Prepping for Your Divorce Trial: Top 5 Tips (From a Divorce Lawyer)

divorce trial

What You Need to Know About Your Divorce Trial That Your Lawyer May Not Tell You, Part III

Walking into a courtroom for your divorce trial can be daunting, especially if you don’t know what to expect.

In this third and final installment of our series “What You Need to Know About Your Divorce Trial That Your Lawyer May Not Tell You,” Hightower Reff Law partner attorney Tracy Hightower shares her top 5 tips so you can prep for your divorce trial.


In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” At Hightower Reff law, we believe helping our clients prepare for their divorce trial is one of our most important functions as divorce lawyers. Over the years as an Omaha divorce lawyer, I’ve found there are lots of things clients can do to improve their chances of reaching their goals. Now I’m sharing with you my top five tips for prepping for your divorce trial.

 

1. Block your calendar.

Plan to devote the day to your divorce trial, including:

  • Make plans in advance to take time off from work
  • Be proactive — ask your attorney if they need time to meet with you before the trial day to prepare you for your testimony or other things
  • Don’t be surprised if the original trial date gets continued (moved to another day) at the last minute, or if you don’t finish in one day

 

2. Prep for live testimony.

Witnesses for you or for your spouse will testify in person before the judge. You and your spouse will likely testify as well.

  • In “temporary” hearings you may have had during your divorce pre-trial motions, your lawyer probably presented evidence on your behalf by affidavit. That’s a written document, signed under oath. Trials are different.
  • At trial, witnesses testify in person. Affidavits aren’t allowed.

 

3. Your lawyer may not call all the witnesses you want — and that’s okay.

Your lawyer will only call the best witnesses. That almost always means witnesses with firsthand, personal knowledge.

  • In a nutshell, your witness must have firsthand, personal knowledge to testify. They can’t testify about out of court statements of others, or information they got from another person.
  • The most basic first step in determining if a testimony from a witness may be hearsay is to figure out whether the witness was the originator of the information. If not, it’s probably hearsay.
  • For example, your mom can’t testify about your pediatrician’s opinion that your son’s asthma is aggravated during visits to the other parent’s house.
  • There are other things that go into a hearsay determination, and it can get complicated.
  • Tell your attorney about the possible witnesses you believe may have personal knowledge relevant to the issues of your divorce. It’s their job to figure out who’s to testify at trial.

 

4. Dress your best.

The impression you make on the court is important. Appearance and grooming are key.

  • Your lawyer won’t come to court in jeans or a team sweatshirt. They dress to show respect for the court and to present a professional image for their clients and for themselves. If you do the same on trial day, you can’t go wrong.
  • The court will be assessing your credibility and perhaps your fitness as a parent. Making a good first impression by dressing appropriately and respectfully can only help boost your credibility.

 

5.  Control your face.

No matter what unbelievably shocking stupidity comes out of your spouse’s mouth, try to keep a straight face.

  • If you roll your eyes or make weird faces, the judge will see it. Most times, that isn’t a good thing. As hard as it may be, try to keep a neutral face — or at least not look like this (or anything close.)
  • Crying is okay. Divorces are emotional. The judge understands. You can be authentically emotional in court, you just can’t be rude or out of control. If you feel you need a few minutes, let your attorney know.

If you have questions before your divorce trial, don’t be afraid to ask your divorce attorney. They are there to support you through the process.

If you missed Part I of the series, read it here.

Catch up with Part II 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 More Information:

Learn more about Hightower Reff  Partner Attorney Tracy Hightower.

Find out more about Hightower Reff’s family law services.

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

What You Need to Know About Your Divorce Trial that Your Lawyer May Not Tell You, Part II: 5 Things Smart Divorce Clients Do During Their Divorce Trial

divorce trial

What you do before and during your divorce trial has an effect on the outcome of the case. In this second installment of Hightower Reff Law’s series What You Need to Know About Your Divorce Trial That Your Lawyer May Not Tell You, I’ll share five things smart divorce clients do during and before their divorce trial. These five things could help boost your chances of getting what you want at your divorce trial (or at the least, help prevent things that can screw up your case.)

In my years as an Omaha divorce lawyer and child custody lawyer, I’ve noticed that clients who are effective players in their divorce legal team usually share five common behaviors. Those things seem to have a positive influence on not only the outcome of the case but also the way their divorce trial impacts their children’s lives and their own.

In this article, I’ll share with you the five things these smart clients do during their divorce trial that have a positive impact on the outcome of their case.

What you need to know about your divorce trial that your lawyer may not tell you… What you do during your divorce case matters.

Smart clients know that a real divorce trial isn’t like the ones you see on television. How effective your lawyer can be on your behalf is limited by reality. That means actual facts – the way things are.

The court makes its findings for your divorce decree based on evidence – or, in other words, proof of relevant facts. Things like financial circumstances, including income, retirement savings, and debt are important facts the court considers. In child custody, your lifestyle and behavior also come into play as the court evaluates the best interests of the child. During the trial, it’s your lawyer’s job to present all of this evidence to the court.

What you do or don’t do during your divorce case will affect whether your divorce lawyer is able to present evidence effectively to prove your side of the case. It may also bear upon how much credibility or weight the court gives some of the evidence both sides present.

 

 

 

 

 

Next Time in the Series

Next time in the series What You Need to Know About Your Divorce Trial that Your Lawyer May Not Tell You, we’ll step inside the courtroom to prepare you for what to expect on the big day (or multiple days) of your divorce trial.

(If you missed Part I of this series, What You Need to Know About Your Divorce Trial That Your Lawyer May Not Tell You – Has my Lawyer Fallen From the End of the Earth? Don’t fret, you can catch up 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 More Information:

Learn more about Hightower Reff  Partner Attorney Tracy Hightower.

Find out more about Hightower Reff’s family law services.

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

What You Need to Know About Your Divorce Trial that Your Lawyer May Not Tell You – Part I, Has my Lawyer Fallen from the End of the Earth?

What you need to know about your divorce trial

Divorce trials are strange, unfamiliar things to most people. You can feel like you’re in the dark. If your divorce attorney doesn’t do a good job being clear with you, that feeling of being in the dark can turn to mistrust of your lawyer, insecurity, and fear. In this series, What you Need to Know About Your Divorce Trial That Your Lawyer May Not Tell You, I’ll shed some light on your divorce trial.

In this first installment, Has My Lawyer Fallen from the End of the Earth? I’ll explain why your lawyer’s seeming disappearance before trial isn’t a sign he or she has met a bizarre end or doesn’t care about your case. (So hold off on emailing tabloid websites with your proof the world is flat because your lawyer just fell off the edge of it.)

Pre-trial pre-production for your divorce trial

Before any organized presentation, there’s a lot of preparation. That prep is crucial to make sure the presentation is smooth and coherent, and as well thought out as possible. Think of it as pre-production.

Divorce trials are no different. They require a LOT of pre-production. A well prepared attorney generally spends four to five hours of preparation time for every hour they’ll spend in court.

How is that possible? A divorce attorney preparing for a divorce trial or other family law trial has a lot to do.

 

 

 

Not proof the world is flat 

Your attorney has a lot on their plate when preparing for your divorce or other family law trial. During the busiest parts of that trial preparation, they may rely on another attorney in the firm, a law clerk, or assistant to help support you. Those trusted members of your divorce team may support you through any questions or issues come up.  If that happens, don’t take it personally; your attorney isn’t blowing you off. They haven’t fallen from the edge of a flat earth, and they certainly haven’t stopped caring about the outcome of your case. It’s quite the opposite.

Your attorney cares so much that they are directing the lion’s share of their time and attention to preparing for your trial. They want to be as prepared as possible for your divorce trial so they can do what you hired them to do: get you the best result they are able to achieve.

Many attorneys miss out on time with their families, other personal events and interests, and even needed rest because they become incredibly focused on preparing for your trial so they can do a good job for you.

An alternative to the tribulations of a divorce trial 

If a divorce trial sounds like it’s not for your circumstance, there’s an alternative: collaborative divorce.  Not every attorney is trained in this amicable divorce option. Also, it’s not appropriate for every case.

At Hightower Reff Law, however, (as well as practicing in traditional adversarial divorce) attorney Scott Hahn and I are both certified collaborative divorce attorneys.

In a nutshell, in collaborative divorce, you and your spouse work with a team of professionals to come up with an agreement to submit to the court. That agreement will become your final Divorce Decree. There’ll be some court involvement to get everything finalized. However, collaborative divorce is usually easier in the end, in part because you have everything agreed upon ahead of time instead of “duking it out” at trial.

There’s more info on collaborative divorce available on the Hightower Reff blog and website.

Next time in the series, What You Need to Know About Your Divorce Trial That Your Lawyer May Not Tell You

Next time in the series What you Need to Know About Your Divorce Trial that Your Lawyer May Not Tell You, I’ll share some ideas on what YOU can do to prepare for your trial to help increase your chances of success.

 

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 More Information:

Learn more about Hightower Reff  Partner Attorney Tracy Hightower.

Find out more about Hightower Reff’s family law services.

 

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

5 Ways to Turn Your Divorce Case Into a Train Wreck

Divorce Case

There are plenty of opportunities for divorcing spouses to make a mess out of everything during a divorce case. In this article, I’ll tell you about five things that will turn your divorce case into a train wreck.

Divorce is tough. It’s emotional. Your soon to be ex-spouse may also be a complete bag of (insert preferred expletive). Maybe they’re so bad that you’re considering doing whatever you can to stick it to him/her during your divorce case out of spite.

Maybe spousal retribution isn’t your goal, but you’re just so emotional about the ordeal, you don’t know

I’ve seen clients employ these five tactics with great success… if your goal is screwing up your divorce. Read on and learn the secrets so you too can turn your divorce case into a train wreck, or avoid it (the preferable goal).*

 

1. Listen to everyone but your lawyer.

divorce case

If you really want to make sure your divorce is a gruesome train wreck, be sure to listen to everyone except your attorney.

Base your expectations for your case on what everyone but your lawyer says will or should happen in your divorce. Do this regardless of whether these people are Omaha family law attorneys familiar with the facts of your case, or laypeople who watched that Divorce Court TV show a time or two.

Pay attention to what your friend got in their divorce, or what you heard your friend’s friend got in theirs. Even if their circumstances are completely different from yours.

Set unrealistic goals based on the unrealistic expectations you’ve made… no matter what your lawyer says.*

 

2. Use your kids as a weapon.

divorce case

Use your kids to make your spouse suffer. Tell your kids what a giant bag of monkey turds their other parent is. (Double bonus if you can actually make your kids dislike the other parent and refuse to spend parenting time with them.)

Sure the judge may not like it, and it’ll probably eventually backfire on your and end up damaging your kids, but just think of how ticked your spouse will be in the meantime.

Also consider teaching your kids to spy on your ex and tell you everything. It just makes sense. They work cheap, they’re small, and can easily go unnoticed.

Psychology experts would poo-poo all of these ideas. Remember, though, they would be concerned with your child’s best interests. All you care about is wrecking your divorce, no matter the impact on your kids.*

 

3. Order or suggestion? You decide.

divorce case

If you don’t like the judge’s Order, do what you want. The Order is probably just a guideline or a suggestion anyway. It’s not like it’s a Court Order…

Wait — uhh, well. I guess it is a Court Order. But still.

Your lawyer might say fancy words like “willful disobedience,” “show case” and “contempt.” The important thing here is making your spouse suffer and making yourself feel good for a little while. (Plus, your friend Larry says your lawyer is wrong.)*

 

4. Make a scene on social media.

divorce case

The more photographic evidence of your inappropriate behavior you post on social media, the better to irritate your spouse with. It’ll show them you’ve moved on. If your child’s a social media connection, make sure they also see the post and point it out to your spouse.

Social media is also a great place to publicly embarrass your spouse by airing your grievances and/or posting private things about them. Who cares if it does long-term damage to your ability to work with your spouse to parent your kids. This is about short-term revenge.*

 

5. Freak out.

divorce case

If your spouse says things like, “I’m going to get full custody,” or, “I’m taking you to the cleaners,” believe them. Freak out every time they say something l like that. It will wreck your divorce case really well.

Although probably lacking a law degree, your spouse is likely psychic or knows something you don’t. Also, your spouse’s lawyer is presumably awesome and your lawyer is, in all likelihood, a clown — just like your spouse keeps telling you.

The ideal reaction is to freak out. A lot. Really flip out. Lose sleep, don’t eat, and be sure to tell your kids all about it (refer back to number two). Ultimately, your goal is to dance like a marionette every time your spouse pulls your strings.

Also, habitually call or email your lawyer to report your spouse’s prophecies. Ask your lawyer for a detailed plan regarding how they intend to stop each and every one of your spouse’s predictions from coming to fruition. Not only will this help screw up your divorce, it will also make your legal bills skyrocket.*

 

divorce case

Hightower Reff Law doesn’t endorse any of these, and strongly suggests you do the opposite.

 

Consider keeping your nose on your face instead. 

Doing any or all of these things is likely to make your divorce case take longer and cost both you and your spouse more. More in financial and emotional resources.

If you choose to turn your divorce case into a train wreck instead of behaving prudently, you’ll also have to wait longer before you can move on with life.

Notice that I’m talking about you, not your spouse? If making the divorce tougher to spite your spouse is your goal, you may accomplish it. However, you’re also quite likely to cut off your own nose to spite your face.

Consider as well that acting in these ways is likely to harm your credibility with the court. Bad behavior that calls into question your parental judgment or fitness could also negatively affect your child custody case.  Moreover, in some circumstances, the court could sanction you for contempt of court. (Your friend Larry is wrong.)

At any rate, if you act badly during your divorce case, you’ll cause major collateral damage. The victims likely to be hurt most… your children.

 

*Hightower Reff Law doesn’t endorse train wrecks.

As you may have gathered, Hightower Reff Law doesn’t endorse these ill-advised spite tactics or purposefully turning your divorce into a train wreck in any way. We strongly suggest you not try these five ways to turn your divorce case into a train wreck, or any others.

These kinds of bad behaviors are very likely to harm the outcome of your divorce case and/or damage your family relationships. Most concerning, some of these emotionally driven, poor choices hurt children.

I hope this information will help readers avoid these mistakes. The client who makes well reasoned, rational choices, instead of emotional poor choices can be at peace, knowing their family relationships and children won’t suffer avoidable negative consequences.


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.  


Author, Hightower Reff  Partner Attorney Susan Reff, is a well respected Omaha, Nebraska family law and criminal law attorney with more than fifteen years of law practice experience. For more about Susan, visit her profile page.

If you need help with an Omaha area divorce or other Omaha family law case, contact Hightower Reff Law today and come visit with one of the attorneys at the Omaha office. 

Omaha’s Hightower Reff Law and Leadership go Hand in Hand

For the second time in as many years, a Hightower Reff Law attorney has been named to the annual Omaha New Leaders Council Class of Fellows.

Congratulations Hightower Reff attorney Scott Hahn!
For details about Hightower Reff Attorney Scott Hahn, visit his profile page.

More information about Scott’s divorce practice is available here.

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

Pet Custody in Divorce – Who Gets the Family Beagle?

Pet Custody in DivorceMany families include members with four paws instead of hands and feet. Pet custody or pet possession issues are seeing more litigation in divorce courtrooms in recent years.

In a recent survey from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, more than 25 percent of attorneys report they noticed an increase in the number of couples who have fought over pet custody during the past five years.

Some courts across the United States are changing their approach to the pet custody issue.

You get the Crockpot. I get the Cat.

Like most states, Nebraska considers pets to be personal property, so they are technically subject to the same rules of equitable division in a divorce case as would be a crockpot or a living room furniture set.

Also, like any other personal property, because a dog can’t be split in half, if divorcing couples can’t agree on who gets custody of a pet after the divorce, some courts will force the pet to be sold and the proceeds of the sale divided between the parties.

But You’ve Never Loved a Casserole Dish Like This 

As attitudes toward pets change and they are seen as more part of the family, the legal analysis is showing signs of changing, too. Some courts are recognizing that pets aren’t quite the same as a casserole dish or a car.

There are feelings attached to pets and many believe those feelings run both ways – not just from the human to the pet, but from the pet to the human as well.

Best Interests Arguments – for Children and Chihuahuas

Courts in some states are starting to treat pets – usually dogs – almost in the same way as children when it comes to pet custody and considering the best interests of the animal in the pet custody decision. Some judges have even awarded visitation rights or joint custody. Because pets are still considered property, however, courts will usually term it something else, like “alternating possession.”

In some cases where child custody is also at issue, there may be an argument that that what’s in the best interest of the child may include custody of the pet.

How Scooping Poop Could Win Your Pet Custody Case

Many courts just don’t have the time to monitor ongoing disputes that could arise over time when there are pet visitation or joint pet custody arrangements for a pet in a divorce case. Also, the court’s packed calendar may make it necessary to deal with the pet possession issue as expediently as possible at trial. As a result, some courts will look at equitable principals to determine who has the better claim to ownership.

Most often the court will look at factors like who was the animal’s primary caregiver – who walked the dog, scooped the poop, took the dog or cat to the vet and the groomer, bought the food, etc. Saying that scooping poop could win your case may be a bit of an overstatement, but it could be a factor in proving that you are the primary caregiver – which, for many courts, could be the deciding factor that firms up the finding for Fido.

Take Control of Fido’s Fate 

The alternatives a court might come up with if an agreement can’t be reached by you and your soon-to-be ex may not always be good ones. Selling a beloved family pet isn’t something most people we’ve worked with at Hightower Reff Law want to do. A good way to avoid the possibility is to take control yourself through mediation.

In mediation, both parties sit down with a neutral third party who is a trained mediator and work out a solution to the pet custody problem – much like they would work out a solution to child custody issues.

When an issue has such emotional significance, it’s far too important to leave the decision in the hands of someone else. In our many years of practice, the attorneys at Hightower Reff Law have found that our clients are almost always more satisfied with – and more likely to follow – an agreement they reached themselves in mediation rather than an order handed down by a court.

What to Look for in a Lawyer

If your divorce involves a family pet that’s important to you, bring up the issue in your initial consultation with an attorney. Make sure he or she is familiar with pet custody or possession issues, understands that your pet is important and will take seriously your concerns and goals regarding your pet.

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. 


Tracy and Maya
Tracy and Maya

About the Author

Pictured are author Tracy Hightower-Henne, and her 7-year-old Great Dane, Maya.

Tracy says that, true to form, Maya does not realize her size, and fancies her self a true lap dog. Maya’s favorite things are: lap-based snuggles, long walks, playing tug with any kind of toy, getting lots of pets, and lap-based snuggles (she likes lap-based snuggles so much, they must be mentioned twice).

Tracy has had furry family members since her childhood. Right now, the furry family members outnumber the non-furry ones in her house. “We got Maya right before my husband and I got married. We also have 2 cats. Our pets are truly part of our family and we treat them like part of the family. They are definitely spoiled at our house. When a client tells me that keeping their pet in their divorce case is important to them, I get it. I know what it’s like to love your pets and to treat them like family.”


For more details about the author, Hightower Reff attorney Tracy Hightower, visit her profile page at our main website.

To learn about Hightower Reff’s family law practice, visit our main website.

Need to Change a Nebraska Custody or Child Support Order? 4 Things You Need to Know

4thingsaboutmodificationhrlawAt Hightower Reff Law in Omaha, Nebraska, we often meet with clients who come in confused about what to do when their parenting plan isn’t working for them anymore and they need to change a Nebraska child custody order or change a Nebraska child support order.

Sometimes when a child support or child custody decree that was entered in the past doesn’t work anymore, there is something you can do about it. In some cases, you can change or modify custody. It’s called — simply enough — a modification case.

1.  No Magic…but Some Musts 

There’s really no magic number of months or years to wait to try a change a Nebraska child custody order. However, to convince a court to modify a domestic relations order, your case has to meet some basic criteria:

  • The child domestic relations order has to be a final order (temporary orders can’t be modified)
  • There  material change in circumstances that:
  • happened after the entry of the original decree or any previous modification, and
  • was not contemplated when the decree or last order of modification was entered
  • If it’s an order of child support, Nebraska law considers a material change in financial circumstances to be:
    • One that results in a change of 10 percent or more, but not less than $25, upward or downward, of the current child support obligation, child care obligation, or health care obligation

and

2. The Why’s Matter 

If the parent’s income is lower when the original order was entered, the court will look at the reason for the reduction and whether it was in bad faith if the parent did it on purpose in a Nebraska child custody modification case. The biggest consideration, however, is best interests of the child.

In addition to financial issues, the court will also consider other circumstances of the parties or the child – like  health –  when it’s as a material change in circumstances for modifying Nebraska child support.

3. Other Orders/Issues that may be Able to be Modified:

  • parenting time
  • spousal support
  • removal of the child from the jurisdiction if a parent wants to relocate with the child

4. Orders From Elsewhere 

If  a court in another state entered the Nebraska child support order in question, you may be able to modify it in Nebraska.

That’s a question of jurisdiction that will need to be addressed after an in-depth consultation with an experienced attorney, like those at Hightower Reff Law, because whether you are likely to be successful in your attempt to change your Nebraska child support or child custody order can change in your based upon small changes in fact.

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 at our main website.

To learn about Hightower Reff’s Family Law Practice, visit our main website.