Frequently Asked Questions About Divorce
and Family Law

Q: When can I start dating other people?

A: The technical answer to this question is that from the date the Petition is filed, the divorce process is considered started and it is technically allowable to date. However, we always tell our clients that they should not begin dating until the case is concluded. This is for a number of reasons. First, the quickest way to get the other side angry and in no mood to cooperate is to immediately bring another person onto the scene.

Secondly, if you have children, it may be too difficult for them to deal with the divorce and deal with another new person; they need to be given time (and hopefully counseling) to help deal with their feelings and should never be introduced to a new person unless and until the parent feels this will be a long-term relationship. Finally, for their own mental and emotional well-being, clients need to give themselves time (and counseling) to deal with all these emotions. Adding another person to the mix usually makes for a longer more difficult divorce and a longer period of recovery afterwards.

Q: How long will the divorce take?

A: The more fighting, the longer the case takes, because in those situations each issue is contested. Also, it can depend on how much information is agreed upon and how much information needs to be gathered. If you are convinced that your spouse has assets hidden, then much time and expense can be spent in trying to track assets. If, however, you both pretty much know what there is, where it is and how much it's worth, this cuts the time required dramatically. Finally, the county and judge assignment makes a difference. In Sarpy County, the cases are usually concluded within 3-4 months. In Douglas County it can take over 1-1/2 years to get a trial date, depending on the judge and how back-logged his docket.

Q: What if my spouse says they won't give me a divorce.

A: Many people have seen TV shows or movies where one spouse has threatened they wouldn't "give" the other spouse a divorce. Although this mattered under the old fault laws, it does not matter today. Nebraska is a no-fault divorce state, which means that as long as one person believes the marriage is "irretrievably broken", the Court must grant the divorce. Even if the other party does not believe so, it does not matter and the Court must grant the divorce. What people fight over now is not the granting of the divorce, but custody, child support, property and debt division, etc.

Q: My spouse says they will never pay me child support no matter what the Court says. What do I do now?

A: If your spouse does not pay the support they are ordered to pay, the Court has the authority to put them in jail to make them do so, and most of the judges will do this to people who refuse to provide for their children.

The state has set up Child Support Enforcement Offices where at no charge to you, lawyers will file the necessary documents with the Court to force your ex-spouse to pay the support they were ordered to pay. If your ex-spouse moves to another state, each state has reciprocal laws where the child support office of that state will register your divorce decree in the state where your ex-spouse is working and will enforce the court order through garnishing wages, etc.

Q: My oldest child is 20 and still living at home and going to college. Will my spouse have to pay child support for this child?

A: The obligation to provide child support for a child ends at the age of majority, which is the age of 19. The Court cannot order child support beyond the age of majority in those circumstances. If your spouse would agree to provide support for this child and would agree to include that in the final divorce decree, the Court can approve this type of voluntary agreement. Also, in awarding alimony, the Court can give some consideration to the monthly expenses of the spouse who is providing for a child who is still living at home, although this is very speculative.

Q: Who gets temporary possession of the house and when?

A: The Court cannot remove someone from their home until there has been a hearing. At the time of the filing of the Divorce Petition, it is very common to file a Motion for Temporary Allowances, asking for, among other things, temporary child custody, temporary support, and temporary possession of the family residence. It usually takes 10 days to 2 weeks to have this hearing scheduled, depending on the judge to which the case is assigned. At the hearing the Court will consider such issues as the best interests of the children, the cost, the difficulty of either party moving, whether or not both parties could remain in the home, etc. to decide who will remain in the home and how soon the other party must vacate.

Q: Can I keep the notice of the divorce out of the newspaper?

A: No. This is public information and the newspapers are allowed to print this information. The notice will appear two times. First when the divorce is filed and second when the final decree is entered.

Q: Does it matter who files?

A: Under the old fault laws, it could make a difference who filed, but today the only difference it makes is a strategic difference in court. The person who files is the person who presents their case first in the Temporary Hearing and at the final trial. This can be a benefit strategically, as the person who files "sets the tone" for the hearing or trial and the other side can very often be put in the position of having to answer the issues brought up by the person who filed. It can also matter if the two parties are living in different counties at the time of the filing.

Q: Does the husband always have to pay the attorney's fees for the wife?

A: Not usually. Years ago when men were primarily the breadwinners and women stayed at home and had very little, if any, income, men were typically ordered to pay the attorney's fees for the wife. However, in this day and age, the Court's position has become one of both parties are expected to work and attorney's fees are usually awarded only where one parties' income is much larger than the other party. This is an issue that can vary dramatically from judge to judge.

Q: How much will child support be and how is it determined?

A: In Nebraska, child support is always ordered in line with the child support guidelines.

Q: Does the Court always follow the child support guidelines?

A: In Nebraska, in almost every situation the Court will follow the guidelines to the penny, especially if there is no dispute about how much income the paying parent makes (for example, they have a salary that does not change from month to month as opposed to a self-employed person whose income can vary dramatically from month to month. The only other variable that the courts have considered and given credit for is for extraordinary ongoing medical expenses on the part of the payor.

Q: Are overtime and bonuses included in the income calculation for the child support guidelines?

A: If they are usual and regular they are included. The Court will usually take the average figures for computing the guidelines, rather than the high end of a pay stub that contains many hours of unusual overtime.

Q: How can I protect my pre-marital or non-marital assets?
A: Keep them separate. Keep cash in separate accounts with only your name. Do not commingle, or "mix" marital money with non-marital money. Don't put your spouse's name on the title of any pre-marital home, car, etc. If you do spend pre-marital or non-marital money on your house (for example for the down payment) keep very clear documentation of exactly where the money came from and where it went to.

Q: What if I haven't lived in Nebraska for one year? Can I still file for divorce?

A: No, but you can file for Legal Separation and then change the case to a divorce as soon as the one year period is up. With a Legal Separation, the Court will still make a determination of temporary child support and will order temporary child support and alimony, and determine who will have temporary possession of the house, just as in a divorce.


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