Back to Top

Frequently Asked Questions

Criminal Law

  • Jails are locally operated places of incarceration usually the county runs the jail.

  • Prisons are operated by the state government, or by the federal government (The Federal Bureau of Prisons).

  • A person who is being held in custody before a trial/has not yet paid bail/was only recently arrested will be held at a local jail, not in prison.
  • Jails are also a place for people who have been convicted of relatively minor crimes. A jail sentence is less than one year.
  • Defendants who are convicted of state crimes will serve their time in a state prison. Those who are convicted of a federal crime will serve their sentence in a federal prison. _ __Jails__don’t have many amenities for people serving time there, since they won’t be there for very long (although a jail sentence can seem like a very very long time). A county jail may have a work release program and services to combat substance abuse and address vocational needs of its inmates or it may provide only the basic necessities of housing, food, and safety.
  • Prisons often have work release programs, a halfway house service, classrooms for vocational training, and recreation and entertainment facilities.

Family Law

Unless there is a trial, you or your spouse will have to appear at a final hearing in order to get the Decree of Dissolution entered. This is called a “prove-up”.

It is held in open court, usually only with the judge and the court reporter present. Either you or your spouse are sworn in and then asked basic questions in order to prove the allegation in the Petition for Dissolution. These include: name, legal residence, how long you have been in Nebraska, date of the marriage, date of separation, names and ages of the children (if applicable) and if you believe the marriage is irretrievably broken. These hearings generally take between five and ten minutes.

Under Nebraska law, the purpose of alimony is to provide for the continued maintenance or support of one party by the other when the relative economic circumstances and the other criteria enumerated in this section make it appropriate. Except as otherwise agreed by the parties in writing or by order of the court, alimony orders shall terminate upon the death of either party or the remarriage of the recipient. This means there is no hard and fast rule about how much, how long or even if alimony will be awarded on a temporary or permanent basis. Each case is unique.

Absent extenuating circumstances, Judges in the larger Nebraska communities generally find that it is in the best interest of a child to have equal relationship with both parents, regardless of how the custody order is worded. Even where one parent has sole physical custody, the Judges often deviate from the established standard visitation in Nebraska of every other weekend and one night a week for the non-custodial parent. As a result, unless the other parent is a danger to the child, you will both continue to be involved in the child’s life... even if there is a step parent or other relationship you do not approve of.

Legal custody simply refers to the right of a parent to participate in major decisions affecting his/her children. Each parent has input on medical treatment, education and religion and is able to communicate with the child’s doctors, caregivers, teachers, etc, regardless of where physical custody lies. Physical custody refers to the amount of time a child spends with each parent. Court-ordered child support payments will be determined in part by the physical custody arrangement.

These are the most common questions when someone wants to get a divorce. The legal process can take up to a year. Some of that is within your control, most is not. The following are suggestions to help you keep your costs down, your stress reduced and your children out of the middle:

  • Don’t argue. It is very hard not to get caught up in the old “button-pushing” behavior with your spouse. It wasn’t productive during the marriage and won’t be productive now. Stay focused on the end goal and keep the arguments off the table. 
  • Set your goals. Let your attorney know what you want to come out of the process with. Be with your attorney to make sure you have realistic expectations regarding those goals. It is more expensive to run two households than one. Child support is set by the state. Budgets must be accurate.  
  • Find a good support system. This is a very sad and trying time in your life. A good friend and/therapist is vital during this time. Your attorney does care about your feelings, but is more concerned about the facts in your case. A good therapist or clergy or support group is better suited to helping you with your emotional issues. And a lot cheaper! 
  • Consider mediation. Very often the parties can sit down with a mediator and resolve many of the issues.Some attorneys will sit down without mediators and negotiate a property settlement with their clients.  It depends on the parties, the issues and the lawyers.  

No one wins in a divorce or in a custody battle.   Absent extenuating circumstances, Judges in the larger Nebraska communities generally find that it is in the best interest of a child to have equal relationship with both parents.  Even where one parent has sole physical custody, the Judges often deviate from the established standard visitation in Nebraska of every other weekend and one night a week for the non-custodial parent. As a result, unless the other parent is a danger to the child, you will both continue to be involved in the child's life... even if there is a stepparent or other relationship you do not approve of.

As for property settlements, no one wins. Period. When the Judge makes a decision, both spouses generally end up feeling like they lost. Your attorney can usually advise you of the general decisions Judges make in divorce trials, and what results you are likely to expect if your case goes to trial.

If death occurs without a will, Nebraska intestate succession laws will determine who inherits the property. Property is distributed based on how the Legislature expects that individuals will want it done, designating a spouse, children, and other family members as beneficiaries. Unfortunately, leaving distribution up to the state can be impersonal, distributing assets mechanically and not in accord with your wishes.

Generally your spouse is entitled to the first cut of your estate; the remaining heirs receive the remainder not inherited by your spouse. The amount received by your spouse will depend on which members of your family survive you. If you have no issue (children or grandchildren) or living parents, your spouse will receive the entire estate. If you have children with your spouse, or if you are survived by a parent, your spouse will receive the first $100,000 plus 1/2 of the balance, or if you have surviving issue that are not issue of the surviving spouse, your spouse receives 1/2 of the estate and your issue the other half. If if your issue or parents do not survive you, then your siblings or their children. If there are no other relatives – then the state of Nebraska takes your estate (called escheat).


As a client, you have the following responsibilities:

  1. Listen to and follow my advice. Use your family and friends for emotional support, not legal advice. Everyone has divorce stories and advice, but no one else know the legal ramifications in your case.
  2. Open communication. This means tell me the truth. Period. I need to be prepared to defend all of your actions, particularly in a custody case. It is much better to be proactive, not reactive.
  3. If there are children involved, your goal is to get through this process with as little disruption to you and your children’s lives as possible, and to provide them with stability. To that end, is imperative that you do not use illegal drugs (whether or not your children are with you); if you drink, drink sparingly; and do not date during the divorce process. It is much easier for you and your children in the long run. Doing any of these complicates matters, increases your attorney fees and drags out the process.
  4. I am ethically prohibited from representing both you and your spouse. If you and your spouse have agreed on everything, I may be able to process the paperwork, but I will represent only one of you. If you and your spouse disagree later, I will continue to represent only you.
  5. Pay your bill every month. I cannot continue to represent you if you do not pay your bill pursuant to the fee agreement you signed. For your convenience, credit cards are accepted. No exceptions will be made. Keep me apprised of all new contact information.


The mediation process relies on fairness, confidentiality and the ability of the parties to negotiate an agreement that the parties are comfortable with. If the other side does not object and the friend understands that he or she is also bound by the confidentiality agreement, it is usually acceptable. Often a third party waits outside of the mediation room if moral support is needed.

Unless you are court ordered into mediation or  the terms of the contract you signed require it before litigation ( a very common clause in  contracts today) you do not have to attend mediation. However, in all domestic relations cases involving children, under the Nebraska Parenting Act, you and your spouse/father/mother of your child must enter into a parenting plan. If the parties and their attorneys can’t negotiate a parenting plan, you must go to mediation with a court certified parenting act mediator.

There are special provisions for parenting plan mediations when there is domestic violence involved.