Unfortunately, not all marriages last forever. After years of marriage, you've grown apart from your spouse and you are considering divorce. You've tried to do what you can to try to fix your marriage, but you've ultimately decided that your marriage is broken and there is no fixing it. How do you go about getting divorced from your spouse in Nebraska?
Most people probably think that it will be necessary to hire an attorney in order to get divorced in Nebraska. However, if you are trying to save money and you and your spouse are agreeable about divorcing, it is possible for you to file the necessary paperwork with your local court to proceed to get divorced.
Preparing Nebraska Divorce Forms
If you decide you would like to undergo the divorce process while representing yourself, you will need to complete some documentation. Luckily, the State of Nebraska provides the forms online, from the Nebraska Supreme Court's online self-help center. These are official forms, but you should double-check with your local court rules in order to ensure that there are no additional requirements in your given judicial district.
The Nebraska Supreme Court provides simple divorce forms for couples with and without children. It's important to use the right forms for your case. Be thorough and complete in responding to the questions. If you are confused by certain legal terms, the Nebraska courts offer an online glossary of legal terms.
Keep in mind, I would say that you should only use the Nebraska court forms for simple divorces where all the following statements are true:
- You have no minor children together or if you do, you've settled all custody and visitation terms,
- Neither spouse has a pension, retirement plan, ongoing business, or real property, and
- Neither spouse is seeking alimony.
The necessary forms that you have to complete differ depending on whether you have children. If you and your spouse have minor children, you need to use the Simple Divorce With Children forms. In the alternative, if you don't have any minor children together, you should use the Simple Divorce without Children forms. You can fill out the forms online, or print them off and fill them out.
Couples With Children
If you and your spouse have minor children, then you'll need to agree on a custody arrangement that supports your children's best interests. If you can't resolve this, you'll have to go to court, where a judge will decide for you.
You can start by completing the Complaint for Dissolution of Marriage with Children, the Confidential Party and Social Security Information Form, and the Vital Statistics Certificate. You may wish to prepare the Financial Affidavit for Child Support and the Parenting Plan as well, but the Complaint, Confidential Forms, and Vital Statistics Certificate are what you need to complete to get the divorce started.
Don't sign any affidavits, oaths, or sworn statements unless you're in the presence of a notary. Most of the forms come with separate instructions, which you should read before starting and keep handy as you work.
Couples Without Children
If you and your spouse don't have minor children, then download and complete the Complaint for Dissolution of Marriage without Children, the Confidential Party and Social Security, Gender, and Birth Dates form, and the Vital Statistics Certificate. Make sure to read all the instructions and don't sign any affidavits, oaths, or sworn statements unless a notary is present.
Filing Your Forms
If you've met jurisdictional requirements by living in Nebraska for at least one year, you may be ready to file for divorce. Make two copies of all documents and hold onto the original. Eventually you will give the original to the court, one copy to the defendant, and keep the last one for yourself.
Go to your local courthouse (this is the courthouse in the county where you or your spouse are living) and ask to file the Complaint, and the Vital Statistics Certificate. Check your local rules about whether you need to file the Confidential Party Information and Social Security forms.
You'll need to pay a filing fee unless you complete the Affidavit and Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis and the court agrees that the fee should be waived because you're indigent, which means that you cannot afford the fee.
Once you've paid the fee, or had the fee waived, and presented the correct, complete forms, the clerk will create a divorce file and assign it a case number that will go on all future documents. Serve your spouse as soon as possible after filing your case. If you don't serve your spouse within six months of filing the complaint, your divorce case will be automatically dismissed.
Serving Your Forms
When you've prepared and filed your forms, you should immediately serve your spouse with the documents so you spouse is aware of the divorce case and has the opportunity to answer.
If your spouse is in pro se, i.e., your spouse does not have an attorney, then you should serve your spouse directly at your spouse's home address. If your spouse has hired a lawyer, serve your spouse's attorney at the lawyer's office.
If you're the plaintiff, special service rules apply. You have two basic options:
- If you think your spouse will cooperate, you can provide your spouse with a Voluntary Appearance form to sign and a copy of the complaint. Your spouse will need to sign the Voluntary Appearance and give it back to you so you can go back to the courthouse and file it as "proof of service." A Voluntary Appearance won't work if your spouse won't sign it.
- Alternatively, you may prepare a Praecipe for Summons, which is a document that enables you to have a sheriff serve the documents personally by handing them to the defendant.
Different rules may apply if you're trying to serve someone who is very hard to locate, such a spouse who is in the military, out-of-state, in jail, or simply trying to avoid you. Check with your clerk of court for more information in these unusual situations.
After the plaintiff serves the defendant, the defendant has 30 days to file an Answer and Counterclaim.
Once the defendant has been served with the Complaint, there is a waiting period of 60 days that comes into effect, and a Nebraska Court is unable to sign off on a Divorce Decree until this 60-day waiting period elapses. Realistically, many divorces last longer than the 60-day waiting period, but if you and your spouse are agreeable to the terms of your divorce, it is possible to get your divorce approved by the Court and finalized once the 60-day waiting period is over.
If you have minor children with your spouse, in addition to dividing your marital property through the divorce, custody, visitation, and child support will need to be addressed.
I'm often asked in divorce cases whether the parties can agree that no child support would be due to the other spouse. The answer is: it depends. Child support is an entitlement of the child and it is generally understood that a child should benefit from both parents. Generally, even in very low income cases, a minimum monthly support of $50, or 10% of the payor's net income, is set by the court and is done to encourage the payor to understanding the importance of supporting his or her children. There are situations where exceptions to this rule apply and a Court may deviate from the child support guidelines in effect, which may result in no child support being due. This can be tricky to accomplish and there is no guarantee that the Court will ultimately agree to deviate from the child support guidelines in effect.
You will likely have to attend mediation in an effort to attempt to resolve issues with your divorce. In mediation, an approved mediator, who is an uninterested and unbiased individual, will speak with you and your spouse and will attempt to work out an agreement concerning the issues involved with your case. If you are not successful with mediation, meaning that you leave and there are still outstanding issues with your divorce, the case will continue on and will proceed toward Trial/Final Hearing where your case would be heard by a judge and the judge would then decide how to resolve the issues presented to him/her.
If you have children, both you and your spouse will likely have to attend a parenting class. There are different levels of classes available, though most couples end up taking the lowest level, and this can normally be done online.
When You Should Hire an Attorney
There are a number of reasons why you might decide to hire an attorney to assist you with your divorce, including:
- Your spouse has an attorney and you would be at a great disadvantage if you decided to represent yourself;
- Your divorce is going to be contested by your spouse and the case may proceed to trial;
- You want to make sure that you get your fair share of assets and debts in the divorce;
- You want to ensure that your rights are protected;
- There is a history of domestic violence, child abuse, substance abuse;
- Providing you with Peace of Mind. Knowing that you have an expert on your side throughout your divorce can alleviate a lot of stress and anxiety. Not saying that your divorce will be stress-free if you hire an attorney, but having an experienced attorney assist you can make the divorce process substantially easier.
I have assisted a number of York residents and residents of greater Nebraska with their divorce and/or family law concerns. I have substantial trial experience if a trial would become necessary, and I am here to provide you with Peace of Mind throughout your divorce.
Clinch Law Firm, LLC offers in-person, virtual, and telephone appointments for York County and the surrounding areas, including Seward County, Fillmore County, Hamilton County, Merrick County and more! Call us at 402-908-5699 to schedule a consultation at our York office, or feel free to schedule a complimentary 30-minute telephone appointment for a time that works for you here: Appointment Scheduler. Virtual appointments are also available, upon request.