In Nebraska a divorce is called a dissolution of marriage. For any married couple, this will always accomplish two things: (1) severing the marital relationship, and (2) dividing assets and debts. If they have been married for a significant length of time and one of them will be unable to be self-supporting after the divorce, the issue of alimony may also arise. If there are minor children, they will also need to resolve issues of child custody and support.
Residency and Where to File
In order to file for dissolution in Nebraska, one of the following situations must exist: (1) either you or your spouse has been a resident of Nebraska for at least 1 year, or (2) you were married in Nebraska, and either you or your spouse has lived in the state for the entire time you have been married. You may file in the District Court in the county where either party resides.
The simplest procedure is an uncontested divorce in which you and your spouse can reach an agreement about the division of your property, and, if you have any children, what arrangements will be made for them. (A case may also be uncontested where your spouse simply allows the case to proceed as you wish, without any active opposition.) You begin the procedure by preparing a document called a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, along with various other supporting documents. If there is full agreement and cooperation, you and your spouse may file a joint petition, which lists both parties as co-petitioners. Otherwise, the person filing is designated as the petitioner, and the other party is the respondent.
For an uncontested dissolution, one of the documents you will file is a marital settlement agreement outlining the division of assets, and your agreement regarding any children. The documents are filed with the court, and copies of them are provided to your spouse. You will attend a court hearing, at which time the judge will make sure that all of your paperwork is in order, perhaps ask you a few questions, and enter your Decree of Dissolution of Marriage.
Grounds for Divorce
Grounds are legally recognized reasons to get a dissolution. This is the justification for severing the marital relationship. Nebraska, like most states, has what are commonly called no-fault grounds for dissolution. Unlike most states, there are no fault-based grounds. To get a dissolution in Nebraska you need to state in the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage that “the marriage of the parties is irretrievably broken.”
A dissolution involves dividing property and debts between you and your spouse. In Nebraska, all property is considered marital property, although the fact that property was acquired before marriage, or by gift or inheritance, is considered as part of the “circumstances of the parties.” Absent an agreement regarding the division of property and debts, the judge will decide the matter, after considering the following factors:
- the circumstances of the parties,
- the duration of the marriage,
- each party’s contributions to the marriage, including the care and education of the children, and any interruption of personal careers or educational opportunities, and
- the ability of the party seeking alimony to engage in gainful employment without interfering with the interests of any minor children in the custody of that party.
Alimony in Nebraska
Nebraska alimony law provides that alimony may be awarded to one party “to provide for the continued maintenance or support…when the relative economic circumstances…make it appropriate.” Absent an agreement of the parties, the judge will determine the issue of alimony, after considering the same factors listed above for property division.
Child Custody in Nebraska
If you and your spouse have any minor children, there will have to be a custody determination. Custody has two aspects: physical custody (where the child will live), and legal custody (parental decision-making). Traditionally, one parent was awarded physical custody, and the other was given visitation rights. The children lived most of the time with the custodial parent, who made the day-to-day decisions regarding the children. The non-custodial parent was allotted certain times to have visitation with the children, although he or she was typically given an equal say in making major decisions regarding the children. This often led to the custodial parent having significantly more involvement in the child’s life than the non-custodial parent.
The modern trend is to try to keep both parents actively involved with their children, which has led to the concept of joint custody, and Nebraska child custody law now uses the terms parenting plan and parenting arrangement. It all still comes down to figuring out how the children’s time will be divided between the parents, and how decisions will be made.
If you and your spouse can reach an agreement on custody, it will be accepted by the judge unless it is determined not to be in the child’s best interest. If you cannot reach a custody agreement, the judge will decide the issue, based upon what is in the best interests of the child, after considering the following factors:
- the relationship of the child to each party prior to the commencement of the dissolution action or any subsequent hearing,
- the wishes of the child, if the child is of an age of comprehension, but regardless of chronological age, when such wishes are based on sound reasoning,
- the general health, welfare, and social behavior of the child,
- any credible evidence of abuse inflicted on any family or household member, and
- any credible evidence of child abuse or neglect or domestic intimate partner abuse.
Child Support in Nebraska
A decision must also be made about how the children will be financially supported. This almost always comes down to one parent paying money to the other. Child support is determined by taking into account the needs of the child, and each parent’s relative ability to meet those needs. This is determined by reference to the Nebraska Child Support Guidelines. The guidelines, including child support calculation worksheets, may be found on the Nebraska Supreme Court website.
No hearing may be held until at least 60 days after the respondent is served with the summons and petition. Either spouse may request that a former name be restored. A decree of dissolution of marriage is not considered final until 6 months after it is issued.
If you and your spouse agree on the major issues, an online divorce may be right for you. Otherwise, you can talk to an attorney to get advice or help filing for divorce with the LegalZoom personal legal plan.