Must Have Information on Child Custody 
Part I: What Are the Best Interests of the Child?

shutterstock_218576749-thumb-500x367-65272Going through a child custody case can be tough for parents, especially if you’re in the dark about Nebraska child custody law.

In this series,Must Have Information on Child Custody, we’ll take some of the mystery out of the law and give you information you need about child custody in Nebraska. 

This week, we discuss the legal concept of best interests of the child, known in lawyer speak as BIOC. 

Splitting the Time, Not the Baby

In the well-known tale of the judgement of Solomon, King Solomon has to decide which of two women is the true mother of an infant boy. Solomon told the women that there was only one fair solution: the infant must be split in two so each woman could have half of the child. 

The boy’s true mother immediately cried:  “Oh, Lord, give the baby to her, just don’t kill him!” Of course the King never intended to split the baby in two. He knew that only a true, loving mother would give up her baby rather than hurt him. 

This story is a popular example of wisdom in judgment among lawyers and judges. It also provides a compelling example of a parent guided by the best interests of her child during a custody battle. 

The judge in your custody case also has no intent of splitting your child in two, of course. But time with your child is another matter. Even if you don’t like the other parent, or he or she has flaws, unless they are a danger to the child, the law favors giving your child the opportunity to have a full relationship with them, which means splitting time. Parenting time is always guided by the individual best interests of your child.

The Recipe for a BIOC Decision

You and the other parent can decide on your parenting plan together through mediation or by working with your lawyers to draft your own parenting plan. If you can’t decide together, the judge will decide for you based on the best interests of your child.

 But what does best interest of the child mean here in Nebraska? Deciphering that can be confusing and frustrating for parents in child custody cases. 

According to the Nebraska Parenting Act

  1. The court’s decision must provide for the child’s safety, health, stability, emotional growth, physical care and “regular and continuous school attendance and progress” for kids who are school-age.
  2. If the court decides there is domestic partner abuse, the parenting arrangement must provide for the safety of the parent being abused. 
  3. Those serving in the roles of parents must be appropriate in their involvement with the child. They also have to help continue relationships between the child and family members who have shown the ability to have a healthy relationship with the child. 
  4. Even if the parents have agreed on a plan to parent the child or children, the court has to find that plan is in the best interests of the child or it will not accept the plan.

If the court rejects a parenting plan, the court has to say, in writing, why the parenting plan is not in the best interests of the child. 

Nebraska law also says, to provide for the best interest of the child, the goal of the entire court process, including mediation, should:

  • minimize the damage parental conflict can do to children 
  • provide parents the tools they need make decisions that are best for the child 
  • provide alternative dispute resolution options that are less combative than traditional court cases tend to be 
  • ensure that the child’s voice is heard and considered in parenting decisions 
  • maximize the safety of family members through the justice process
  • in cases of domestic intimate partner abuse or child abuse or neglect, to put into the parenting plan, the principles of victim safety and sensitivity, offender accountability, and community safety.

But Wait…There’s More

In addition to everything already mentioned, when the court orders custody and parenting arrangements, in considering the best interest of the child, it also has to consider:

  • The relationship the child had with each parent before the court case started or before any hearing in the case
  • What the child wants, so long as the child’s reasoning is sound
  • The general health, welfare, and social behavior of the minor child
  • Credible evidence of abuse inflicted on any family or household member
  • Credible evidence of child abuse or neglect or domestic intimate partner abuse

The best thing you can do as a parent to make sure the parenting arrangement that results from your court case is in the best interests of your child is to remember one thing above all else: no matter how contentious things might be between you and the other parent or how hard the feelings, this process is about doing what’s best for your child, not you. Far too many parents lose sight of that and the child suffers even more because of it.

Don’t Go It Alone

It’s important to have the right support during a child custody case to help you help your child. While friends mean well, most of them probably aren’t legal experts or mental health professionals. A good attorney is crucial, and Hightower Reff can help. Call us at 402-932-9550, or contact us online.

 You may also consider a counselor to help you work through your feelings surrounding the custody case so you can clear your head, so to speak, and truly focus on your child. 

Next Time…

Watch for Part II of our child custody series: Pointers for Prosperity in your Parenting Plan. 

 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. 

(Almost) Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Nebraska Divorce – Part V – The Decree & After the Ink Dries: Why The End of Your Divorce Case Doesn’t Necessarily Mean It’s Finished

There’s no getting around it: divorce can be unpleasant and daunting. For most people, the legal process of divorce is especially foreign and scary. With(Almost) Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Nebraska Divorce, we’ll try to take away some of that fear by answering some of the most frequently asked questions we get from our clients about divorce in Nebraska.

Part V – The Decree & After the Ink Dries: Why The End of Your Divorce Case Doesn’t Necessarily Mean It’s Finished

So far in our series, we’ve answered questions about getting started with a Nebraska divorce, talked about what to expect after you file for divorce in Nebraska, covered some divorce basics including Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDRO’s), and given you some important info about child custody and support. In this final installment, we cover getting the final order and enforcing it.

Q: Do I have to go to trial?  

A.  Maybe. In many divorces, a settlement can be reached. In come cases, however, emotions or other factors make it difficult for parties to come to an agreement on the issues and a trial is necessary for the judge to decide them.

Q: Do my spouse and I have to attend the final hearing?

A: Not if you both agree to a final settlement and/or parenting plan and have signed the necessary documents. In that case, the Decree, Property Settlement Agreement and Parenting Plan can be submitted to the Judge along with a wavier of final hearing. So long as the Judge finds the agreements acceptable under the law, he or she will sign off without needing you to appear in court.

Q: When will my divorce be final?

A:  The divorce is final 30 days after the date the Judge signs the decree.  That means that appeals must be filed within that time period.

Q: When can I remarry?

A:  Your divorce is final six months after the date of the decree.  So you must wait six months to remarry – no matter where you do it.

Q: What if my former spouse doesn’t do what he or she is ordered to do after the Decree is entered?

A:  It’s best to consult your attorney if your former spouse is willfully disobeying the court’s order. Your attorney can ask the court to require your former spouse to appear before the court and show cause why he or she should not be held in contempt of court. If he or she is found in contempt, the court will generally allow time for the order to be followed. After that time elapses, the parties will return to court. If your former spouse still has not complied, he or she may be sanctioned until there is compliance. Sometimes it can take multiple enforcement hearings before both parties do everything they were ordered to do in the decree. It can be frustrating. A good lawyer is the best support.

Get the Experienced Help You Need

If you need help with a divorce, or enforcement of a decree, call Hightower Reff Law at 402-932-9550 or contact us online. We are experienced Omaha area attorneys who can help you through this difficult process.

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. 

Avoiding a Parent Trap: Adoption Key to Protecting Same Sex Couples’ Parental Rights


shutterstock_125845649-thumb-400x288-65254The U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2015 ruling validated same sex marriage nationwide. But it didn’t just impact marriage, it also changed the rights for divorce and as we’ll look at here, parenting. Now, more than ever, same sex couples need to explore the impact of the ruling on their parental rights, particularly when it comes to adoption.

Joint Adoption for Same Sex Spouses Now Allowed

In Nebraska, joint adoption by two people is only allowed if the two people are married. Before the Supreme Court’s marriage ruling, same sex couples’ marriages were not legally recognized so they couldn’t jointly adopt in Nebraska.

Now that same sex marriages are valid under Nebraska law (and nationwide), married same sex couples can adopt jointly. Nebraska statutes now apply to adoption by any married couple — opposite sex and same sex couples alike. Adoptions for married same sex couples work the same way as for opposite sex spouses. There is no difference.

Stepparent Adoption May Be a Must to Protect Parental Rights

Before the Supreme Court ruling, if a same sex couple got married in another state and one partner adopted a child in Nebraska, or gave birth to a child, their partner couldn’t adopt jointly and had no parental rights under Nebraska law.

Now, however, that couple is considered legally married and all the same rights that apply to opposite sex couples apply to them. This means the non-adoptive/non-biological spouse now can – and needs to — legally adopt the child to protect his or her parental rights.

Adoption is necessary because the non-biological/non-adoptive spouse is seen as a stepparent in the eyes of the law. Stepparents do not have the same parental rights or legal protections as adoptive or biological parents.

For instance, the law doesn’t recognize the non-biological/non-adoptive spouse as anything more than a stepparent during the marriage. The only legal parent of the child is the one who adopted or gave birth. That has ramifications for medical records and consents as well as other areas of legal decision making.

And if the couple later divorces and the non-biological/non-adoptive spouse did not complete a stepparent adoption? He or she will not have parental rights after the divorce. While they may get some continued contact as a former stepparent, it isn’t guaranteed and it isn’t the same as it would have been had they completed a stepparent adoption.

Adoption Makes Parenting Permanent

Once an adoption is done, both parents are seen to be the child’s parents in the eyes of the law. That relationship – just like a biological parent/child relationship – survives divorce and death. The parent and child will have a legally protected relationship after divorce allowing for continued parenting time and financial support. The child also has the right to inherit from that parent upon the parent’s death.

Getting Help

Navigating this changed landscape of same sex adoption and parental rights created by the Supreme Court’s Constitutional recognition of same sex marriage presents some challenges. To make sure your rights — and those of your children — are protected, if you’re a same sex couple who already has children, or are thinking of becoming parents, you should meet with an experienced attorney like those at Hightower Reff. Contact us online or call us at 402-932-9550 to find out how we can help.

The Right to Divorce – Lifting the Legal Limbo for Same Sex Couples

shutterstock_34797877-thumb-400x301-65252Whether or not you are among those cheering last week’s Supreme Court decision recognizing Constitutional protection for same sex marriage, there is no denying that it has changed state of the law in the United States in a big way.

The Other Side of the Marriage Coin

While most of the attention from the ruling has been on the right to get married, there is, of course, another side to the coin that’s just as important, legally speaking. When you have the right to marry, you have the right to divorce. Last week’s decision was good news for many gay and lesbian couples in Nebraska and across the country – those looking to get married and those looking to get divorced.

Before last week’s decision, the patchwork of state laws on same sex marriage left Nebraska same sex couples who married in another state in legal limbo. They couldn’t get a divorce because Nebraska didn’t recognize their marriage in the first place. If you weren’t married in the eyes of the law, there was no marriage to dissolve with a divorce proceeding. You were stuck.

Pack your Bags and Settle in

Until last week, for Nebraska same sex couples to get a divorce, one spouse had to move to a state recognizing same sex marriage and establish residency before being allowed to file for divorce. Most states’ residency requirement is six months to one year.

For many, that sort of relocation flexibility isn’t possible, so they were stuck in a world of uncertainty regarding their rights and obligations – including the right to inherit, the right to sell property and the right to utilize income from that property.

Leaving Legal Limbo

Now, not only can same sex couples in Nebraska go to their county clerk’s office for a marriage license, they can go to the court clerk and file their divorce petition. For many this is going to be a huge relief.

The Supreme Court has held that a marriage is a marriage. That means the same laws that apply to opposite sex divorce in Nebraska now apply to same sex divorce. If a marriage is a marriage, a divorce is a divorce.

If you need help with a Nebraska divorce, the confident, clear, committed attorneys at Hightower Reff Law are here to help. Contact us online or call us at 402-932-9550.

(Almost) Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Divorce = Part IV

shutterstock_339672179There’s no getting around it: divorce can be unpleasant and daunting. For most people, the legal process of divorce is especially foreign and scary. With (Almost) Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Divorce, we’ll try to take away some of that fear by answering some of the most frequently asked questions we get from our clients about divorce in Nebraska. 

Part IV – Child Custody & Support Must-Have Info

In part one, we answered questions about getting started with a Nebraska divorce. In part two of the series, we talked about what to expect after you file for divorce in Nebraska. Next, in part three of our series, we covered some divorce basics including Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDRO’s). This week, we give you the basic info you need to know about child custody & support.  

Q: Do I have to take a parenting class?  

A.  Yes. It’s required by the Nebraska Parenting Act in any case involving access to a child (parenting time & grandparent visitation). Every adult involved in the case must take an approved class.

Q: What will I learn at the parenting class?

A: The Nebraska Supreme Court approved parenting classes mandated by the Nebraska Parenting Act cover Nebraska’s legal process; divorce timeline; requirements of the Parenting Act; contents of a parenting plan; mediation process; helping children during transitions; and about other resources you might find helpful.

Q: Can I take the Parenting Class Online?

A:  Maybe. There are two levels of parenting class – Basic & Second Level. The basic class is what is required in most cases, and can be taken online. However, if Nebraska Law requires the parties to take the Second Level class, or the judge, orders it, it must be done in person with a Nebraska provider. More information is available at the Nebraska Supreme Court website.

Q: How much does the parenting class cost?

A: Fees vary by provider. Most basic classes cost around $50. If you cannot afford to pay for the class, you may ask the judge to waive the fee. 

Q: What if I refuse to take the class, or the other party refuses?

A:  In Douglas County one party takes the class then the other party is sent a notice to take the class.  If he or she fails to take the class, that person will get a second notice.  In the event the party still does not take the class the matter is closed by Conciliation Court.  The matter then goes into default or will be set for trial.  In all other Nebraska counties if either party fails to take the matter is set for trial or goes into default.

If you have an attorney, he or she should advise you to take the class as soon as the case gets started – regardless of whether you are Plaintiff or Defendant. Failing to take the parenting class may hurt your claim for custody or parenting time & just doesn’t look very good to the court. 

Q: What is the difference between physical & legal custody?

A: Physical custody means physical possession of the child, while legal custody means authority to make decisions for the child about things like where they will go to school, what sports or activities in which they participate, and what religion they will observe. 

Q: What is a parenting plan?

A: A parenting plan is a document that sets forth who has physical and legal custody of the child and who the child when (parenting time). It will also specify things like who will spend which holidays and birthdays, vacation time, or other special occasions with the child. It can also include any other provisions necessary to your circumstances to provide smooth stable relationships related to parenting after the divorce or separation.

Q: How is child support calculated?

A: The Nebraska Supreme Court has developed a formula for child support calculation & child support guidelines based on the custody arrangement and the income and obligations of each party.  There may be circumstances that warrant a deviation from child support guidelines, however. If child support is an issue in your case, it’s important to have an attorney that is knowledgeable about this specialized practice area so they know how to spot circumstances that may be appropriate for a deviation. 

Q: Can the other parent & I agree to a different amount of child support, other than that required by the Nebraska Child Support Guidelines?

A: Maybe, but the court will have to approve it. Child support is for the benefit of your child. It is up to the discretion of the judge to grant a request for deviation, even if the parties have an agreement. The judge will base his or her decision on the best interests of your child. 

Q: How long do I have to pay child support?

A: In Nebraska cases, it will be until your child reaches the age of 19. There are some circumstances when support may terminate at a different time, but they are relatively uncommon. 

Q: Will my wages be garnished to pay child support?

A: Yes. In Nebraska it’s mandatory that your child support is withheld from your paycheck. If you are self-employed or have other employment arrangements where you are not paid through a regular payroll, you will pay through the Nebraska Child Support Payment Center

Q: Is there a minimum amount of child support?

A: Yes. In cases involving extreme circumstances like poverty, the court may order the minimum support of $50 per month.

Next time in the series

Watch for part V of (Almost) Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Divorce: Getting the Final Order & After the Ink’s Dry – Why The End of Your Divorce Case Doesn’t Necessarily Mean it’s Finished

In the meantime, if you need help with a divorce, call Hightower Reff Law at 402-932-9550, or contact us online. We are experienced Omaha area attorneys who can help you through this difficult process.

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. 

(Almost) Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Divorce – Part III, Divorce ABC’s & QDRO’s

shutterstock_284011172-thumb-400x267-65245-thumb-300x200-65246There’s no getting around it: divorce can be unpleasant and daunting. For most people, the legal process of divorce is especially foreign and scary. With (Almost) Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Divorce, we’ll try to take away some of that fear by answering some of the most frequently asked questions we get from our clients about divorce in Nebraska.

In part one, we answered questions about getting started with a Nebraska divorce. In part two of the series, we talked about what to expect after you file for divorce in Nebraska. For part III of our series, we are covering some divorce basics, including Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDRO’s). 

Q: What is marital property?

A:  Marital property is anything acquired during the marriage, unless it was inherited or gifted specifically to you or your spouse. This may seem straightforward, but it can be tricky. In some instances, if your spouse contributed to the improvement of property or paid for it after the marriage, the court may award your spouse all or part of that property or its value. 

Q: How does the court divide marital property?

A:  If you and your spouse can’t agree on what each of you will take, or how much money you will receive in settlement of the property issues, the judge will decide. Your attorney and your spouse’s attorney will both present evidence at a trial and argue their case. Then, the judge will make what he or she believes is an equitable distribution of marital property, according to Nebraska law. 

Keep in mind, equitable and equal are not the same. 

Q: Do I get to keep my retirement accounts?

A:  Probably not. Retirement funds accrued during the marriage will likely be equitably divided between the parties.

If it’s an employer sponsored retirement program, the court will have to enter a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO), which can be incorporated into the divorce decree.

Under the requirements of Federal law, there are steps that have to be taken to ensure that the court’s order will meet the requirements of a QDRO. Among them – approval by the retirement plan’s administrator.

Other retirement investment accounts, like individual retirement accounts (IRA), don’t require a QDRO. 

Q: Will I have to pay spousal support?

A:  Spousal support (also commonly known as alimony) can be awarded if a party gave up a career during the marriage to raise children, or is unable to support himself/herself for other reasons. 

In most cases these days, spousal support is “rehabilitative” in nature, and may last for only what the judge determines is a reasonable amount of time for the spouse receiving support to get on his or her feet. 

Q: Can I go back to my maiden name?

A:  Yes, but let your attorney know ahead of time so he or she can make the request in the early pleadings to avoid the time and expense of amending them later. 

The name change will then be part of the final Divorce Decree, which can be used to change your social security card and driver’s license.  

Next time in the series

Watch for part IV of (Almost) Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Divorce: Child Custody and Support Must-Have Info

In the meantime, if you need help with a divorce, call Hightower Reff Law at 402-932-9550, or contact us online. We are experienced Omaha area attorneys who can help you through this difficult process. 

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. 

(Almost) Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Divorce – Part II, Ticking Clocks & Temporary Hearings

shutterstock_236572615-thumb-400x267-65243There’s no getting around it: divorce can be unpleasant and daunting. For most people, the legal process of divorce is especially foreign and scary. With (Almost) Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Divorce, we’ll try to take away some of that fear by answering some of the most frequently asked questions we get from our clients about divorce in Nebraska.

In part one, we answered questions about getting started with a Nebraska divorce. In this installment we cover what to expect after you file for divorce in Nebraska.

Q: What happens after the initial divorce papers are filed?

A: The first step in Nebraska divorce after the Complaint for Dissolution of Marriage (divorce complaint) is called “service of process.” That simply means that your spouse has to be served with your Complaint for Dissolution of Marriage. 

Service of Process is defined by Nebraska law, so it has to be done in a certain way. You can’t just hand the papers to your spouse. The most common methods are through a Voluntary Appearance or service by an authorized process server. 

Filing a Complaint with the Clerk of the District Court starts the clock ticking on service of process. If your spouse isn’t served or does not enter a Voluntary Appearance, the court will dismiss your case.

Q: What is a Voluntary Appearance?

A: A Voluntary Appearance is a document that the other party can sign (if they choose) that waives their right to have a summons officially and personally served upon them by an authorized process server.

Signing the Voluntary Appearance does not waive any other rights in the divorce process. The divorce will carry on just as it would if they had been served personally.    

We usually recommend a Voluntary Appearance instead of personal service because it is less frightening to the other party and tends to start off things on a better foot and create less animosity. 

Q: How does service of process on my spouse happen if he/she is unwilling to sign a Voluntary Appearance?

A: Service is usually done through the local Sheriff’s department in the county where your spouse lives. It can also be done in some instances by a state authorized Constable or Civil Process Server.  

There are alternate ways to achieve service – like publication – but they require court approval.

Q: How will I know if my spouse has been served?

A: Most often, service is done by Sheriff and he or she files a Return of Service with the Clerk’s office and our office gets a copy. We keep our clients informed if a problem with service necessitates an alternate method.

Q: How long will my divorce take? 

A: Each situation is unique. We usually say at least six months, sometimes much longer. It can vary widely depending upon a range of factors like cooperativeness of the other party, success or failure at mediation and the court’s calendar. 

Determining parenting time often contributes most to lengthening the process. As both a certified family law mediator and child custody lawyer, I’ve found parenting plan mediation is a wonderful tool for helping parties reach agreement on the important issue of parenting time.

Q: How quickly can I get divorced? 

A: Nebraska has a minimum 60 day waiting period after the date of filing your Complaint with the Clerk of the Court. 

Even in simple divorces where everything is agreed upon, however, it’s tough to get all the required work done and papers executed in that amount of time. If a final “prove up” hearing in court is required, it may take a bit more time depending on the court’s docket availability. 

If a trial is necessary, on the other hand, the process usually takes much longer.

Q: What if my spouse doesn’t want the divorce? 

A: Nebraska is a no-fault state. It may take a little longer to go through the process if the opposing spouse refuses to cooperate or agree on anything, but we are experienced in working with reluctant opposing parties and can get your divorce accomplished.

Q: What if I change my mind and no longer want to proceed with the divorce?

A: In Nebraska, the Plaintiff (the person who files the divorce action) can dismiss the action at any time for any reason (or for no reason) before final submission of the case.  However, if the other party has filed a counterclaim, that claim will not be dismissed unless they agree – so both parties would need to agree for the entire action to be dismissed. 

The court can dismiss the case itself for lack of progression, however, if a divorce is filed and sits for too long without any further action being taken in the case.

Q: Can I get temporary hearing?

A: A temporary hearing regarding property or spousal support can be set up as soon as the case is filed. If the other party has not been served, we will have them served with the temporary motion at the same time they are served with the Complaint for Dissolution of Marriage. 

If there are children involved, a temporary custody hearing can be scheduled as soon as the party who asks for the hearing takes the parenting class.

Q: What should I expect at a temporary hearing? 

A: A temporary hearing is used to resolve any issues that need to be addressed right away to provide stability for the parties and their children as the case progresses. 

The Judge can enter temporary orders on almost anything that needs to be addressed. Common issues in temporary hearings are temporary legal custody of children, parenting time, child support, debt payments, spousal support, possession of the marital home and health insurance.

Q: Do I have to be there for the temporary hearing? 

A: Usually the parties don’t have to appear at the temporary hearing. It’s normally heard in the Judge’s chambers.  

Each attorney will present an affidavit to the Judge 48 hours before the hearing and argue the points in the affidavit at the hearing. It is important you work with your attorney to get a solid affidavit completed in a timely manner. If you don’t, it will make it more difficult – if not impossible – for your attorney to argue your side at the hearing.

Next time in the series

Watch for part III of (Almost) Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Divorce: Divorce ABC’s & QDRO’s

In the meantime, if you need help with a divorce, call Hightower Reff Law at 402-932-9550, or contact us online. We are experienced Omaha area attorneys who can help you through this difficult process. 

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. 

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Nebraska Divorce (Almost) – Part I

In the (Almost) Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Divorce series, we’ll try to take some of the fear out of the divorce process by answering some of our clients top Nebraska divorce questions.

Part I – Getting the Divorce Ball Rolling

In part one of our Nebraska Divorce series, we focus on the most common questions we’re asked about getting started with a Nebraska divorce.

Q: How much is a divorce going to cost? 

A: It’s usually not possible to know up front exactly how much a divorce will end up costing you because the facts and circumstances are different in every case. If your divorce is contentious and you can’t reach a settlement agreement, the costs can add up.

Generally, the more you and your spouse agree on, the less you’ll spend on legal fees and court costs.  

Costs of trial can also vary depending on the number and complexity of issues.   

Q: What is a retainer?

A: A retainer payment is money you (the client) pay in advance before the lawyer begins working on your case. The amount of your initial retainer will vary based on the factors surrounding your case. 

Your retainer fund is deposited into a client trust account separate from the firm’s regular business account until the retainer is earned by the firm. The amount of time the lawyer works on the case is paid out of the retainer as the fees are billed.

If the full amount of the retainer is not earned, you get a refund for the money unearned.  If the circumstances of your case deplete the retainer, you will be asked to refresh your retainer fund.

Q: What is the difference between legal separation and divorce? 

In a legal separation, you and your spouse stay legally married. A divorce means you are no longer legally tied to each other through marriage.  

At the conclusion of both a legal separation case and a divorce case, the judge enters a final order to divide assets, real and personal property and retirement accounts. If you have children, that order will also establish child support and parenting time for each party. A legal separation case can be converted to a divorce case at any time.

Q: How long do I have to live in this state before I can file for a Nebraska divorce? 

A: To file for a Nebraska divorce, you or your spouse must live in the state, with the intention of making it your permanent home, for at least one year before filing your divorce. There is one exception: you may file if you were married in Nebraska, have been married less than one year and have lived in Nebraska the entire time since your marriage.

Q: How do I start the divorce process? 

A: The first step to start a divorce is to file a Complaint for Dissolution with the District Court. The court charges a filing fee of $157.

Q:  In what county will my divorce be filed? 

The Complaint for Dissolution can be filed with the Clerk of the District Court in the County where you or your spouse lives.

Q: What about Domestic Violence?

A: In cases of domestic violence, we can help you get linked in with resources to help keep you safe and provide emotional support from the very beginning of the divorce process. 

Additionally, some procedures, like mediation, may be handled differently if there is domestic violence in your marriage. 

For our clients accused of domestic violence, we are able to tie in with counseling services and other resources as well.

Next time in the series

Watch for part II of (Almost) Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Divorce: Ticking Clocks and Temporary Hearings

In the meantime, if you need help with a divorce, call Hightower Reff Law at 402-932-9550, or contact us online. We are experienced Omaha area attorneys who can help you through this difficult process. 

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.