Oftentimes when people are thinking about getting a divorce, their thoughts can fluctuate, causing confusion and a range of other emotions. Feelings of anger and thoughts of lashing out might even begin to creep inside their head. However, it is important that you do not make any long-term decisions coming from this emotional state. Instead, educate yourself on the next steps in the divorce process and what your rights are so you can make informed decisions. If you want a divorce and you live in Nebraska, what are your next steps?
I Want a Divorce, What Do I Do?
First, Have a Plan
Before rushing to the Courthouse to file your divorce action, think it through and have a plan.
- Gather your financial information. Do you have an idea of what your debts and assets are? Do you know what is in your spouse’s name? You can save yourself a lot of time and trouble if you have a good idea of what your marital estate is before you file the divorce and before things get adversary or more adversary.
- Day-to-day. When you file the divorce, you may not want to be living in the same home as your spouse while the divorce is pending. Do you have a plan as to where you will live while the divorce is pending? Can you afford to pay the bills in your name if you are soon living separate and apart?
- Plans for the Children. If you think the divorce is stressful for you, it is likely to be even more so for your children. Do you have a plan as to who will take them to school and activities during this transitionary period? Have you discussed custody arrangements with your spouse?
If you are questioning any of these things, it often makes sense to speak with a divorce attorney before filing the divorce. If you aren’t sure what your plan is, having information as to what your rights are can help you decide how to move forward.
Then, Approach the Courts: The Legal Beginning
To start a divorce action, you have to file a court action. In Nebraska, you start your divorce action by filing the Complaint for Dissolution of Marriage. You will be required to pay a court filing fee ($161 as of the time of this blog) and also file confidential documents with your statistical information (date of birth, social security number, etc.). Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may also file additional paperwork at the same time for serving the other party or for special requests (emergency custody).
Even in uncontested cases where you may never once have to appear in Court, the divorce paperwork must be filed through the Court to start the action.
It can be difficult to predict how a divorce will go once the process has been started. Keep in mind that filing the Complaint is just the start of the action. Depending on your circumstances, you may have your simple divorce wrapped up in less than a few months or the Complaint may just be the start of a year-long process of unraveling your lives together.
But, Should I First Inform My Partner?
The answer to this question is usually yes, but not always. Many people can part ways in a relatively amicable, peaceable way. Many people can agree to something that they both believe is fair, or fair enough, and move on with their lives without too much court involvement.
For others, the answer is no. Especially in cases where there has been physical abuse between the spouses, you may need to get away before filing anything with the Court. These cases are often ones where pre-planning is especially important, if at all possible.
You often know your partner better than anyone. Will they cooperate more if you speak to your spouse before filing? Will they respond better to a letter from your attorney? Will they want to avoid the divorce at all costs and sheriff service is the best first option? Your divorce attorney will be able to talk you through your options. Once your divorce action is filed, you will need to serve your spouse to give them “notice” of the divorce action now pending.
At Court: What Happens Next?
Once your divorce is filed and the other party has been served, what happens next really depends on the case.
In an uncontested divorce
This is gathering your financial paperwork and drafting your proposed divorce decree. If both parties are in agreement, the divorce paperwork can be signed after any mandatory waiting period has passed. In Nebraska, there is a 60-day mandatory waiting period from the time your spouse is served. In an uncontested divorce, the parties can sign off on a divorce decree and a waiver of the final hearing after the 60 days is up. The paperwork is then submitted to the Court for Judge to review and approve. Your divorce is then complete without ever having to step foot in a courtroom.
For Divorces that are contested
You will likely attend one or more hearings. In cases with disputed alimony or child custody issues, a temporary hearing will likely be set soon after the other party is served. In Nebraska, this temporary hearing is usually set around a month after the other party is served. (Your attorney has to file a motion and request this hearing). Even for cases that start out contested, this temporary hearing is often the only hearing you have. Most cases do settle without a full trial. The feedback from the judge at the temporary hearing can often give the parties insight as to what the judge may rule at trial. The parties then use this insight to reach their own agreement without a full-blown trial in front of the judge.
If your case does go to trial, expect to wait. Many judges require you to first complete the financial disclosures (discovery) and court-ordered mediation of certain issues (such as custody) before the Court will give you a trial date. When you’ve completed the steps necessary to be granted a trial date, the next available trial date is often a number of months down the road. Some Judges routinely assign a trial date very soon after the divorce case is filed, but then the trial date is usually six months or more away. In short, if your case goes to trial, you are going to be married for a bit longer.
Some people have the impression that the judge is presented with all your assets and debts and the judge decides the fairest way to divide these between the parties. Actually, very rarely is that the case. Even in cases that go to trial, the parties generally have many aspects of the case decided between the parties. The judge just rules on the remaining issues. In the vast majority of cases, the parties divide their personal items and property of lower value without any specific court order. Generally, either a dispute involving custody or determining the value of larger items (the house, a small business, etc.) are the remaining issues left for a judge to decide when the case goes to trial. It is usually the attorney, not the judge, that actually prepares the divorce decree.
You are “divorced” once the divorce decree is signed by the Judge and entered by the Clerk. However, depending on your assets, there may be quite a bit of additional paperwork needed after the divorce to properly transfer assets or titles pursuant to the terms of the divorce decree.
I think I’m ready to file. Now what?
Divorce can happen for many different reasons and often takes an emotional toll. Whether contested or not, you have an obligation to yourself to try to make logical and informed decisions in your divorce case. Although you aren’t required to have an attorney, you can help protect yourself and your future by having an attorney advise you and guide you through the process. Consulting an attorney should be one of your first steps.
Filing for Divorce in Nebraska – No Children and No Disputed Property
Filing for Divorce in Nebraska — With Children But With No Custody Disputes, Visitation Disputes or Property Disputes
Law Office of Julie Fowler, PC, LLO | Divorce Lawyers Omaha
Child Custody | Child Support | Divorce Lawyers Omaha
If you are looking for an attorney in a child support case or divorce in Omaha, Nebraska, or the surrounding areas (including Papillion, Bellevue, Gretna, Elkhorn, Lincoln, Nebraska City, Sarpy, and Lancaster), contact our office to set up a consultation.