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 Marital Property Law – How it Works (Infographic)

Nebraska-marital-propertyIn our divorce practice at Hightower Reff Law, we find that new clients’ most common misconceptions are often in the area of Nebraska marital property law and how it works.

A common marital property misapprehension

When they first meet with us, a number of new divorce clients mistakenly think that because they kept their money in a separate account or titled an asset in their name only, their spouse won’t be able to touch the account or the asset in the divorce. However, that isn’t how Nebraska marital property law works.

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.

Pre-nup or no dice

Unless you have a well drafted prenuptial agreement that complies with Nebraska law, the property and debt accrued during your marriage is part of the marital estate, no matter whether the account or title is in your name only. That means it’s marital property subject to equitable division between you and your spouse – with very few exceptions.


This infographic isn’t meant to be a complete rundown of Nebraska marital property law in divorce. The law can change often depending on new case law and/or changes to Nebraska statutes. Also, there may be other exceptions or special circumstances, depending on the facts of your divorce case.

Get help

That’s why, when it comes to Nebraska marital property law and how it works – or any other legal issue – it’s best to get the advice and assistance of an attorney experienced in that specific area of law. However, arming yourself with some basic knowledge, like what you’ve learned by reading this article, can help you have a more informed conversation with your attorney. It can also give you clarity and peace of mind.


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 Tracy Hightower, visit her profile page

Our additional resource on marital property division is available  here

If you need help with a Nebraska divorcecontact Hightower Reff Law today and come visit one of the attorneys at the Omaha office. 

Collaborative Divorce – A Truly Amicable Alternative (Infographic)


collaborative-divorce-hightower-reff-2At Hightower Reff Law, not only do we practice in traditional divorce, we also offer collaborative divorce – a truly amicable alternative.  Attorney Scott Hahn and I are among the relatively small number of Nebraska lawyers certified in collaborative divorce.

Why collaborative divorce is a truly amicable alternative

The traditional divorce process happens our adversarial court system. Despite the Nebraska court process mixing in alternative dispute resolution efforts like mediation – in the end, divorcing spouses often end up duking it out in court. Collaborative divorce offers something different.

Collaborative divorce can result in a better outcome for the family in the short and long term. This is especially true when children are involved, because the adults must continue co-parenting after the divorce. Bruised emotions and hard feelings from a bloody court battle can cause additional problems between the parents for years. That’s not good for the children.

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.

How it works

In simplified terms, the collaborative divorce process involves you and your spouse working with a team of professionals to come up with an agreement for submission to the court to become a final order. You’ll need to have some court involvement to get everything finalized, but it will be brief and uncontested because you’ll have everything agreed upon ahead of time instead of “duking it out.”

Here’s an infographic with the nuts and bolts:


The collaborative process puts you in control

In traditional, litigation-centered divorce, unless you and your spouse reach agreement via mediation or negotiation, a judge has the decision making power. In collaborative divorce, you and your spouse control the process from the beginning and you have the power throughout the process.

I’ve been practicing divorce and family law for quite a few years. Through my experience I’ve learned that both spouses in a divorce are most satisfied with the outcome of their case when they’ve had input, instead of having the final order forced on them by a court.

When both sides are generally satisfied with the outcome of a case, both sides are more likely to comply with the final court order. That means it’ll be less likely they’ll have to keep dragging one another back to court to enforce that order.

These are some of the reasons I decided to become certified in collaborative divorce to better serve my clients – and why I believe so strongly in the process for the right cases.


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 Tracy Hightower, visit her profile page.

More information about Hightower Reff’s collaborative divorce practice is available here.

If you need help with a Nebraska divorce, contact Hightower Reff Law today and come visit with one of the attorneys at the Omaha office. 

Divorce Temporary Hearings – You Should Know This (Infographic)

divorce-temporary-hearingDivorce temporary hearings can be intimidating. Let’s face it – the entire divorce process can be intimidating. Arming yourself with information and having good support can make it a lot less so.

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.

Our Divorce Temporary Hearings infographic fills you in on some basics about divorce temporary hearings.  If you’re going through a divorce or thinking about filing for divorce, this may help make the process more clear – and maybe less daunting.


You may have heard the saying “good fences make good neighbors.” At Hightower Reff Law, our team of divorce attorneys has many years of experience in all kinds of marital dissolution cases. From complicated, high asset divorces with children and family owned businesses, to cases involving domestic violence, as well as simple divorces with no children – we’ve done it. Our diverse experience has taught us that, no matter the case, a temporary court order detailing the rights and responsibilities of both parties during the divorce is an important “fence” to put in place.


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 Attorney Scott Hahn, visit his profile page.

More information about Hightower Reff’s divorce practice is available here.

If you need help with a Nebraska divorce, contact Hightower Reff Law today and visit one of the attorneys at the Omaha office. 

Holiday Parenting Time – Avoiding a Nightmare Before (or During) Christmas

boy with chalkboard logo parenting pointers-thumb-700x466-65474-thumb-500x332-65475Holiday parenting time can be hard for parents living apart but parenting together. But, as the title of this article promised, there are some things you can try to help smooth holiday parenting time and avoid a nightmare before (or during) Christmas.

As longtime child custody lawyers, we know that trying to make holiday parenting time work so everyone is happy can be hard on you. That’s especially so when you feel like you’re the only parent who’s trying. But remember, what you’re doing is in the best interests of your children. It’s all about them.

An added incentive to consider – the potential benefits of working hard to minimize holiday parenting time troubles between you and the other parent go far beyond making the holidays nice for your child. Child psychology experts say that after a divorce, parental conflict over child care issues puts children at greater risk for behavioral and emotional problems.

Here are a few tips to help you avoid a parenting time nightmare before (or during) Christmas.

Know school schedules in advance

Just when you think you have it all worked out and everything is cool, the school goes and changes the holiday break schedule. Even if your parenting plan can adjust to the new schedule without confusion, a change in school calendars may change the amount of time you have with your child. If you realize it at the last minute, you’re less likely to find a solution that both parents can agree on before the holiday.

In the best case scenario, you and the other parent are able to agree to change things up a bit to give your child an opportunity to have as much time as possible with both parents. But if you can’t agree, you may need to enlist the help of an attorney. For that reason, it’s a good idea to check holiday calendars for the school year as soon as the school publishes them. If you didn’t do that for this school year, check the calendar now for all of the holidays yet to come and try to get things worked out as best you can if there is an issue.

Stick to the plan

This may sound simple, but you might be surprised at how frequently one parent decides, on their own, to do something a little different during holiday parenting time without saying anything to the other parent. Usually it’s because they believe it’s a minor change that’s no big deal. Their belief is nearly always incorrect.

Whether it’s something like changing pick up or drop off time by just fifteen minutes, or having someone else pick up your child and bring them to your holiday celebration instead of picking them up yourself, if it’s something different from what the parenting plan says, don’t do it unless the other parent knows your plan and agrees. Both parents must agree in advance on any deviations from the parenting plan.

Figure things out early and communicate

This is the most important thing: communication. However it works best in your situation, let the other parent know what your plans are and give them all the info they need to feel informed and clear about what is going on.

Many times, if we’re in the dark about something, our imagination takes over and we conjure up all kinds of things that upset us and can cause arguments for no reason. Clear, consistent communication can alleviate this avoidable problem.

Don’t be a holiday parenting time Grinch

This is where the “being the bigger person” part comes in. No matter how you feel about the other parent, their holiday traditions, their significant other, or anything else that matters to your child, don’t bad mouth or bash.

As hard as it is sometimes, remember that it’s about doing what’s right for your child’s feelings and well-being; it isn’t about you. When you communicate with your child about their holiday time with the other parent, or your child is telling you about it, be positive. By doing so, you’ll make your child feel supported.

Also, if something happens that is beyond your ex’s control, or is out of the ordinary, be flexible. For instance, if you are supposed to have the kids Christmas Day and your ex is supposed to have them Christmas Eve, but the ex is called into work on Christmas Eve, try to accommodate some time for them to enjoy Christmas Day with the kids, even if it puts a damper on some of your plans.

Get technical 

There are lots of options for sharable calendars on the web – ranging from Google to parenting calendar websites. Use one of them.

Shared calendars are a great tool to make sure everyone is clear on who needs to be where when, so everyone is on the same page. If you have tech trouble, you may even ask your child to participate and help you out. Most kids are tech savvy by elementary school. This will make them feel included in an appropriate way while giving them clarity as well.

Don’t Go It Alone

If all else fails and you need legal advice or need to take action on a parenting plan problem that manifests itself over the holidays, Hightower Reff has a team of experienced child custody attorneys and a mediator who can help.

Call the office at 402-932-9550, or contact us online and make an appointment to come visit with us about your parenting time issue 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. 

For details about the author, Hightower Reff Partner Attorney Tracy Hightower-Hennevisit her profile page.

More information about Hightower Reff’sChild Custody practice is available here.

To schedule a time to meet with one of the experienced attorneys at our downtown office, contact us.

What to Expect from Your Lawyer – Five Key Reasons You Need to Pick your Battles in Court

shutterstock_268621781-thumb-400x267-65274Lawyers can seem like they’re from a foreign land with their own strange customs and language. And, let’s face it, sometimes (okay, a lot of times) some lawyers seem unapproachable, which can make the client experience less than a good one.

At Hightower Reff, we do our best to be approachable, talk like real people and have a productive relationship with our clients. However, like many lawyers, despite our best efforts to do this, we sometimes fall short of our clients’ expectations.

In this series, What to Expect from Your Lawyer, Hightower Reff Partner Attorney Susan Reff will give you some useful information to help you understand why your lawyer handles things the way they do and to maintain reasonable expectations regarding your attorney. 

This week: five of the most important reasons to pick your battles when you are involved in a court case.

Focusing Expectations & Picking Battles

Picking battles is important to help you focus your expectations and develop your strategy for your case. Each court case is made up issues to be decided. In criminal cases those issues, in large part, involve proof as to whether or not the defendant did what he or she is accused of doing. In civil cases – like divorce and child custody – the issues involve who is entitled to what property, and who should have what time and decision making power with the children. 

Sometimes an entire case can rise or fall on one issue, especially in criminal law, and your biggest (and perhaps only) battle choice may be whether or not to enter a plea agreement. Sometimes, however, you have more choices to make regarding your battles and focusing your expectations. This is especially true in family law. 

When your lawyer advises you to back off on an issue, there is a reason. Here are five of the key reasons to listen to that advice, focus your expectations and pick your battles:

1. You Don’t Want to Spend the Rest of your Life (or what feels like it) in Court

Even when the two sides aren’t fighting over every little thing, court cases take a long time. Every issue you choose to fight about adds weeks or months onto the clock. 

First, the lawyers will go back and forth trying to reach an agreement, then, they may have to file motions or other papers with the court about that specific issue asking the judge to decide. Depending on the issue, there may be a special hearing, or it may be dealt with at trial. Either way, chances are it will add time onto your case. 

In some cases, like criminal cases where your freedom is on the line, and your attorney believes the law is on your side, it may be worth all the time in the world to fight nearly every issue. However, in other cases – including divorce and child custody – you should weigh the time it will take to fight over the issue against the likely outcome and ask yourself if the battle is worth it. 

An experienced attorney can advise you regarding your chances of success if you fight a certain issue in your case, and how much time it is likely to take. With that information, you are better equipped to decide if your time investment is worth the likely return.  

2. Other Things are More Important   

Before you decide to fight a battle over an issue in your case, decide your intentions and priorities and make sure winning that issue is in line with them. In other words, focus on what’s important to you.

If you choose to prioritize one issue in your case, and you are successful, it may be at the expense of something else. This is especially true in family law. The court is going to try to make things “equitable,” so issues left up to the court are likely to go a little your way, and a little not your way. 

For example, when it comes to a divorce property settlement, it may mean that you get the boat, but you don’t get the savings account with a value comparable to the boat. Maybe that’s fine with you because you really like boating. But, if you go after the boat just to keep your spouse from having it, and you really need the money instead, you could end up cutting off your nose to spite your face. 

In child custody issues, relationships are usually the most important consideration. First, you should consider how any issue at hand may affect your child’s relationship with the other parent and/or with you. Next, consider how the issue will affect your relationship with the other parent and – as a result – your ability to effectively co-parent your child. If the impact of fighting about an issue on any of these areas will be worse than if you reach a compromise, don’t fight. Work it out. Even if it means giving a little more than you really want. In the end, the return on your investment of sacrifice is likely to pay off.  

3. There are Long Term Consequences  

Decisions you make in your case – especially in family law – could affect you, your spouse, and children for many years.

As an example, in a divorce, you may really want your ex’s mother’s casserole dish. Maybe you really love it, because you loved your mother-in-law & she has passed, so you just want this one reminder of her… or maybe you know your spouse really wants it, so you want to take it to spite them. Either way, decide whether the casserole dish is worth it in the scheme of life.  

In twenty years, is it going to have been worth your time fighting over a piece of bakeware? Probably not. Perhaps the long term consequences will result in damage to your integrity and your ability to remain amicable with you spouse. Those things could render the battle a lost cause – regardless of how it turns out.  

The consideration of long term consequences is especially important when children are involved in a divorce. 

4. Your Money Tree Died

You may have heard the saying that all problems have a solution so long as you have the time and money to find it and make it happen. In other words, time and money are fuel to reach a goal. The same can be said in many court cases. 

Along with costing time, court cases cost money. In most of them, your lawyer charges by the hour. That means every additional battle adds to the bill. Unless your money fuel tank is unlimited, you are going to have to decide where you want to focus your money fuel. If you spend it all fighting over things like casserole dishes, you will soon find you don’t have any left for the issues in your case that are truly impactful in your life and your child’s. Put your money fuel where it counts. 

5. Your Case is About the Law – Not Principals

Very rarely (perhaps almost never) is a court case about principals. Rather, court cases are about the law. When people involved in a court case talk about principals, they are talking about what they feel or believe is “fair” or what they deserve. They are talking about emotions. However, what you feel or believe you deserve isn’t relevant in court. The law is only thing that is relevant. 

If your lawyer is being honest, they will tell you the same. It’s your lawyer’s job to guide your expectations accordingly. That means focusing on the law, not your emotions. 

For example, if you enter your divorce with the goal of taking your spouse to the cleaners because he or she was unfaithful or was a poor excuse for a spouse – “out of the principal of the matter” – you are going to end up disappointed. 

The court does not care whether your ex is an ass. The court can only concern itself with enforcing the law. In most aspects of divorce, and even child custody, being an ass does not mean you are entitled to less money, property, or time with your child. Further, your spouse getting less of any of these things is not going to change a thing about your spouse or what happened between you.

Don’t Make Your Battle Plan Alone 

There is no substitute for the advice of an experienced attorney to help you pick your battles.  Hightower Reff can help. Call us at 402-932-9550, or contact us online.

Next Time…

Watch for Part III of our series when we explore ways you can help control your legal fees.   

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.