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.
In an effort to transition through your divorce relatively unscathed — both financially and emotionally – you will need to take an active role in attempting to keep things civil. In other words, you have a role to play in maintaining the civility in your divorce.
Long gone are the days when divorce was all about assigning fault and sorting out who’s the winner and who’s the loser. The goal for divorce today is fairness and equitable treatment for both parties — and if children are involved, keeping their interests paramount.
One of the best ways to avoid making the biggest mistakes in your divorce is to recognize behavior that will lead you down the wrong path. Here are three of the worst divorce mistakes you can make:
#1: Not hiring the right divorce attorney.
Of course you should receive recommendations from friends and family members regarding attorneys, but keep in mind that just because your friend liked his or her divorce lawyer doesn’t mean that person is the right attorney for you. Just like no two divorces are the same, no two divorce attorneys are the same. Some are collaborators and some are litigators. Some specialize in child custody and some specialize in high net worth divorces. Some will respect a budget and some won’t. So when looking for a divorce lawyer, first do your research based on what you need. Then schedule consultations to narrow the field further by asking your candidates how they practice, their fee structure, etc.
#2: Making a preemptive strike.
Unless you are 100% certain that you are going to have to litigate your divorce case, don’t automatically assume the worst. How you begin your divorce case will determine the course it will take. If you are overly aggressive or deceptive, this can escalate things quickly and lead to more time and money spent unnecessarily. Instead, let your spouse know that you are willing to be reasonable. When possible, starting your divorce with the right tone of civility and mutual understanding will assist you in concluding your divorce case with more ease, less time, and less money.
#3: Focusing only on what you think is “fair.”
There is a reason that the courts use the term “equitable” instead of fair — fair is subjective, and what one party feels is fair, the other usually disagrees. Fighting for something you think is “fair” can cost you more in the long run — for example, it would not be worth spending $10,000 to wage battle over a $5,000 piece of art. If you have chosen the right attorney, he or she can help you keep your perspective about what is worth fighting for and what is not.
Your legal team at Koenig|Dunne understands the nuances and complexities of divorce, and we are here to help guide you through the process.
I’d made it a mile from home in another attempt at a couch to 5k when I stopped. It was trash collection day in the neighborhood, so maybe that’s all it was. Trash. I got closer to see a couple of school books sprawled on the edge of the sidewalk, a black spiral notebook beside them.
Had a teen been bullied and their back pack emptied? Had someone been kicked out of the house by an angry parent? Was I really nosing around in someone’s garbage? I was.
I looked inside the books for a name. Nothing. I picked up the notebook. Inside the front cover Chuck had written his name and date of birth and created a title page: aka of Chucky Cutty. “Poems and Songs,” and on the back cover he added: “Poetry 2016.”
Surely this was too important to be tossed in the trash. I tucked it under my arm.
Once home I hopped on my phone to search for Chuck. No luck. I pondered returning to the corner of the discovery to knock on doors to ask, “Hey, Chuck, did you really mean to throw this away?” I didn’t.
A year later I launched my spring paper purge. I came upon Chuck’s wide ruled notebook.
I am a 29 year old guy. I have a twin brother two half-sisters… I grew up poor…I lived in Cheyenne, Wyoming…I moved there to try and be a father and work. ..I was injured in a car accident….
There is “Chuck’s first movie script” and “Chuck’s ideas for Travel Green Tunnels—making energy, saving pollution, safe travel, saving the world” —illustrated by an ink drawing.
The walk of life isn’t always what you want…work for it the right way and you will find yourself enjoying whatever it may be with a clear conscious and trust in your gut feeling when you go for it and make the choice… I know I have angels watching over me… Love can change the world.
I return to my filing project. I take old tax records to the shredder. As I toss pages into the recycle bin I forgive myself for all I did not do—send that of congratulations, write that letter to the editor, donate to that fundraiser.
Maybe Chuck trashed his works intentionally. Maybe he knew that the season for some ideas had passed. Maybe he realized that not every thought he had demanded action. Meanwhile, I struggle to part not only with my own precious papers, but apparently with releasing documents that are the refuse of another.
I choose to take Chuck’s counsel. I’ll trust my gut. I add the black notebook with a few more piles of my own papers. I’ll use the now-empty space to keep a stack of my own spiral notebooks, treasures that, like Chuck’s, are filled with ideas, poetry and possibilities.
What are you holding on to that may no longer be serving you?
Can you trust your gut to distinguish between trash and treasure?
For what do you long to have more room for in your life?
Looks can be deceiving. While things may seem easier for others, take a closer look, and maybe you will find some compassion.
“You have it so much easier because you only have your kids half the time.” He made this statement a couple of times during our conversation. The first time it fell out of his mouth I felt like a victim of Little Bunny Foo Foo hopping through the forest being bopped on the head. It didn’t sting so much as shock my system. The next time he said it, the normally dormant lava bubbles in my gut started to boil as anger crept up my spine. These words were uttered by a dear friend of mine who has seen some of the good, bad, and ugly of my single mom days.
Maybe I make it look easy.
I generally write for our blog in the hopes of being a contribution to anyone who is considering, going through, or having survived divorce. My aim is always to speak honestly about what the divorce experience may mean. I do not believe that divorce ruins children. I do not believe that divorce makes you a failure or a bad person. I believe divorce is an opportunity to correct a path when you have been derailed from your authentic self and you are stuck in hopeless unhappiness or as a chance to reinvent yourself when married life is taken away. I typically write from a place of finding each and every possible silver lining.
But being a single parent is not easy.
Being a single parent means that despite “only having my kids 50% of the time” that I am 100% of the time doing all of the laundry, all of the grocery shopping, all of the meal preparation, all of the house cleaning, all of the yard work, all of the bill paying, all of the transportation on my days. So when my Sophia has dance class from 5:45-6:45 and Anna has ice skating from 6:15-7:15, I am 100% driving for a solid hour and a half doing the drop off at 5:45 and 6:15 and then the circular pick up at 6:45 and 7:15 because there is no one but me to do it.
Being a single mom means picking up my children from activities, making their meals, signing their school papers, and doing their bedtime routine while I am running a fever and throwing up in between. There is no one but me to do it. Being a single parent means when my little one is up all through the night and my older one is getting distressed by it, I am the one managing it all. Being a single parent means that when I have an after-work event and the hosting organization didn’t take it upon themselves when scheduling the event to consult with me and my parenting schedule and it lands on a night I have my girls, then I have my girls 1 night during the entire work week instead of 2. I can assure you – there is nothing easy about that.
Being a single parent means that when my daughters ask me hard questions like “Why did you get divorced?” or “What does having your period mean?” or “Why did someone shoot kids in a school?” I am the only one with answers. I am left feeling lonely without any emotional support in the hard parenting moments when no one has my back.
Parenting in separate households also means that I don’t have the luxury that married parents have to just disagree with the other parent. I am 100% of the time on the tight rope of diplomacy. I am constantly picking and choosing the moments that I stand up for consistency between households and when I let things go. I have to be more mindful on a daily basis of my communication with my co-parent and work hard at it.
But mostly, being a parent of divorce means that I don’t have my kids 100% of the time. And that is the hardest part of all.
And how do I make it through the not-so-easy? I have the benefit of a pile of wisdom shared by my clients over the last 16 years. As one client succinctly stated:
“Maybe I never should have allowed joint …, but I had to believe my son was better off having both of us in his life, come what may. This doesn’t mean I don’t lack feeling about this, I am incredibly sad that this is what it is, but I know in my heart my son is better off with me 100% strong 50% of the time, versus the person I was in the marriage and what he would have been subject to had we stayed together.”
I, and all the divorced parents out there, have to remind ourselves over and over: that we are not “less-than” parents; that we are not failures; that we did not let our children down. And it isn’t easy. But when I talk myself down from these thoughts, or feel overwhelmed by all that is on my parenting plate, I am easily reminded that it is so worth it.
According to a recent article in Psychology Today, how quickly and well you recover from a divorce depends largely on these 10 factors:
1. The length of the marriage.
The longer you and your spouse were together, the more entwined your lives became — which makes it more likely that it will take longer for the two of you to become used to functioning as a single person rather than a couple.
2. If the divorce was a surprise.
If you had no idea that your spouse was going to ask you for a divorce, the surprise element can make it harder for you to recover.
3. Whether you were the initiator.
While divorce is hard for both the spouse who wants out and the one who is taken by surprise, it will take longer to recover if you are the one who did not want the divorce.
4. Whether your spouse cheated on you.
Being left for someone else adds feelings of rejection, which deepens the pain of divorce. The degree of additional pain will depend on whether your spouse was a serial cheater and you knew about it, or if he/she actually feel in love with another person and is leaving you to be with that person.
5. Whether or not children are involved.
Divorcing when children are involved is harder because you have to sometimes stuff down your own feelings in order to deal with theirs. Plus, if you are the spouse leaving, it can be harder to recover from leaving your entire family rather than just your spouse.
6. Your income level.
In the context of divorce, having money gives you more choices and can free you from financial worry — one of the main stressors in divorce. If you are living paycheck-to-paycheck as a married couple, your worries compound when trying to sustain individual households.
7. Whether you have a job.
Work can be a great help in recovering from a divorce. You have a work “family” to support you and a steady source of income to support yourself. If you haven’t worked for a long time or have no job skills, it is going to be tougher to recover from a divorce when you are stressed about making ends meet.
8. Whether you choose alternative dispute resolution methods over litigation.
Mediation or collaborative divorce allows you to resolve your case outside a courtroom and gives you better control over the final outcome at a lower cost than litigation. Engaging in a form of alternative dispute resolution will allow you and your spouse to hash things out with the help of a neutral third party — the mediator — in a private setting or with the help of a collaborative team. If you go the litigation route, not only will you be spending a lot more money that could have gone to both of you in a mediated or collaborative divorce settlement, it will also be more draining emotionally — making it more difficult for you to recover from the divorce.
9. Whether or not you are resilient.
Some people are optimists, seemingly born with a positive outlook and the ability to be resilient in the face of adversity. If you are one of these people, you will have an easier time recovering from your split. If not, consider working with a therapist to increase your ability to cope.
10. Whether you have a good support team.
A good support team is crucial in a divorce. This consists not only of your divorce attorney, financial advisor, and therapist, but also a network of friends and family to support you emotionally.
For over 40 years, your legal team at Koenig|Dunne has advocated for thousands of clients through their divorces – schedule a consultation to obtain meaningful answers to the questions that matter the most to you.
I told myself I wasn’t going back. The last time I spent a week drinking wheatgrass juice and eating plates of sprouts sprinkled with seaweed I said I was satisfied. No need to return. I’d find some other way to cleanse my body and mind.
But here I was. Back again. The chance to join both my best friend and my life coach in warm weather while winter overstayed its welcome in Nebraska was irresistible. A taste of the Texas beauty I was about to experience in the week ahead first appeared on the drive in the country from the airport to the health institute. The awe of the Lady Bird Johnson led legacy of planting miles of roadside wildflowers over 50 years ago met us at each turn.
We spent our days in education, meditation, and contemplation. A single slice of cucumber to garnish my green drink breakfast was cause for celebration. I’ve been known to eat a bowl of cherry tomatoes faster than I gobble my fun size bag of buttered popcorn at the movies. But one morning I spent fifteen minutes admiring the little red orb adorning my glass before I gingerly nibbled it for desert, closing my eyes to take in the sweetness.
As a return visitor and graduate of the classes on everything from the function of the small intestine to conscious breathing, I skipped a lot of classes. Instead I enjoyed walks, learning the names Texas bluebonnet and Indian paintbrush.
There were about twenty of us. We took our “meals” together, intentionally chewing our lettuce and focusing on the healing properties of the organic if not tasty nutrition. I met Nikki who’d come for a rest from reconstructing her home after a devastating flood. I met Denny, a construction contractor who’s business motto was “Don’t live it. Love it.” I met Obayo, an African American filmmaker professor heading to New Hampshire to a new post.
And I met Angie. Angie sat on the edge, observing through her large dark rimmed classes. We saw one another at our 7:20 daily exercise class, but we had never exchanged more than a smile and a good morning. Unlike most of the other participants, it was late in the week and she had not yet shared what brought her to this week of focus on health. And then she did.
Angie was a trauma surgeon and a cancer survivor. In a few days she would interview with a group of physicians far younger than her, hoping to convince them she was the right and perfect doctor to be accepted into a residency program to become a breast surgeon.
As my own mind and body became more clear with each passing day, I could see more clearly the beauty surrounding me. Nikki, a devoted wife struggling to overcome perfectionism. Denny, a businessman called back to his earlier life in a seminary. And Angie, the healer who was healed and ready to heal anew.
I told myself I wasn’t going back. But beauty called and I’m grateful I answered.
- What challenge in your life might hold a beautiful surprise?
- What beauty surrounds you that you aren’t seeing?
- How do you allow healing into your life?
The anticipation about life after divorce can produce more anxiety than the divorce itself, especially if it’s been a few decades since you were single. Here are five steps to help you jumpstart your new life following a divorce:
1. Prioritize your needs.
After making your spouse and children a priority for years, it’s now time to do the same for yourself. Start by doing things you enjoy and never had enough time for. Then branch out to other things that were always on your wish list, like going back to college or embarking on a new career. And don’t forget to pamper yourself! Take a spa day, enroll in a yoga class, treat yourself to a great meal, take that trip — all these things will put you back in touch with yourself. Take time for yourself!
2. Learn to forgive.
It’s difficult to move forward in your new life if you are still harboring old resentments. Learn how to let go of your negative feelings about what could have been, and focus on what can be now that you’re on your own. It’s easier said than done, but if you focus on the good things in your life — both now and in the past — you’ll get there. Seek out support to support you in this endeavor – find a trusted counselor to help.
3. Reconnect with old friends.
One of the byproducts of divorce means realizing that friendships you and your spouse shared may not endure post-divorce. Use this opportunity to get back in touch with old friends, especially those who don’t share a common past with your former spouse. You’re going to need a new social circle to support you in your new life, and reaching out for some new old friends may just fill the bill.
4. Learn to be financially independent.
Did your spouse handle all the finances? Well, now that 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.
5. Take a break.
After your divorce is final, reward yourself by taking a little break. Traveling is a great way to kickstart a new life, so plan a trip somewhere you always wanted to go and create new memories on purpose. Or, break it down and make it easy – focus on rest and rejuvenation for your body and soul to emerge from your divorce transition a stronger version of yourself.
Determining whether to end a marriage is not an easy decision nor one to be taken lightly. Your legal team at Koenig|Dunne is here to provide you with guidance and advice regarding this difficult decision and all of the decisions that you will face throughout the divorce process.
“Why should I bother? No one is going to see it. It’s only me.”
As I listened to my friend make his case for never making his bed, I immediately understood. Why rush to do the dishes when there’s no one but you and your pet rabbit to see it? Who cares if there are crumbs in between the sofa cushions, when only you know they are there?
If a friend is dropping in for a chat, I dust the table top, trim the wick so the candle will light, and hang a fresh towel in the bathroom. Clothes slung over the footboard of the bed vanish into drawers. Piles of papers land in the recycle bin.
If there’s no one else in your home or your closet, you lack the everyday accountability buddy whose mere presence keeps you from leaving your bra and panties lying on the floor for the second day. But when you know the plumber will be beneath the kitchen sink, suddenly the trash bags, the sponges and the cleanser align as though Marie Kondo were dropping by.
He’s right. Why do I care whether I surround myself with a bit of clutter and chaos? Why do I deserve to come home to a tidy abode after a long day’s work? Why should I have clean sheets on my bed if I’m the only one in it? What’s wrong with shoving aside the stack of papers as I sit down to eat my eggs at my kitchen table?
Our human longing for order and beauty can stay hidden when we swim in a sea of messiness long enough. Like a fish in water, we no longer notice the environment we’re swimming in.
What I know about myself is that how I am being in the small things is often an indicator of how I am being in the big things, and observing something small gives me insight about the bigger aspects of my life.
If I’m overly critical of a client, it’s like I’m not being compassionate with my loved ones. If I’m not paying attention to my bank balance, it’s likely I’m not paying attention to health. If I’m rushing through my lunch, there’s a good chance I’m rushing through my life.
What would it be like if we could see ourselves worthy of having surroundings that reflect our true selves, our most beautiful selves? And what if we were to discover that a freshly made bed with clean sheets and fluffed pillows rocked our world?
Integrity is doing the right thing no one else is looking. This includes how we treat ourselves.
Is there an area of your life calling for your attention?
How are the big and the small in your life connected?
Are you willing to treat yourself like a welcomed guest?
One thing that couples divorcing only a decade ago didn’t have to take into consideration was their social media habits. Today, with the vast majority of Americans living their lives out loud online, social media can be a virtual minefield when it comes to divorce.
Don’t supply evidence against you.
Once your divorce is initiated, it’s possible that your spouse and his or her attorney may seek out your social media pages for potential evidence in your case. This is why you need to be very careful about what you post. When posting, remember your ultimate intentions for your case. You should also ask your family and friends not to post any photos, videos, or comments that could potentially negatively impact your case.
Warn your friends.
One way divorcing couples misuse social media is to turn to friends online for emotional support. Since many married couples share friends, whatever you post could be shared with your spouse — either by a mutual friend simply “liking” your post or by that friend revealing the information directly to your spouse. And tell your friends not to tag you in any of their photos or videos, or make comments on your posts that could be detrimental to your case.
Privacy settings don’t always protect you.
Your privacy settings may not provide total protection from prying eyes. Other friends could share your posts where anyone may see them. Your spouse’s attorney may petition the court to issue an order directing you to provide access to your social media accounts, and all your 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 or negative behavior toward your spouse.
Social media is a public forum, and you should avoid talking about your legal case online. Your legal team at Koenig|Dunne is here to answer your questions about protecting yourself and your family, and to advocate for your rights.
With the devastating floods hitting Nebraska, many individuals are left wondering how they are going to deal with the financial distress that the flooding has caused. Even with flood insurance, some policies may not cover the type of flooding that occurred. Farmers have lost entire herds of livestock. People have lost homes. Businesses have lost entire fleets of trucks. It can be overwhelming.
When dealing with the financial distress exacerbated by a flood, bankruptcy may be the ideal solution. A bankruptcy does not mean you are giving up, it helps provide the tools to move forward.
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
With a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, you are able to eliminate your legal obligation on your home mortgage, car loans, credit cards, and medical bills. Wherever you are in Nebraska, you can move forward debt free so that you can focus on rebuilding your life after the flood. The Chapter 7 Bankruptcy process from filing to discharge of debt takes 3-4 months.
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
With a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, you are able to handle your debts through a voluntary 3-5 year repayment plan. The Chapter 13 Bankruptcy works well for individuals impacted by the flooding in Nebraska, who have fallen behind on house or car payments, but want to cure the default payments.
Chapter 12 Bankruptcy
For the farmer facing financial hardship because of the flood, a Chapter 12 Bankruptcy is designed to provide assistance through a plan of reorganization/liquidation. One of the main benefits is that any income tax liabilities incurred through liquidation are handled just like a credit card or medical debt.
Chapter 11 Bankruptcy
For the small business owner in Nebraska, the flood may have destroyed equipment, facilities, and vehicles. It may impact customers who no longer have the ability to pay for goods or services. It may impact labor that is unable to make it to work. This all impacts the bottom line and the ability to service debt. A small business in Nebraska may use a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy to restructure/reorganize its business, using the benefits of the bankruptcy laws to do so.
Non-Bankruptcy Debt Resolution
For those experiencing flood-related financial distress in Nebraska, your lenders or the bank may be more willing to work with you to restructure your debt or provide temporary relief.
At Koenig|Dunne, we understand that the flooding has been devastating to many, but we are here to help you with the financial distress many in our state are experiencing.
Part 3: Co-Parenting Conversations
I sat down at my table and took a few deep breaths to calm the nerves or nausea that toiled in my stomach. I already felt like crying and my former spouse hadn’t even arrived yet. Maybe I should send a text that I wasn’t feeling well and we would need to reschedule. No. That would only delay the inevitable.
Here I was, seemingly poised and prepared to have a challenging conversation with my former spouse. We would be covering topics induced by an impasse reached weeks earlier. I started in on my self pep talk: you have hard conversations every single day – this is no different. Then, the “aha!” moment unfolded. Yes! I do have hard conversations every single day with judges, clients, and attorneys. I know how to do this! I dug in my figurative toolbox and then in my messy purse for a pen.
On the napkin in front of me I wrote three words: curious, compassionate, and clear. (I never really ignore my penchant for alliteration). This single action I learned years and years ago from my coach remains one of the best pieces of advice I ever received.
Set. Your. Intention.
But what does that mean? It means that you decide how you want to be or how you want to show up in a situation. It means you are intentional and focused going into a conversation. You decide what qualities you want to exhibit despite the fact that if you were wearing a mood ring, it would be multi-colored in the span of a few minutes.
The action of deciding how you want to be, is a good indicator of how you will be. It sets your mind space and allows you to be proactive in an otherwise scary or unknown circumstance.
Below is the
list my coach gave to me along with her sage advice I am sharing now: “Worry less about the words. How you will
“be” matters most. The right words will find their way to you.”
Since your home is typically the largest financial asset you own (and biggest expense), it’s no surprise that deciding what to do with that big asset can be a big bone of contention between divorcing spouses. When deciding whether to keep or sell the marital home, it’s important to consider this decision through three distinct lenses: financial, emotional, and legal.
Financial. The main concern is whether you can actually afford to stay in your house after a divorce. You not only need to pay the mortgage every month, you also have to pay for all the utilities, property taxes, maintenance, and upkeep. More than likely, you’ll also need to qualify to refinance the mortgage in your individual name. To help you decide if keeping your house is an affordable option, it’s important to understand all the real costs to stay. Be sure to consider the condition of your home — you can get a good idea by having a home inspection done by a professional — as it will determine if you would have to budget for large repairs in the near future.
You also need to weigh whether moving will reduce your monthly expenses enough to make it worth the cost. The biggest savings typically come from moving somewhere with lower mortgage payments and property taxes. You’ll need to balance those savings against the costs of moving — real estate agent commissions, legal fees, title fees, and moving expenses.
In addition, you’ll need to weigh what you will be giving up to keep the house, since you ex will need to be compensated for his or her share of the home’s equity in the divorce settlement. Trading other marital assets for keeping the house may not be worth it if that trade leaves you with no retirement savings or cash.
Emotional. Your feelings are certainly valid in the decision-making process about keeping your home. It may hold very happy and special memories for you, or you may want to stay in the same neighborhood so your kids don’t have to change schools or miss their friends. If you have an emotional attachment to your home and want to maintain that stability for your children, you may consider whether “nesting” on a temporary basis is appropriate for your family. Nesting is where the children always stay in the home and the parents transition in and out of the home during their parenting time. While there are financial factors to consider with this approach, it may work for you on a temporary basis during the transitional phase of your divorce.
Legal. Likely the decision to keep your house will be most impacted by the legal and emotional factors, it’s important to seek experienced legal advice about your rights and options from your attorney. Your attorney will recommend the best option for you in terms of selling it and splitting the proceeds, a buyout by one of the spouses, or keeping it for now and selling it at a later date. The ultimate decision about the disposition of your home will be part of the final divorce agreement that must be approved by the court, so be sure you get your attorney’s input before agreeing to anything.
Your legal team at Koenig|Dunne is here to answer your questions about divorce and to advocate for your rights.
I’m glad John isn’t alive to see this. Devastation in three-fourths of our state’s 93 counties. Three people killed. Entire towns underwater. Breached levies and flooding rivers mix to form toxic pools.
They say the damage in Nebraska is well over a billion dollars. That doesn’t begin to measure the loss.
John loved Mother Earth. He prohibited all poisons in his garden. A genuine tree hugger, this six foot three man tenderly cared for the tiniest green blades poking out of spring soil. He taught school children how to compost with little red worms. He was a member of the Arbor Day Foundation, a donor to the National Conservancy, and a supporter of the Sierra Club.
Though outwardly always cheerful, John was prone to melancholy. I have no doubt that this disaster which has destroyed trees, the land, and our water would have driven him to into depression. The hardest hurt is the loss of what you love most.
We all have something we love. Those of us who love our dog cannot bear to look at photos of drowned calves. Those of us who grew up in small towns cannot remove the image of century old buildings with water up to the rooftops. Those of us who are human are filled with compassion with each tragic story told.
And those of us who are spared are grateful.
These disasters don’t seem to stop coming. Hurricanes, droughts, wildfires and floods feel like every day news. For the most part, in the past the most I have done is an occasional check or send up a good thought to any powers who might be listening.
Now I watch people showing their love. People working without sleep to fill sandbags and make sandwiches. People diving into icy waters to save a herd of 200 goats. People taking in a family found homeless in a matter of minutes.
The hurt will be a long time healing; for many a lifetime. For those of us spared and grateful, it is a time for showing our love for what we have not yet lost. While we still have it.
John left this earth he treasured years ago. I am here. I’m grateful to be able to show my love for what I love most, which is the spirit of the people of Nebraska.
- What do you love most?
- What are you grateful for in this moment?
- How will you show your love today?
For more information on how our firm can help with these devastating floods see our blog Nebraska Flood Relief: How a Bankruptcy Can Help
Parents with Patience
Part 2: A Co-Parenting Conversation Series
“Are you going to respond?” “Please respond.” “I am not going to bring Billy’s baseball shoes that he needs until you answer my question about the summer parenting dates in 5 months.” “I need a response.” “Are you too busy to be a good parent?” “I am calling my lawyer.”
More often than you would think, our lawyers and paralegals are reading text messages, emails, and phone transcripts accounts of between non-cooperating co-parents that ring very similar to this example. I would say parenting conflict in communication often snowballs, but it would have to be a snowball that started on the edge of a 90 degree angle and moved at warp speed to accurately describe what we see on a regular basis.
In Part 1 of this series, I described a moment when my co-parent and I reached the point in a dispute where our texting was no longer serving us and certainly wasn’t solving anything. We had reached an impasse. The shortness in our text responses was clearly indicating our respective frustrations. I asked that we meet in person to discuss the issues.
One of the best things we did unknowingly in the moment was allow ourselves space.
We scheduled our meeting a couple weeks out over a coffee before work. To be honest, it was mostly a function of our calendars. I know I wasn’t being intentionally smart about it – in fact – if anything the delay seemed to build a perfect procrastination buffer.
What I observed in hindsight was the sheer support the passing of time provided. By the time we sat down for our meeting, I had had 2+ weeks to fully process my emotions, to chat with my trusted friends about both sides of the issues, and to build up impartiality to the outcome.
This “breather” allowed us the space to cool off, reset, and come together with renewed perspective on what the issues really were. In this I saw clearly the value of true patience. The pause of our frenetic texting pace was a complete game changer in the remainder of our conversation and led to a resolution of a difficult issue within an hour.
Your co-parenting relationship will thank you.
In reality, prenuptial agreements are more than just an agreement about money. They can also be used to address other important issues, such as providing for children from a previous relationship. There are some things that may be even more important to you than the division of assets or spousal support — a traditional use of prenups — including these four issues:
1. Asset protection.
A prenuptial agreement can help you protect assets by specifying how both marital and non-marital assets will be divided upon a divorce. Nebraska courts expect prenups to be fair and equitable, so don’t think you can use one to leave your ex destitute. You also cannot allocate child support or determine child custody with a prenup. However, prenups can be used quite effectively to protect the assets you bring to the marriage (non-marital assets) and protect you from problems that may arise when negotiating a divorce settlement.
2. Debt protection.
If you are marrying someone who has a lot more debt than you do, you can use a prenup to limit your liability and prevent creditors from going after marital property in the event of a divorce. While you should have a clear picture of your future spouse’s financial status before you get married, it is not unusual for debt to go unnoticed until after the wedding. A prenup will help ensure you won’t inherit your ex’s debt.
3. Business protection.
If you are a business owner, you will want to protect your business in case of divorce — not only financially, but also from any control your ex may wish to exercise. If there is no prenup that addresses business assets, you could find yourself in a legal battle for your business. You may be forced to buy out your ex’s share if they are awarded a portion of the business, or endure an ex’s interference in the daily operations of your business.
4. Financial security.
The purpose of a prenup is to ensure the financial security of both parties, especially in cases where one spouse has significantly greater wealth than the other. The wealthy spouse will want to protect their assets and limit the amount and duration of spousal support while the less-wealthy spouse will want assurance of a secure financial future. A reasonable prenuptial agreement that provides protection for both spouses should be the end goal.
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.
The longer I live the luckier I get.
My working parents didn’t know a lot of prosperity. Sleeping on a bed in the dining room, receiving powdered milk from the government, and learning how to transfer buses were a part of my growing up. I got lucky that for the rest of my life I never took a car that runs, a decent bowl of soup, or having my own bedroom for granted.
When my Catholic parents could no longer afford the parochial school tuition, my siblings and I transferred to public school. Most of my classmates were not college bound. I got lucky with the reduced competition for scholarships and landed on campus with much of my tuition paid.
My first job as a lawyer ended when my boss couldn’t pay the promised $15,000 salary. I then went into practice with my husband, which he left for a job that promised a steady paycheck and health insurance. I got lucky when I became a solo practitioner and mother in the same month, which eventually led to my becoming the founder of a full-fledged law firm of nine lawyers.
When I was married with two children and a bustling law practice, the children and the practice made me happy. The marriage did not. I got lucky when the unhappiness and the unhealthiness remained unhealed by multiple counselors. This gave me the courage to divorce and later marry one of the kindest men I ever knew.
Midway through my legal career I applied to be a juvenile court judge. My credentials were good enough that the nominating commission forwarded my name to the governor—six times. I got lucky and to never get appointed. A decade later I found my calling as a life coach.
My brother Tim was a victim of the AIDS crisis that swept the country. He moved back to Omaha from Atlanta to be near family. I got lucky when he allowed me to learn how to walk a dying man to the toilet and manage a morphine pump. I would need these exact skills sooner that I knew.
The month my second husband and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary, he received a metastasized terminal cancer diagnosis. I got lucky when John lived years beyond what doctors predicted. I got luckier still when I cared for him during the most meaningful summer of my life, learning what it means to die with grace. I can now see myself being and end-of-life doula as an old woman, guiding others to the end.
As I look for my next pot of gold, I see the rainbow that’s been above me all along and give thanks for my endless good fortune.
On this St. Patrick’s Day, I wish you all of the luck of the Irish and more.
Time to Talk
Part 1: A Co-Parenting Conversation Series
I can’t remember ever having felt nervous with my former spouse. Maybe twenty years ago when we met on April 1, 1999. For my last year of law school, my sister and I moved into a quaint duplex near the state capitol. He was the boy next door. Little did I know then that we would be married, have children, and be divorced inside the span of two decades.
This day I was nervous. I arrived at the café early hoping to tame the knots twisting around in my stomach. Eric and I had not sat down together to talk since before April 1, 2011 – the day our divorce was filed.
Our communication, up until now, had been primarily texts, emails, and brief pleasantries exchanged at our daughters’ events. This day, we were meeting to discuss some co-parenting issues that remained unresolved after weeks.
We had reached an impasse. Intention and meaning were getting lost on the (stark, unemotional, unfeeling) keyboard and emojis don’t quite do the trick when you are texting your ex-spouse… 😜. I knew we just needed to sit down together and talk. He agreed.
He arrived. My vulnerability came spilling out before he had even taken off his coat. “Look, I don’t care about the exact outcome we reach today, I just most want us to get back on the same page, because I don’t like how this situation has been making me feel.”
He softened. The remarkable thing about being married then divorced, is that you can’t ever “un-know” the person to whom you had been married – the mannerisms, the nuances of a look, the tone of voice. It all comes back in a second.
We began our conversation that was inevitably uncomfortable. Both worried that this was going to cause a rift in our otherwise normal co-parenting relationship. Both worried about meeting the needs of our daughters in the best way possible. Both worried that we may not be heard and worse, misunderstood.
After an hour, I was back in my car. Tears streamed down my face. In relief, I called my mom. “Mom, it went so well! I am so glad we did this.” The details of what we needed to discuss are not important. What is, is how and why this worked. What did we do right?
In the coming weeks in this co-parenting conversation series, I will be looking at how this single conversation led to a big co-parenting win and why.
What have been some of your co-parenting wins? And why?
Divorce doesn’t just happen; there are usually signs along the way that point to a troubled marriage, and if nothing is done to address the problems, then divorce is typically the end solution. How can you tell if your marriage is over? Marriage experts agree that these 7 signs probably mean you are headed for a divorce:
1. You are angry with your spouse a lot. All spouses get mad with each other at one time or another; it’s perfectly normal. However, if there are continuing issues that remain unresolved — arguments over sex, money, children, etc. — you may want to get yourselves in front of a therapist to address these issues so you no longer have to live in anger.
2. You no longer have sex. While sexual appetites can differ in a marriage, and change with age or childbirth, it is important to stay connected physically and emotionally to maintain a healthy marriage. If you are repulsed by the thought of having sex with your spouse or are getting your needs met elsewhere, your marriage is in need of serious course correction or is likely headed toward divorce. .
3. You don’t want to spend time together. If you’re not looking forward to a vacation with your spouse — or even an evening out alone together — this could be a sign that you have stopped appreciating him or her as a partner and are on your way to being more roommates than spouses.
4. You don’t like your spouse. If you find yourself rolling your eyes at your spouse’s jokes, hating his or her friends, or disagreeing just to be disagreeable, you need to take a fresh look at your marriage and see where things went wrong. The first step is to make a list of the qualities that first attracted you to your spouse, and then check that list to see if these things still apply — or if you are just being unpleasant. Upon reflection, you may find that your spouse’s good qualities outweigh the bad and that would be sign your marriage could be repaired with some effort.
5. You don’t trust your spouse. If your spouse has done something that has made you lose trust — by cheating, hiding money, or something else — you have to determine if you will allow your spouse to earn your trust again. If he or she has apologized and taken accountability for the loss of trust, you need to learn to forgive or decide to move on. Marriages cannot survive without trust.
6. You don’t respect each other. If you are openly contemptuous of each other’s feelings, this can kill your marriage. If you no longer value each other, then your marriage is probably irretrievably broken.
7. You envision a future without your spouse. If you are looking forward to a future that doesn’t include your spouse and are making plans separately, you may be headed for a permanent separation. It is not unusual for spouses to flounder a bit when the last child leaves home, so it’s important for you to make future plans together for just the two of you. Dreaming together is an important part of intimacy in a marriage; without it, you may be living separate lives.
Determining whether to end a marriage is not an easy decision nor one to be taken lightly. Your legal team at Koenig|Dunne is here to provide you with guidance and advice regarding this difficult decision and all of the decisions that you will face throughout the divorce process.
“You need to meet Laila,” she said. Amidst my law partner’s sparkling holiday celebration, my friend left me in awe with the story of a twenty-something woman living an hour away from me and helping women halfway across the world.
For as long as I can remember, my heart has been drawn to the plight of women in foreign lands. I wept as I walked through the home of Winnie Mandela, who in her war against South African apartheid spent 491 days in prison—with months in solitary confinement. I once eagerly pressed my business card into the hand of a spokeswoman for Afghani women oppressed by the Taliban, asking how I could help. When my husband was in the last year of his life, Syrian President Assad was torturing his own people who fled by the tens of thousands. I found myself googling statistics on how many million women were in refugee camps around the world.
I needed to meet Laila.
In 2004, Isis militants attacked the northwest Sinjar region in Iraq. The Yazidis, a religious minority, were captured and separated by sex. Women and girls were sold into sex slavery and subjected to horrific crimes. Lincoln, Nebraska, is home to the largest community of Yazidis in the United States. There Laila serves as a luminous link to survival for Yazidi women seeking to escape.
Laila Khoudeida has taken calls at all hours of the day and night from women held captive by their rapists and torturers. She has been an international voice for the invisible and a local founder of the Yazidi Cultural Center. It’s hard to imagine how many souls she has salvaged through her sacrifice.
Despite the moving stories of suffering from women around the globe, I have yet to come close to doing the brave work or having the huge impact of my heroines. But, like we all must, I do what I can. Support efforts to end human trafficking in my own community. Advocate for women escaping out of abusive relationships. Help elect women of integrity to office. Empower every good woman I can.
Earlier this week a group Yazidi women and children were reunited with their families after five years in captivity. Yesterday lawyers filed the first lawsuits alleging war crimes against Assad. Afghanistan remains perhaps still the worst place in the world for women.
We may or may not see the results of our efforts during our lifetime. But it is the Lailas who continue to inspire us each to “Think globally. Act locally.”
To my Laila and every Laila, I give my gratitude and all honor. To all who are doing what they can, I say carry on. And to all I wish a hopeful International Women’s Day.
Divorce unleashes a lot of different emotions and many times adults are too caught up in their own pain and suffering to see the signs that your children are suffering, too. While adults have learned ways to cope, children have not yet developed coping mechanisms to help them deal with their emotions. Often, they don’t know how to even express what they are feeling, which is why parents must be extra vigilant in looking for signs that your children are suffering, including:
Frequent emotional outbursts.
Children who are having difficulties coping with their emotions about a divorce usually don’t know how to express their feelings, so they act out. If your child is exhibiting outbursts of anger or sadness, they are signaling to you that they need help. Ask your child what would make them feel better. They may say they don’t know, so suggest some ideas — doing a favorite activity together, spending time with friends, or having more contact with the parent who has moved out. They may even welcome the impartial input of an experienced family counselor to help them with the transition. Let them know you will do whatever they need (within reason) to help them cope.
Self-harm — like cutting, biting, or hitting oneself — is not just limited to teens. Younger children can engage in acts harmful to themselves as an act of extreme frustration at not being able to control their circumstances. Make sure your children know that the emotions they are feeling are valid, even though the method they are using to express them is not. Your job is to make them feel safe in expressing all their feelings, both bad and good, and to know when it’s time to call in a professional to help them cope.
It is not unusual for children to suffer from insomnia while their parents are going through a divorce. They may lay awake at night worrying about what will happen to them, and if the non-custodial parent will be unavailable to them. They probably won’t tell you they’re not sleeping, so you will have to keep an eye out for signs of sleep deprivation. To help them sleep, spend some quiet time together before bed just talking so they have an opportunity to express themselves. Teach them good sleep habits, like turning off all electronic devices at least a half hour before bed.
If you find your child withdrawing from you or other family members or friends, it usually means they are holding in their emotions. Keep talking to your children and give them some nonjudgmental space to talk to you about their feelings. Tell them you love them often, and that the divorce is not their fault. But do NOT talk to them about your ex; save that conversation for a friend or therapist.
Your legal team at Koenig|Dunne is here to provide you with guidance and advice regarding all of the issues you will face throughout the divorce process.
Searching for hope, I checked my weather app. With the month of March a day away, I was certain I’d see some good news.
Our Midwestern winter seems endless. The average temperature for the past week is typically 42, but instead is was mostly 4s and 2s, sometimes below zero. The first heavy snow of the season that closed schools brought smiles, sledding, and Instagram photos of snowpeople. The most recent brought traffic jams, multiple cancellations of meaningful events, and many an aching back from ceaseless shoveling.
I was seeking some solace in a future forecast of sunshine. Instead I saw that it would be two more weeks before the temperature would rise above freezing.
With the news filled with stories that stoke controversy between conservatives and progressives and potentially anyone in between, talking about the weather takes a meteoric rise in popularity. Apologies for tardiness as immediately accepted as everyone is coping despite their crankiness.
“Everyone talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it” we joke. A few give earnest effort to deal with it well. My friend Holly hosts a Mardi Gras party tomorrow night. Katy volunteers to shovel her neighbor’s driveway. Gretchen dons her Wisconsin winter wardrobe and goes for a walk in the snow despite it all.
I do my best to shift my focus from the gray skies and bitter cold as my little silver convertible sits stuck on the icy lot. I light more candles. I burn more incense. I start to remember.
Winters come in many forms. The spring that unexpected debt buried me like a pile of dirty snow. The summer my husband didn’t know if wanted to be married to me. The autumn my youngest child left for college at 15.
I turned my calendar to the next month and the image of Alfonse Mucha’s Spring appeared. Despite the dreary forecast, in ink I saw First Day of Spring on a date three weeks away. I chose to believe.
I began to envision the pansies I would purchase for the pot at my front door. The pigeon who would roost on her egg in my window box before I have a chance to plant my petunias. The purple crocus that is waiting to pop her pretty head up after such a long sleep under the snow.
Then I remember. That mountain of debt is now paid. That husband and I went on to have another happy decade together. That child is now grown yet ever so close to me.
My memories of the past and my picture of the future remind me. Everything is impermanent. This seemingly endless winter, like all others, will come to a close. I found the hope I had I failed to find on my phone.
One of the sweetest springs of all time is soon to arrive.
- How do you cope with a difficult season?
- What challenging season have you survived?
- What gives you hope?
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.