to be present when time is precious.
In the decade between these seasons there have been many endings. John’s death nine months after the doctor visits ended. Children moving farther away to even bigger cities. There were big beginnings, too. The law firm starting to grow to twice its size and impact on people’s lives. An introduction that led to unimaginable love finding its way into my heart with a man I never knew existed.
Someone recently referred to me as “always calm”. The description surprised me as my excitable energy has often been a source of embarrassment for myself and others when the words, the dance, or the hug came out more quickly than was either expected or appropriate. My winters of slowing down to the pace of another and being present served me well.
Still, I am on the cusp of spring. As winter comes to a close this weekend, my sweetheart will get his second vaccination and Ben will take some steps outdoors with his walker. I will watch the redbud trees obsessively for signs of their first blooms opening and dance at every opportunity.
Winters end and springs begin. Everything is impermanent.
What did you learn from a past season that serves you today?
What might be beginning for you, even as you experience endings?
What do you hold precious today?
“I had no idea there’d be such an outpouring…I’m not used to being on the receiving end.” Tears started to stream down the face of the child turned man whose blue eyes matched his hospital gown. My first-born Benjamin gave his first Facebook thanks two weeks after a driver on I-80 crossed the median at full speed, hitting Ben’s car head-on, crushing his limbs and his hopes for the year ahead.
Ben’s friends had been eager to start a GoFundMe to help. He was reluctant. Being white and male and educated he knew his privilege. What he did not know was the duration of his healing journey and the high cost of not being able to walk or work or open a jar.
Ben is both independent and generous. He’s traveled from India to Guatemala. For years he worked a low wage job helping disabled teens. He has a heart that longs to heal others. For him, giving is easier than receiving.
As soon he said yes to all things offered from friends, family, and community, the giving began. Lush plants to restore his spirits. A tray to attach to his walker once he was able to get out of a hospital bed. Meals from shepherd’s pie and Pad Thai to wheat berry soup made with bone broth. From good wishes via text to big dollars from Alaska to a Mass in March, the giving’s been ongoing.
I, too, hesitated at the help at times. When my law partner said an attorney with the bar association wanted to share Ben’s story with lawyers across Nebraska, I paused. When I was willing to open to the generosity of my colleagues, the giving ballooned.
Somewhere past 100 I lost count of the number who helped in some way. Some we’d known since Ben was born. Many I’d not been in touch with for years. Everyone cared.
Gift giving is said to be one of our languages for showing our love. Thoughtfulness and generosity are a way to say, “I’m thinking about you. I care about you. I wish you well.” I like calling it love.
It’s been said you have a few months after a wedding and longer after a funeral to give your thanks. I don’t know the etiquette for car crashes. I figure it will take a lifetime.
Do you ever hesitate to let in support?
What might you receive if you were more receptive?
What gratitude do you have for the gifts of others?
In almost every Nebraska divorce, spouses must address the issue of determining premarital and nonmarital property. This is especially true in high-wealth divorces, which frequently entail assets acquired from a variety of sources, and second-marriage divorces, which often involve spouses who have acquired a sizable portion of their wealth prior to marriage.
Dividing Property in a Nebraska Divorce
Under Nebraska law, courts equitably divide all assets and debts acquired by either spouse during marriage, and most courts interpret equitable to mean equal. However, Nebraska courts do not divide premarital and nonmarital property, and instead award such property exclusively to one spouse. Therefore, many contested Nebraska divorces center on the issue of defining premarital and nonmarital property.
Defining Marital and Nonmarital Property in Nebraska
In Nebraska, marital property is defined as all property acquired by either spouse during marriage, including assets and debts, irrespective of how such property is titled. Conversely, nonmarital property is all property not considered marital and therefore not divided in a divorce. Nebraska law generally defines nonmarital property to include:
- Premarital Property: Property owned by either spouse prior to marriage;
- Gifted Property: Property individually gifted to one spouse during marriage by a third party; and,
- Inherited Property: Property inherited individually by one spouse during marriage.
In addition to these general classifications of nonmarital property, Nebraska courts also typically define (i) property acquired before the parties are divorced but after the parties have either filed for divorce or physically and financially separated, i.e. post-marital property, and (ii) student loans as nonmarital property.
Yet, although these classifications seem straightforward, three common legal issues arise when spouses dispute nonmarital and premarital property awards.
Proving Nonmarital and Premarital Property
First, the spouse asking to be awarded nonmarital or premarital property must prove that the property is in fact nonmarital. Typically, this requires gathering statements or other documentary evidence to show when and how the property was acquired. If a spouse cannot gather documentary evidence to prove the nature of the disputed property, Nebraska courts likely will assume that the property is marital.
Comingled Marital and Nonmarital Property
Second, if marital and nonmarital property has been comingled, i.e. combined, then the spouse asking to be awarded a portion of the combined property as his or her nonmarital property must prove that the nonmarital portion can be separated from the marital portion. This is known as tracing nonmarital property. For example, when spouses combine their premarital bank accounts into a joint account during marriage, Nebraska courts often struggle to determine what, if anything, remains of the originally invested premarital funds. This is also true when spouses combine inherited funds with marital funds.
Appreciation on Nonmarital Property During Marriage
Third and finally, spouses often litigate whether the growth on nonmarital property during marriage should be treated as marital property. For example, if one spouse owns a premarital business that is worth one million dollars at the time of marriage and that business grows to be worth $11 million during marriage, then then the $10 million in growth may be disputed as to its marital or nonmarital nature.
Nebraska law classifies appreciation on nonmarital property that is the product of either spouse’s efforts during marriage to be marital property, contrasted to passive growth that is solely the product of market forces. In the previous example, if either spouse helped to operate the premarital business during marriage, then the $10 million in growth would almost certainly be considered marital property. If, however, the business was owned via shares of stock and neither spouse helped with the business, then the $10 million in growth would almost certainly be retained by the owning-spouse as nonmarital property.
Skillfully resolving nonmarital and premarital property disputes in a divorce is critical to ensuring a successful division of property. This area of Nebraska law is nuanced and requires experience to navigate effectively in negotiations and trial. Our team at Koenig|Dunne has over 150 years of combined legal experience. We have authored books and published articles addressing nonmarital property issues, and it is our mission to provide wholehearted, excellent support to our clients throughout the entire divorce process.
As a 10-year-old, I took my promises seriously, at least when it came to trying to be a good girl in a Catholic culture. For Lent, I’d commit to give up candy or to place any coins –my only income at the time– into the slot of the little yellow cardboard box shaped like a church. For 40 days I would strive to help the children of Guatemala and to develop a form of discipline that today helps me to hold my promise to intermittently fast until 11 a.m.
These days I capture promises on my iPad where I keep my To Dos designed to demonstrate my priorities. I prefer to put people at the top. One of my 6 siblings, three of whom had birthdays this month. A coworker I coach. A friend I’ve had forever. My one beloved.
Next come more promises. Taxes. Publication deadlines. Must do Zooms. I can’t recall the last time I crossed off everything off a day’s list. Either my enthusiasm or my ego is bigger than my high energy or assorted abilities.
My well-established habits of a doer make me reasonably productive. They also reflect my vying to show my worth or garner even more love in my life. With these, possibilities for my priority list are limitless.
All this makes me productive. While I do my best to keep my promises to others, be it as a best friend or as an American citizen, some priorities I can forget to get on the list. Grow a flower. Dance. Read. Walk. Write. Cook. Learn. In my quest for accomplishment, I can forget that my personal passions are a priority, too.
Despite having long abandoned my devoutness to the church, I enjoy honoring the annual Lenten ritual of a period of preparation for something joyful to come. If I call forth that childhood fervor for the integrity of keeping my promises, I can spend the days until Easter keeping some I make to myself. To meditate. To move my body. To create more space in my life.
In my quest for accomplishment, I’d be served by the wisdom of a 4th grader. Perhaps then keeping any promise will be a bit more playful.
Have you looked at your priorities lately?
Do you keep promises to yourself?
What childlike wisdom might serve you?
Internationally owned assets present unique challenges during a divorce. As global holdings and investments have become more common for Nebraskans, so too have the complexities in equitably dividing international property. While each international asset presents its own unique challenge to divide in a divorce, some assets are more challenging to divide than others. And when significant amounts of marital wealth are held abroad, it is vital that divorcing spouses secure experienced legal representation to protect their interests.
How Are Internationally Held Assets Treated in a Nebraska Divorce?
Under Nebraska law, Nebraska courts may equitably divide all assets and debts acquired by either spouse during marriage, regardless of their situs, i.e. location of their acquisition and holding. However, it is important to note that for a Nebraska court to have authority to grant a divorce and divide property, at least one spouse must have been a bona fide resident of Nebraska for more than one year immediately preceding either spouse filing for divorce in Nebraska. This requirement may be problematic for spouses who reside at multiple residences throughout the year.
Three Common Challenges Concerning International Assets in a Nebraska Divorce
- Locating International Assets
For a Nebraska court to consider an international asset in a divorce, a spouse must prove, or the spouses must agree, that the asset exists. Depending on where the asset is located and what measures have been taken to conceal an international asset, the burden of evidencing existence may prove incredibly difficult. While Nebraska law provides a variety of discovery methods for spouses to locate international assets, such as the right to subpoena foreign entities to disclose such assets, whether such foreign entity must cooperate typically depends on whether the entities’ controlling government has entered into an enforceable treaty with the United States.
2. Valuing International Assets
Another issue common to international-asset divorces is determining the proper values of international assets. When values of property are disputed in a divorce, parties must typically rely on experts, such as real estate appraisers or forensic accountants, to evidence the values of property. In the case of international assets, experts must usually be hired at the site of the international asset and then properly secured to testify in a Nebraska court.
It’s also worth noting that if an international asset proves difficult to actually divide between spouses, then a Nebraska court may award such an international asset solely to one spouse while awarding an equivalent, divisible asset entirely to the other spouse. However, this may only be accomplished if the international asset’s value is properly evidenced.
3. Tax Consequences When Dividing International Assets
While the IRS does not consider the division of assets pursuant to a divorce to be a taxable event, this rule is not necessarily reciprocated by all foreign countries. For example, transfers of property pursuant to a Nebraska divorce decree are often considered post-marital gift transfers in India, and thus subject to gift taxation under Indian law. This is just one example of the many nuanced tax consequences that occur when dividing international assets.
Skillfully locating, valuing, and tax planning international assets is critical to successfully dividing property in a Nebraska divorce. This area of Nebraska law is nuanced and requires experience and advocacy to navigate in negotiations and trial. Our team at Koenig|Dunne has over 150 years of combined legal experience. We have authored books and published articles addressing complex property issues, and it is our mission to provide wholehearted, excellent support to our clients throughout the entire divorce process.
It’s easy to feel grateful, given my charmed life. Excellent COVID-free health, a successful law firm, a loving life partner. End of day entries in the gratitude journal flow:
Even at the end of a challenging day, there’s plenty.
What doesn’t make the list:
Wind chill of twenty below
Power outage to start the day
Double booked appointments
I fail to feel grateful for the events and circumstances that invite me to look at the ways I’m being, that I’d rather not see. Like these:
Entitled: “I should have electricity without interruption 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year.”
Critical: “I hate the sound of howling wind.”
Impatient: “I’ve texted her repeatedly with no response. Come on—check your phone!”
I may not speak the words, but I think the thoughts. Weather beyond my control, a single hour of inconvenience, embarrassment for my mistakes—all unappreciated moments.
My memory is short and my learning slow.
I forget how an early unhappy marriage taught me to not blame others for my unhappiness and to examine my own flaws first.
I forget how feedback that once evoked tears of shame made me a better lawyer, coach, and human.
I forget how watching my brother on his deathbed taught me that life is 10,000 sorrows and 10,000 joys and everything is impermanent.
When it’s time for my bedtime ritual tonight, I hope I can remember the gifts of my least favorite moments in a day along with my delicious dinner of pad Thai. By shining a little night light on the other side of all I can be grateful for, I can see better and hopefully sleep better.
One more blessing to add to the list.
Do you have a gratitude practice?
What have been the gifts of your past hardship, failure, or disappointment?
How can one learn to be grateful for all of life’s experiences?
“Mom, I need to go to the doctor,” Sophia matter-of-factly stated. “Something isn’t right.” I didn’t spot the signs. Amidst the pandemic taking away her first real day of high school, her 14th birthday having just passed, and navigating new friends and classes remotely, I can say it would have seemed impossible to know. But I have been beating myself up for the not knowing, not seeing, and not being present to her. I am her mom. I am supposed to see and know before she does.
She revealed she had lost 15 pounds off of her already small frame. She was crying daily and struggling to understand why. Her migraines had been intensifying in frequency. I knew, but I didn’t know. Shame washed over me as I tried to justify – big baggy sweatshirts were the trend, she wasn’t talking to me and when she did it was full of sass and snark, so I thought best to leave it for now. She was a new teenager after all.
After the doctor’s appointment and testing confirmed depression and anxiety, I was tasked with setting up counseling and filling a prescription. Luckily due to my occupation I knew the perfect counselor for Sophia.
She was nervous as we drove to the first appointment. Truthfully so was I. Would they find out I was a bad mom? Would the counselor admonish me for not seeing her struggles sooner? Was it all because I got divorced 10 years earlier and I really had wrecked my children as a result?
In the months since this first appointment and with the support of a mild anti-depressant, Sophia is a changed girl. She talks to me every day – really talks to me. She even calls me when she is at her dad’s house to tell me about her day. She calls my mom weekly and spends a good half hour chattering away. Her grades have sky-rocketed upward. Her time is no longer spent holed up in her room – but at least half of the time she is in the rest of the house with her sister and me.
She tells me about her sessions with Jack. Not only does she adore him – she openly and freely confides everything to him. They talk frequently about her parents being divorced. She tiptoes a little around me at first to let me know – but then ultimately tells me all that she is processing.
For many years, we didn’t talk about the divorce in our house. It was the proverbial elephant in the room, in the car, on vacation, in our family pictures… I was afraid to talk about it. I was afraid to shine light on a situation that I didn’t know yet what the full impact on their young hearts would be. Instead, I gave great weight to the signs that they did well in school, had friends, and seemed happy – only to find out, ten years later, that ignoring it didn’t lessen their need to process.
To do it over, I would have sought counseling for my children earlier. I wouldn’t have just crossed my fingers and focused only on the happy parts. I would have taken the advice I give to many clients – get a counselor for you and another one for your children. I would have been braver in knowing that we would need support in the separation of our family. I would have had the courage to be like my daughter and would have seen like Sophia.
The bitter cold of the pre-dawn dark stung my cheeks. The bag on my shoulder heavy with the Sunday edition Omaha World-Herald, I trudged along the snow packed sidewalks making my deliveries. Nose dripping, I stifled my silent weeping as I approached the corner where I’d meet my brother delivering his section of the route.
Perhaps it’s this childhood memory that makes me averse to even the thought of being outside in the Nebraska winter when temperatures fall to single digits. Despite my beautiful vintage coat, warm red boots and collection of gloves, as this week’s cold goes from a snap to a stay I shiver outside and in.
This harshness matches the season in many ways. But so has the warmth that’s arrived without fail each day. My son Benjamin’s body was crushed in a car accident on the interstate the week before the winter solstice, yet the solace of loving support that followed was as consistent as the sun shining on the windshield on a morning drive.
Calls and texts asked “What do you need?” People I haven’t talked to in years and others we’ve never met donated money. Pot pies and prayers arrived with soups and spirit lifting messages. Like the heated flannel sheet from the warmer that the nurse presses over you when your body is shaking in a hospital bed, it was comfort from the cold.
I feel the sense of the reality of my child’s long journey ahead. I feel the softness of the love that will surround him on his way.
I grieve for my child who has lost—-for now— his job, his plans for the year, his ability to dance or clap or zip up his own coat. I watch with pride as each day he pushes himself to do one more exercise, try one more task on his own, cross one more item off the To Do’s of putting a life back together again. In my sadness, I am cloaked in parental pride.
I look out at the gray skies. I look down at my weather app and see “-16. Chance of snow.” I reflect on the winter a decade ago when my late husband entered hospice. My melancholy is supplanted by a deep gratitude that the season spent caring for a dying spouse makes the one supporting a strong son with a bright prognosis of being able to use his limbs again seem easy.
All sorrow is eased by hope.
I don’t care for the feel of the air right now. But being able to breathe, I will take it in deeply because I feel the warmth of the past, the present, and the future.
Where do you find comfort in this season?
Is there someone whose suffering you can ease in a small way?
What hope do you have for seasons ahead?
“Anna! I don’t know why you won’t listen to my advice. I am telling you this for your own good. You need to know how to advocate for yourself!” I was getting on her for something inconsequential. Telling her she should do this, she should do that – reciting by heart the common refrain heard around the world in households between mothers and teenage daughters. In response, she picked up the bullet journal she was artfully drawing in as we had been chatting and walked out of the room.
I had just squandered a rare moment when she had sought out my company. Dang it.
Later in the day we learned she had been named Student of the Month at her high school for her class of 658 students. Within a few more emails coming in, she also learned she was invited to apply for induction into National Honor Society and to apply for consideration as a delegate for Girls State.
I excitedly went into her room to cheer with her. She started crying and asked me to leave. I sucked up my deflated disappointment in one swift breath and quietly walked out before she could spy my own tears.
A bit later she was in my doorway. “Mom, I am not mad at you. It has nothing to do with that. It just feels really good to be acknowledged and I was overwhelmed. Dad told me he was proud of me too.” My heart puffed up like a balloon as I pulled her into a big hug.
How in this age of helicoptering parenting and participation trophies did I forget the importance of acknowledging hard work, determination, and grit? In this time of teenagers struggling through a pandemic and dare I say suffering acutely under this dramatic shift in their social spheres, how did I forget their most basic needs would become more pronounced? When was the last time I had told my daughter I was proud of her? How much more often am I found bemoaning something she did or did not do as I feel the race against time to have her prepared to leave my house in just 17 months?
All children, regardless of age, need acknowledgement that who they are is loved and that how they show up in this life matters. I am betting your parents, friends, co-workers, partners, neighbors, and bosses may need it too. In this current world of reduced heart-to-heart connections really seeing someone (despite not physically seeing them) is more meaningful than ever.
I wonder who you may want to acknowledge today?
Divorced nearly 30 years ago, Susan shares how a horrific accident reminded a divorced couple of the one thing they could always agree on.
He opened his eyes and saw the stars. The roof of his Prius was gone. His hand dangled from the end of his arm.
Benjamin had safely driven west over a thousand miles en route from Los Angeles when the teen driver heading the opposite direction crossed over the median of I-80 and hit his car head on.
The miracles were many and immediate. Being a half mile from the exit to Kearney, Nebraska where the sign read “Hospital.” Being life-flighted to the trauma center at the hospital in his hometown where he was born. Being alive.
A shattered leg on one side. A crushed arm on the other. Multiple surgeries with pins and plates holding the promise to put the pieces back together again. Pain filled nights and pain filled days. Benjamin sought and found the stoicism of his grandparents, the spirituality he’d been developing since he was 17, and an embrace of support coming everywhere from first grade friends to business buddies in Brooklyn.
In the weeks that followed, Ben’s father and I coordinated schedules for everything from acupuncture to prescription pickups. We exchanged updates on everything from Ben’s sleep to his sweetheart coming to visit.
We waited in our masks, a row of empty chairs separating us, each anxious for the surgeon to appear and say the three words. “It went well.”
One offered to get the other coffee. One made the other a cup of tea.
One drove to the tow lot to comb through the shattered bits of metal and plastic that once was a car containing Ben’s belongings hoping to find any small object of value and meaning. The other walked in the snowy ditches near mile marker 271, hoping for the same.
One took pictures of the x-rays while the other took notes.
One gave meds in the middle of the night and changed dressings on the cut that ran through the tiger tattoo on Ben’s forearm.
One helped carry him up a flight of 24 stairs in his wheelchair.
Each gave repeated thanks. “You did a great job,” we told each other.
Most of us believe we would “Do anything” for our children. We hope it won’t be helping them learn how to move their fingers or how to put their body and life back together again.
Life can change in an instant. That call from the emergency room can come at any hour. When you have the good fortune of forgiveness from the heartbreak and hurt of divorce, you have the gift of focusing on what matters most when it does.
Some miracles are immediate. Others arrive in time. I’m grateful for them all.
“I hate him,” she sent the text in a fury. It came across my screen like an arrow, not so much aimed at my heart but at least my shoulder, causing me to metaphorically wince. “What happened?” I replied. She told me the tale – none of the details relevant – because all my heart hurt about was her distress, sadness, and pain.
All kids experience this at some point about each of their parents. And if you are sitting there smugly reading this and thinking my child will never hate me – let me tell you the day is coming, or it has already passed, and you were lucky enough not to have those thoughts from your child shared with you.
I suspect if my former spouse and I were still married and living in the same house together and these words had been thrown at one of us – later, in private and out of earshot of our child, we may have commiserated, smiled, and backed the other for whatever action led to the aggrieved angst of our teenager.
Instead, we no longer share a household. We no longer share a relationship. We no longer share trust, compassion, and our feelings with each other. So, when I read my daughter’s message – all I felt was rage. This anger was soon followed by a mother’s indignation that is felt when anyone harms our child.
My desire to defend and protect her overcame me. But angst for my daughter was not the only force at work. All of the evidence I have gathered, albeit unintentionally and subconsciously, since my marriage collapsed ten plus years ago came front and center. Thoughts that my ex-spouse is out to hurt me, cannot be trusted, and is not as good a parent as me provided the steely armor that encased me ready for battle.
I wanted to send a scathing text. No better yet I will call and raise holy hell. NO! I will go over and pick up my children and bring them home to my house for safety, security, and soothing. And maybe I even have cookies I can give them. I will rescue them!
Fortunately, I was in the middle of watching a captivating Netflix series on a serial killer and wanted to finish the episode before riding off in my SUV. By the time the show was over my daughter had already messaged me something completely unrelated to the aforementioned incident and we both kinda just forgot about it. Now, looking back I was like a lion that got poked, stood up and let out a loud roar, and then promptly laid back down and fell asleep.
Such are our emotions as divorced parents. There are likely not enough numbers in the universe to count the times we feel aggravated by our co-parents not doing it the way we would do it.
These three tips may support you (and me) the next time your children make a complaint about their other parent’s household, behavior, or rules.
- Pause. With the pausing you want to make sure and do some breathing. And when I say pause – I mean like pause for a minimum of 24 hours. Easier said than done for sure – but trust me. Time will be your greatest ally.
- Prepare. If after a good solid day of reflecting, venting to your closest friend, and a glass of wine you still feel a conversation is warranted. Prepare for the conversation. Look at the situation giving your co-parent the benefit of every doubt. Remember that your child is telling you the facts from their perspective and these may not always be 100% based in reality. Be prepared to ask questions rather than allege judgments.
- Persist. Persist in the aim to be a good co-parent. This is the most important relationship that can benefit your children in the big picture. Treat your co-parent how you want to reciprocally be treated. Read that about 3 more times. You would not want your co-parent coming at you with accusations, anger, and judgement. Persist in perching yourself on that higher road.
For many of you, co-parenting is the hardest relationship you will have. Much harder even than when you were married and miserable. I know this from experience and share the tools I use at least weekly. And if you only remember to do one of these things next time – just keep practicing. Eventually your armor will be dismantled and your huge heart for your children will be the only thing shining.
The pandemic has not been kind to couples. The physical, financial, emotional, mental stressors of remote working/learning/socializing is taking its toll. It is certainly taking its toll on all individuals, but for those couples who pre-pandemic were on shaky ground, the pandemic has now rocked their foundations to the core. I know this because our divorce team has been serving as the first responders to relationship damage.
Our clients are crushed. Divorcing during a national crisis is not for the faint of heart. Co-parenting during COVID is a game changer parents could not have seen coming and as amplified the challenges of raising children in separate households under separate philosophies.
Our court calendars are in crisis. With courthouses trying to keep the public spread at bay, our scheduled time before the judges on cases for hearings and trials are getting moved and pushed further out at a moment’s notice. This creates a backlog and alternatively a string of trials back to back to back.
Our office camaraderie has dimmed since trading our suits for sweatpants and working from home for the last 10 months. We miss each other. We really, really miss each other.
My team is worn thin. Over zoom I can see their shoulders reaching ever so slightly up toward their ears. In our one-on-one monthly meetings, I see glimpses of tears and the familiar resolve to steel up, grin, and bear it.
I decided early in the fall we would be closing our offices for the last 2 weeks in December to allow for much needed restoration. It seemed impossible. We are a small business in the middle of a pandemic – how would we possibly manage this? I needed to be bold and protect my hard-working team.
We started setting goals months ago for client care, for case management, and layers of back-up plans. The whole team shared the vision and desire. We broke the impossible down into manageable targets for productivity, efficiency, and defusing burnout. We looked at and tracked our goals every single week. They sacrificed taking other days off.
And now we are here. By the grace of shared will, unfazed focus, and wholehearted grit, my co-workers will be heading home tomorrow for 2 weeks to get what they need most – rest.
I watched the impossible unfold into reality right before my eyes and promise myself to take this lesson forward into my future.
Break down the actions
Persist with the plan
I want to especially thank my team publicly for all of their hard work this year. They have cheered for, cried about, and comforted our clients over these long hard months. They never once faltered in fulfilling their purpose to do divorce differently and support our clients and their families each step of the way. And now they need to rest.
We wish you a peace-filled holiday and we will enthusiastically see you again in 2021.
“Your hair’s getting long,” he said, noticing my coronavirus coiffure. Gerry has such an eye for beauty and style that the home he and Bob share was once featured on the glossy pages of the Inspired Living as one of the loveliest in the city. I held my breath, sensing he was about to be honest with me. “You look younger,” he said.
I smiled. I thanked him. I didn’t tell him it wasn’t my hair. I was about to turn 65 and I was getting younger.
Now there’s no denying that the laugh lines in my face have deepened in the last decade, but for years I have rejected the constant cultural messages that aging is a sentence to pain, weakness, and disability. Twenty years ago when I bought the building that had 24 stairs to the second floor flat, people asked with concern, “Aren’t you worried you won’t be able to climb all those stairs someday?” I was 45.
For the last two decades I’ve gone up and down those stairs. For the last five years each winter I’ve trained for the Trek Up the Tower, climbing 40 flights in under 15 minutes. Instead of planning for bad knees, I plan to take one step at a time until I can’t.
Centenarians are a powerful source of inspiration to me. Now I may only live to 91 like my Grandma Anna. But I don’t anticipate having 208 great grandchildren in my lifetime like her either.
My teachers have been everywhere. Had I paid more attention I could have learned from my children when they were little. I focused instead on my lawyering, my activism, and my survival in an unhealthy marriage. Even as a parent, playing didn’t coming easily.
Others showed me how. Joyce, who despite hearing every sort of sorrow as a school counselor always had others hearing laughter when in her company. John, who understood the world would not come to an end if you took two weeks off each holiday season to celebrate and recalibrate. Angela, who thinks every small victory is cause for a joyful squeal, a sprinkled cupcake, or a sparkling sequin.
One of these three teachers of youthful exuberance died young. A second recently received a diagnosis of a degenerative brain disease. The third is my living role model to whom I pay close attention. I can be a slow learner, but I am a conscientious student willing to do her homework. So, as I reject our society’s ceaseless messages about what it means to age, I intend to play whenever possible and put my mind in the thought that it’s never too late to have a happy childhood.
A new semester is about to start for this student. I’m going back to school. Next month I start studies on how to support people as an end-of-life coach. My intention is to enter with “beginner’s mind.” I have the childlike thrill of getting my back-to-school supplies. But first, I’m going to do a puzzle and drink some hot chocolate.
What beliefs do you hold about aging?
How do you stay young at heart?
Will you have some play time this holiday season?
“How are you?” she asked with sweet sincerity.
Should I say? Should I be truthful? I pause ever so slightly.
I pause again.
“Really good,” I say, trying not to sound too enthusiastic.
This year caring inquiries have come from cousins across the country and Facebook friends not seen for years. An extrovert, I’ve lived long enough to amass an abundant army of people who want to know how I’m doing because they care. Sometimes I don’t want to share.
I hesitate to tell them that this has been one of the best years of my life.
Who wants to hear that?
Who wants to hear my happiness when they are anxious and depressed? Do I tell the person I’ve never found my work more meaningful as they face burnout or layoff? While they gain weight from the cortisol of skyrocketing stress, do I share I’ve taken up intermittent fasting now that there are no parties to attend?
So I pause.
I sit somewhere in between embarrassment and shame. I share that the kitchen remodel at the house is coming along slowly. That I’m baking cookies to send to my children. That it’s busy at the law office.
But I don’t tell the whole truth.
I don’t report my profound peacefulness from a strengthened meditation practice. Or the thrill of seeing my body as more beautiful approaching 65 than at 25. On how the daily sight of my beloved walking through the door carries me through all matter of fear from the atrocities unfolding in my own home town.
Really. I don’t think people want to hear.
While my privileged state (white, educated, employed) is undeniable, I’ve not been exempt from the impact of Covid. I’ve missed two family weddings, funerals, and thousands of dollars of coaching business. I have a son who lost his job, a sweetheart who is a schoolteacher, and an ill sister whose doctor declared if she gets the virus, she “will” die. My children will not be home for the holidays.
It’s not that I am unaware of the state of the world around me. I spend hours each week absorbing news both local and global, often reading in-depth horror stories. I’m a life coach which means the human fears and failures from cancer and death to divorce and dementia travel from my ears to my heart.
Still. I am happy.
I reflect on the advice of a longtime friend who counseled me when I awkwardly attempted to contain my joy of falling in love again. “Don’t apologize for your happiness,” she said.
There is no need for me to make a case for my happiness. No detailed analysis or overt explanation required. Better to skip the shame, simply be the happiness, and hopefully share it.
What worries you about people knowing the truth of your feelings?
How do you decide what to share with others?
Are you able to hold both compassion and joy simultaneously?
Despite the COVID pandemic, my Thanksgiving this year was downright crowded I mused. The day included Oliver, Willie, Mac (my cats) and me, myself, and I. That got my count to my second hand at least. Big sigh. Lucky for me, I have had years – 10 to be exact – practicing solo traditions and holidays. For many of you, this was your first year feeling the sting of a family tradition jarringly altered as families chose to avoid travel, decline big gatherings indoors, and to keep risk of exposure out of our homes.
If you felt the ache of longing for a loved one, or the sadness of an empty place setting, you now hold insight into the experience that occurs around the calendar for divorced parents. Inevitably one parent wakes on Christmas morning without the pitter patter of their children’s feet running to their room to rouse them for the wonders left behind by Santa. During Hanukkah one parent lights the menorah, says a blessing and recalls the story of Hanukkah in silent reflection without children arguing over whose turn it is to light the candle and to see delight as a carefully chosen gift is opened after.
This year I released my fury of frustration on my holiday house. I spent hours decking all of the halls, and shelves, and walls, and windows, and every space between. In pouring my heart into my home, I released my energy into that which could and would bring me joy. Without any intentionality around it, I had shifted my focus away from my sadness toward gladness as I lined up my favorite nutcrackers in a spot I would see often in the next 30 days.
I crafted my coziest space to ensure comfort on the days I will not be able to host my annual luminary party, that I will miss sharing my dad’s 74th birthday with him in person and the 44th birthdays of my twin siblings just a week after, that 3 days later on Christmas I will say goodbye to my girls as their dad takes them to Arizona. After all of these years of practice, I instinctively now know what I will need during this year of holidays during a pandemic.
This year you may want to consider the following:
- What are your intentions this holiday season?
To be joyful? To be reflective? To be relaxed?
- What do you have control over that will support your holiday intentions?
Your environment? Your time? Your zoom outfit and background?
- What will you do with your time that would otherwise have been spent in a frenzied holiday planning and preparing mode?
Sitting in front of the fire? Watching a favorite holiday movie? Baking cookies and exercising more patience than ever as your children “decorate” them?
There will likely be a sense of loss and difference this year during December. But you do have choices about how and when to grieve them and how and when to replace and refocus your energy into a more meaningful holiday season. From my holiday house to yours, I wish you peace, rest, reflection, and gratitude in this slowed down December ahead.
If you or your spouse have an ownership interest in a business, that ownership interest may be considered a marital asset subject to division in your divorce. As with any asset, the first question issue that must be determined is whether (or what portion) of the business interest is martial. If the business ownership interest is marital, then you must determine what the value of the interest is.
Determining the value of the ownership interest for divorce purposes can be complex. Some businesses have multiple owners with varying percentages of ownership interests. The type of business entity can also add to the complexity of determining a dollar amount to place on the interest. As such, when business interests are involved in a divorce, it is common for an expert to be retained to help value the business.
Certified public accountants, especially those with certifications in business valuations and forensic accounting, are commonly hired by each party to provide an expert opinion as to the value of the business. This opinion ultimately assists the parties (or the Court) in determining the dollar amount to attribute to the ownership interest.
Obtaining a business valuation is often essential when business interests are at stake in a divorce. There are three common approaches to valuing businesses:
- Income approach. This approach looks at the income the business generates to determine how much the business is worth.
2. Market approach. This approach takes a broader look at the market in which the business operates and looks at comparable businesses to determine the value.
3. Asset approach. This approach values the actual assets the business owns, less its liabilities, to determine the business’s net worth.
It is important to note that goodwill in a business is not valued in Nebraska in a divorce.
If you retain the ownership interest, you will be attributed with receiving the appropriate value from the marital estate. If you do not wish to retain the interest, or your spouse wishes to be awarded the interest, you may receive compensation for the value of your interest that is being awarded to your spouse.
If your divorce involves a business, contact our office to schedule a consultation to learn about your options and protect your financial estate.
Generally, tax returns, paystubs, and traditional wages are the easiest way to determine one’s income for purposes of child support and/or alimony. However, not all spouses earn income this traditional way. Non-traditional earnings, including dividends from income investments, passive income, retained earnings in a closely-held corporation (if excessive or inappropriate), Social Security benefits, as well as more-complex income streams may be taken into account when determining child support and/or alimony obligations.
If a spouse earns non-traditional income, your divorce attorney may recommend you seek the assistance of an expert to support in determining a complete picture of the income available for child support and/or alimony purposes. Financial documents, including tax returns, bank account statements, investment portfolios, profit/loss statements, and so forth, will be analyzed by your attorney and supporting expert(s) in your case.
Experts are often certified public accountants. CPAs with certifications in forensic accounting can be especially valuable expert witnesses. Upon conducting a forensic analysis of a spouse’s income and financial documentation, an expert will provide an opinion as to what that spouse’s true income is. That amount will then be used in calculating child support and an appropriate alimony award, if applicable.
If you or your spouse earn non-traditional income, contact our office to schedule an initial consultation to discuss your options and what you can expect in your divorce action.
“You use gratitude like cocaine,” she said. Her observation was as calm as if she were saying “The sky is blue today.”
My mentor often shared wisdom I eagerly embraced. But the suggestion that I had been sticking the numbing needle of thanksgiving in my veins silenced me.
Gratitude has long been my great go to. I had just shared what was going well in my life. My busy law firm. My healthy children. My meaningful coaching career.
But my mentor could see beyond my rosy report. While my kids were okay, my sister was intermittently suicidal. My husband’s latest test results were encouraging, but the prognosis remained terminal. Reciting what might have been a good gratitude journal entry did not change the truth that I was sad, overwhelmed, and exhausted to the bone.
I get my emphasis on appreciation from my mom. Mom grew up in the Great Depression. She had 8 years of schooling when she married my alcoholic father and 8 children after. She never learned to drive. Years of climbing up into city buses with children in tow left her with so much appreciation for a simple car ride that she never once complained about my typical tardiness to take her somewhere.
A go-to method of mine for giving thanks has been comparison. Years of parochial school where I proudly put my pennies in the little church-shaped cardboard box during Lent taught me about the poor and hungry children in Guatemala. At least I wasn’t one of them.
When my first spouse screamed at me, I was grateful I wasn’t being hit like some of my clients were. When I lamented the slow pace at which I ran a 5k I was grateful I wasn’t bedridden with MS like my friend Jean. It could always be worse, right?
Yes…and. When I connect my gratitude to the misery of others, I’m feeding that part of my brain that is in incessant comparison already. Rather than seeing what is right before me, I search for the state of others to determine whether I’m willing to give thanks.
Going forward, I want to focus on noticing and appreciating what is. I want to be grateful for it all. For my excellent health and for that crown that fell out into my bowl of rice last week. For our bustling law business and the challenges of a pandemic. For the wisdom when it feels good and when it stings.
And as for the suffering of myself and others? Well, that is for my compassion. And I am willing to use that like cocaine until there is no longer a need to ease the pain.
Do you compare yourself to others before choosing to be grateful?
Do you keep a gratitude practice, such as a journal?
What can you appreciate that is in your life today?
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.