Full Child Custody in Nebraska – What it Really Means (Infographic)

child-custodyYou’ve probably heard someone say “I’m going for full custody.” You may be surprised to learn what full child custody in Nebraska really means – and how likely it may be that you’ll get it.

When someone says “full” custody, they usually mean sole physical and legal custody. The infographic below explains both physical and legal custody in more detail.

Hightower Reff Law is a team of confident, clear, committed attorneys representing clients in the Omaha metro and surrounding areas in family law and criminal defense/dui.

The fall of full custody

One parent having sole custody (also called primary custody) used to be an automatic in Nebraska, unless a parent could prove it wasn’t in the child’s best interests. That isn’t so anymore. Now joint custody is the default, and custody trials ending in sole custody orders are becoming more rare.



Today, unless one parent is shown to be unfit, or there’s another reason joint physical and legal custody wouldn’t be best for the child, Nebraska courts are favoring joint physical and legal custody arrangements in the majority of cases.

It’s important to note, however, that the custody arrangement can me made to suit the needs of the child and the family – and should be. For example, one parent can have sole/primary physical custody (possession), and both parents can still share joint legal custody (decision making), or vice versa.

Regardless of who has legal or physical custody, each parent still has the right to access the child’s educational and medical records.

This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts. 

For details about the author, Hightower Reff  Partner Attorney Susan Reff, visit her profile page.

Find out more about Hightower Reff’s child custody practice. 

If you need help with a child custody case, contact Hightower Reff Law todayand come visit with one of the attorneys at the Omaha office. 

Nebraska Domestic Violence Charges – What You Need To Know (Infographic)

As a criminal law attorney who defends clients against Nebraska domestic violence charges and represents clients on both sides of domestic violence protection orders, I’ve helped both survivors and those accused of domestic violence for years.

Whether you’re a domestic violence survivor needing a domestic abuse protection order or someone facing Nebraska domestic violence charges, it can be a frightening time. At Hightower Reff, we believe making the legal part of the case more clear helps make it less scary.

Hightower Reff Law is a team of confident, clear, committed attorneys representing clients in the Omaha metro and surrounding areas in family law and criminal defense/dui.

No matter which side of the case you’re on, there are some basics about the law and Nebraska domestic violence charges that you should know:


When you’re facing Nebraska domestic violence charges, a protection order will be filed against you separately. You can use the same lawyer for both.

Get a lawyer on board as soon as you know about the intimate partner abuse allegations. You’ll want to be sure that lawyer knows Nebraska domestic violence law and has experience.

If you’re a survivor, have a lawyer on your side who can support you in getting, and enforcing, a protection order.

Choosing the right lawyer for your domestic violence charges – “Confident. Clear. Committed” can be your guide

At Hightower Reff, “Confident. Clear. Committed” isn’t just a tagline. It’s a guidepost for everything we do. It can also be a guidepost to help you evaluate a lawyer you’re thinking of hiring.

After you meet with the lawyer, and before you make the hiring decision, ask yourself:

  1. Did the lawyer give me information to help make the legal process in my case more CLEAR?
  2. Do I believe the lawyer is COMMITTED to helping me with my case?
  3. Am I CONFIDENT that the lawyer has the experience and skill it takes to make the process in my case as smooth as possible?

A final word of warning – Miranda style 

Of course, it’s almost always a bad idea to talk to police without a lawyer. Remember, anything you say can be used against you… and it’s a good bet that it will be.


This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts. 

For details about the author, Hightower Reff  Partner Attorney Susan Reff, visit her profile page.

More information about Hightower Reff’s practice for domestic violence criminal charges is available here.

If you need information about our practice for domestic abuse protection orders, you can find it here.

If you need help with a domestic violence related case – whether it’s in criminal court or a family law related case, contact us today and schedule a time to meet with Susan by phone, or at our Omaha office.


Nebraska DUI Penalties Clickable Infographic – Your Freedom and Your License On the Line

If you’re facing a DUI and want to know what you may be in for, look no further. I know the legal penalties of a Nebraska DUI are one of the first concerns when someone gets a pulled over for DUI, because it’s most often the first thing clients ask when they come to see me for an initial consultation on their DUI case. Their freedom and their driver’s license are on the line. Below is a handy Nebraska DUI Penalties Clickable Infographic.

Hightower Reff Law is a team of confident, clear, committed attorneys representing clients in the Omaha metro and surrounding areas in family law and criminal defense/dui.

Each infographic frame is clickable, with links to resources like the the Nebraska statute that lays out the DUI penalties, Nebraska DMV ignition interlock info., Hightower Reff’s DUI defense practice, and more information about me.



I’ve been a criminal defense/DUI attorney for more than 15  years. I know good people make mistakes. I get it.

If you’re one of them, don’t compound the mistake of getting a DUI by going into the Nebraska DUI court process or the Nebraska DUI DMV process without knowing the score. Educate yourself and enlist the help of an experienced Omaha DUI lawyer as soon as possible.

If you’d like a PDF of the Nebraska DUI Penalties Clickable Infographic to print or download, click here.


This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts. 

For details about the author, Hightower Reff Partner Attorney Susan Reff, visit her profile page at our main website.

You can learn more about Hightower Reff’s DUI defense practice at our main website.

If you need help with a DUI case, contact Hightower Reff Law today and arrange a time to visit with Susan by phone or at the Omaha office.

Three Things You Should Know if You’re Charged with a Misdemeanor in Nebraska

Our criminal defense team at Hightower Reff Law helps good people in bad situations. We’ve done it for many years. We get it. When youthree things you should know misdemeanors‘re charged with a misdemeanor in Nebraska, the scariest part can be not knowing what to expect. That’s why we try to make things as clear as we can for our clients. One of the things that helps is filling them in on some of the legal basics.

No article can replace the advice of a good criminal defense attorney, and it isn’t intended to do so. However, this article may give you some information to consider while you search for the right lawyer for your case.

1. Charged with a Misdemeanor Doesn’t Always Mean Jail

The first thing you should know – if you’re going to be charged with a misdemeanor in Nebraska, you aren’t always arrested and taken to jail. Law enforcement may issue a ticket and release you on your own recognizance instead. Regardless, always remain silent until you talk to a lawyer. It’s smart to hire an attorney or ask for court appointed counsel as soon you can.

If you’re taken to jail to be processed after you’re arrested, you may be able to bond out right away without seeing a judge.

Next, there will be an arraignment hearing at which the court will read the charges against you, and advise you of your rights.

2. You Could have a Chance to Keep the Charges Off Your Record…Maybe 

The second thing you should know if you’re charged with a misdemeanor – if it’s your first offense, you may qualify for pre-trial diversion. This may happen for cases like minor in possession, possession of marijuana under an ounce, shoplifting and, in Sarpy County, DUI.

Diversion program requirements and lengths vary by county, but if you qualify and complete the program successfully, the criminal charges will be dismissed and no conviction will show on your record.

3. You Might Have to Be Patient – This May Take Awhile

The third thing you should know if you’re charged with a misdemeanor – if diversion isn’t an option and the case moves forward, your attorney will start preparing your case for trial. He or she will talk to law enforcement and prosecutors will evaluate the evidence against you, but it may take a while to get to trial.. if you get there.

Your attorney may also try to negotiate a plea deal for you, depending on the strength of the evidence against you and the other circumstances of the case.

If you aren’t able to reach a plea agreement, or your lawyer advises you not to take a plea deal, there may be pre-trial hearings or motions hearings before your case gets to trial.

If you’re found not guilty after a trial, the case will be dismissed and it’s over.

On the other hand, if the prosecution is able to prove the charges “beyond a reasonable doubt,” and you’re found guilty, you will be convicted of the misdemeanor offense. Your sentencing will happen at a later hearing, after a completion of a pre-sentence investigation.

The entire process from citation or arrest to sentencing can take up to six months, so you might need to be patient and let your attorney do his or her job. If you rush into a decision that isn’t in your best interest just to get the case over with, you may have to deal with the consequences for a long time.

This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts. 

For details about the author, Hightower Reff Partner Attorney Susan Reff, visit her profile page at our main website.
To learn about Hightower Reff’s misdemeanor and felony criminal law practice, visit our main website.

DUI Myths Debunked – Part I

shutterstock_241535338-thumb-400x267-65292-thumb-400x267-65293There are a lot of urban legends, tall tales and misinformation going around about DUI laws in Nebraska. In other words, DUI myths.

In this two part series – DUI Myths Debunked, Hightower Reff Partner Attorney and criminal law guru Susan Reff sets the record straight about some popular DUI myths.

While it’s never a good idea to drink or take drugs and drive, it can be helpful to have an understanding of what the law really says on the topic of driving under the influence.

 DUI Myth #1: Everyone gets at least one DUI. It’s no big deal.

False. Even one DUI can be devastating. You can lose your driver’s license for up to one year, pay a $500 fine and may spend up to sixty days in jail.

If your job requires you to drive, this could mean you can’t work. Also, many employers do background checks on prospective employees, so even one DUI conviction could make it more difficult to find employment.

If you are convicted, Nebraska law says you will also have to pay for an alcohol assessment before your sentencing. If it recommends treatment and the judge orders it, you have to pay for that too – and it won’t be cheap. Alcohol treatment programs can cost several thousand dollars.

DUI Myth #2: If the car isn’t moving or I’m not actually driving when the police officer sees me, they can’t give me a DUI.

False. You can be convicted of driving under the influence if you are driving a motor vehicle or are “in actual physical control” of a motor vehicle.

Most often these DUI without actually driving cases happen when someone is asleep at the wheel in a parked car.

DUI Myth #3: Using breath mints or mouthwash or sucking on a penny can fool a breathalyzer.

This is also false. There is an urban legend that the copper in a penny can fool a breathalyzer but it isn’t true. Of course, this is a moot point anyway since today’s pennies are made mostly of zinc, not copper.

Regarding mouthwash and mints: mouthwash or certain breath mints containing menthol can actually cause a false fail of a breathalyzer test because they can be read as mouth alcohol.

The breathalyzer is meant to measure the alcohol on your breath coming from inside your lungs, but it can also pick up alcohol in the mouth – or other substances that can read as alcohol in the mouth. For this reason, police officers always check the inside of your mouth before administering the breathalyzer test so they can make sure nothing is in your mouth that can be misread on the test.

DUI Myth #4: If I refuse to take sobriety tests, police can’t arrest me.

This is also not true. Nebraska law says that by driving a car, your consent is implied to a chemical test or test of your blood, breath and urine to determine if you are driving under the influence of an intoxicating substance.

A police officer with reasonable grounds to believe that you were driving or in the actual physical control of a motor vehicle can require you to submit to sobriety testing.

You can refuse the field sobriety tests without being charged, but not the preliminary breath test (at the scene) or the test at the station. If you refusethat testing, you can be charged with a separate crime and the officer must advise you of that – or the State can’t bring separate charges. The refusal to submit to testing can also be used as evidence against you regarding the DUI charges.

Don’t Go It Alone.

Hightower Reff knows DUI law. Don’t base your decisions if you get a DUI on what you think the law says, or you may fall victim to DUI myths. If you or a friend needs help, contact us. A DUI can be devastating and you shouldn’t go it alone.

Call the office at 402-932-9550, or contact us online and make an appointment to come visit with us about your case during an initial consultation. Don’t go it alone.

This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts.

Why Settling your Family Law Case May be Better than Going to Trial

shutterstock_154250726-thumb-300x200-71923“I’ll see you in court!” It’s a popular movie line, but maybe not the best way to handle a family issue like parenting time or even division of property if you and your spouse split up.

At Hightower Reff Law in Omaha, Nebraska, we have helped clients settle family law cases and we have represented clients at trial in family law cases for many years.

There are a number of reasons why most times, settlement is better.

The Bad and the Ugly – Trial Tribulations    

Family law cases are almost always tough on families. There’s just no way around it. No matter how hard the parties or the lawyers try to be civil or ease he stress, the cases are emotional, the decisions are tough, and the stakes are high.

In our experience at Hightower Reff Law, very rarely – if ever – does a trial do anything positive to ease hurt feelings or outright anger of a divorcing spouse or to heal a hurting family. If you go to trial, it’s your attorney’s job to convince a judge that you should prevail. Meanwhile, it’s the other side’s job to point out how wrong your lawyer is about your position.

The other side often will bring up every little negative thing that you have ever done and make it seem like the worst thing ever – and your lawyer may have to do the same to your soon to be ex-spouse or parent of your children. It can get very ugly.

A trial is never predictable, and is not for the faint of heart.  It can be a blood bath that causes even more hard feelings than the parties already harbor for one another. It can also make for problems in co-parenting children after the divorce or custody modification trial is over.

In the end, the true casualties of the battle of a trial are often the children because they can suffer when their parents harbor animosities toward each other.

The Good – Settlement Process Setting the Stage

As ugly as a trial can be, the settlement process can be just as good. It isn’t a guarantee; sometimes people can’t reach an agreement. However – regardless of ultimate success – the process itself can encourage divorcing spouses or parents of children involved a custody case to find a bit of common ground and set the stage for future success by giving them practice working together with the common goal of supporting the best interests of their children.

If they are going to continue to co-parent children, working together is something parents will need to continue to do. The more harmoniously they can do it, the better off their children will be.

A True Chance to be Heard  

The outcome of your family law case affects the most important aspects of your life – things like your children, your marriage, your home and your assets. Why would you leave all of the decisions regarding those precious things in the hands of a third party?

By going to trial in a family law case, you are doing just that, you are asking a third party – a judge – to decide the disposition of your time with your children and your financial assets. You have no control over any of it. In many cases, it makes more sense to take some control of those decisions yourself and have input in their outcome through a settlement agreement that you and the other party reach with the help of your attorneys or a mediator.

In the settlement process – whether it’s negotiation or mediation – you have the chance for your voice to truly be heard, and for your wishes to be incorporated into the final court order that comes from the settlement agreement.

How the Settlement Process Works

During the settlement process, you and the other party work – in the same room or in separate rooms, depending on circumstances – with a mediator or with your attorneys to come up with an agreement. You both have input. Nothing is put in writing and sent to the court for approval unless you both agree.

The settlement agreement, once approved by the court, is an enforceable order and both parties must abide by it or they are subject to the court’s contempt powers. However, the need to enforce an agreed upon settlement order is less likely than an order that the court decided because the parties are more likely to stick to it.

Through years of experience as family law attorneys, the Hightower Reff team has found that clients are most satisfied with an agreed upon outcome they help craft in mediation or settlement negotiations.

Never say Never

While Settlement is usually better in family law cases, trial can have its place. Sometimes a trial is necessary – but, if the lawyer does her job well, those times can be relatively few in family law cases.

An example of one of those times when a trial on an issue may be warranted is child support when there it appears there is a reason for deviation under Nebraska Guidelines and the other party refuses to be reasonable and agree to the deviation.

This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts.

Your Divorce Case: Being an Ostrich is Not a Good Legal Strategy

shutterstock_99170483-thumb-300x216-71477Most people have heard the thing about the ostrich sticking its head in the sand supposedly out of fright. In fact, they’re just turning their eggs in the holes where they are nested. So it’s actually perfectly reasonable for the ostrich to stick its head in the sand. But sticking your proverbial head in the sand is not an advisable legal strategy for your divorce case.

And, yet, so many clients try the “head in the sand” strategy when their lawyer asks them to do something for their own divorce case – whether it’s to return a phone call, provide their attorney with documents or come to the office to sign a paper or have a meeting.

If you find yourself doing this, maybe it’s because you’re in denial that the divorce is really happening. Sometimes it’s avoidance of the divorce itself or it’s hurt or anger directed at your spouse. Sometimes it’s just plain laziness.

Regardless of the reason for not actively participating, you need to do so. Your lawyer needs you to be active and responsive or he or she won’t be able to do their job. Sticking your head in the sand is not a viable option.

Expect Some Legwork (and Some Computer Work)

Don’t be surprised when your lawyer asks you to do some work on your own case. Of course you will need to sign documents, come to the office for appointments and have phone calls with your lawyer. You will also need to gather some papers, including financial information and documentation going back several years, which can be time consuming.

Some of the things your lawyer may ask you to provide include:

  • Personal and business tax returns
  • Credit card/loan account statements
  • Bank statements
  • Investment account statements
  • Retirement account statements
  • W2’s

Playing by the Numbers

Financial information is an important contribution you can make to your case. Get it to your lawyer as soon as you can. Your lawyer needs proof of your financial numbers for settlement and the court. They are crucial for asset and debt division and, if you have children, for child support calculation.

  • Your attorney can’t propose a settlement to the other side without the financial information he or she needs to determine what to offer. Likewise, your attorney can’t advise you whether to accept a settlement offer if he or she doesn’t have an accurate picture of your financial situation.
  • If you have to go to trial, your lawyer needs proof of your finances so he or she can provide it to the court to “prove up” your side of the case and convince the court to award you what you are asking for.

The Consequences: More than Sand in Your Ears 

If you ignore your attorney and repeatedly don’t do what they ask – like coming to appointments, returning phone calls or providing the documents they need — you risk the outcome of your divorce case. You could end up losing money, property and some of the parenting time with your child you could have enjoyed. You could even lose your lawyer.

The information your lawyer asks you for is crucial. It is the ammunition they need in court to present your side of the case. If they can’t get it, they can’t fight for you.

The chances are very good that without your participation your lawyer may end up in court with their hands tied behind their back while the opposing attorney paints the court a more effective picture of their side of the story – with their version of the evidence – while your lawyer is unable to effectively represent you.

Many lawyers will not stay on a case under these circumstances and are likely to withdraw from representation. The client who stuck their head in the sand is likely to end up unhappy after the final order because they didn’t get what they wanted as a direct consequence of their own choices in not participating in their case – despite the lawyer’s best efforts and warnings.


This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts. 

Nebraska Domestic Violence Law – What You Should Know if You’re Accused

dv arrestHightower Reff Law has years of experience helping clients on both sides of Omaha Nebraska domestic violence cases – survivors and offenders. Whether you’re a victim needing a protection order or someone accused of domestic violence, the domestic assault lawyers at Hightower Reff in Omaha, Nebraska, believe it’s helpful if clients understand the basics of Nebraska domestic violence law and penalties.

An understanding of the law and processes is important if you’re accused of domestic assault, as you could face serious penalties that affect your family, job and your future.

When you face domestic assault charges, having an attorney experienced in domestic assault cases who knows the law and the court in your county and will zealously represent you and help you make the best decisions during your case is also crucial.

Intimate Partner Assault 

It’s important to start by understanding who Nebraska law considers an intimate partner. Intimate partners can include:

  • a spouse
  • a former spouse
  • someone with whom you have children
  • someone you are dating or have dated in the past

Criminal Penalties and Protection Orders 

The penalties for domestic violence offenses in Nebraska can be steep. Along with criminal charges, you will likely have a protection order filed against you immediately.

The protection order will be addressed separately from your criminal case. You can usually use the same attorney for both, however.

If you’re convicted of a felony domestic assault you could spend up to 50 years in prison. Nebraska law also allows for enhanced penalties if the victim is pregnant.

Nebraska law provides for restitution as well. You could be ordered to pay money to the victim to reimburse them for the cost of medical treatment or to fix or repair property you damaged.

One of the Most Important Things to Remember 

One the most important things you can do if you are charged with a domestic violence criminal offense is to exercise your right to remain silent.

Nebraska law provides for stiff penalties in intimate partner assault crimes and there is a lot of risk in talking to police without the advice of a lawyer experienced in domestic violence law.

Get a Good Lawyer on Board Right Away

The faster you get a lawyer on board, the faster they can start investigating your case and interviewing witnesses — and perhaps find reasons why the case may be able to be dismissed.

Or, the attorney may be able to negotiate a plea bargain before the case gets to the trial phase.

Domestic violence convictions can stick with you for a long time. There are no guarantees, but sometimes, especially on a first offense, it may be possible for an experienced attorney to help you prevent damage or lessen the impact of these serious charges on your future.

This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts.