If you need help with a protection order, divorce, custody matter, or Indian Child Welfare Act case, we may be able to help. Our family law work focuses on protecting victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking.
Cases We Normally Handle:
For victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence or stalking:
- Domestic Violence Protection Orders
- Harassment Protection Orders
We may also be able to help with:
- We also handle a very wide range of family law cases involving Native Americans. Please contact us for details if you are facing a family law issue and you or your child is Native American.
If you have been hurt, threatened or assaulted and fear for your or a family member’s safety, you may need a Protection or Harassment Order. A Domestic Abuse Protection Order is for people who have been in a close relationship (relatives, spouses or former spouses, people who have lived or are living together). It is granted because someone attempted, threatened, caused bodily injury, or intimidated the other person by verbal, written, or physical threat.
A Harassment Protection Order does not depend upon relationships, but requires a number of telephone or personal contacts that seriously terrify, threaten or intimidate the victim and serve no legitimate purpose.
- Frequently Asked Divorce/Legal Separation Questions
- Divorce Handbook
- Frequently Asked Child Custody Questions
- Financial Matters and Domestic Violence
- Resources for Locating the Opposing Party
Q: What does Pro Se mean?
A: Pro Se means that you are representing yourself.
Q: What’s a Dissolution?
A: A Dissolution is the term used by the Nebraska Statutes for a divorce.
Q: What’s a Legal Separation?
In Nebraska you can get divorced if you have lived in Nebraska for one-year. If you have been in Nebraska for less than a year, there is another alternative. You can file for a legal separation.
In a legal separation case a Court can:
* Divide up property between the parties;
* Divide up debt between the parties; and
* Award alimony.
In a case involving children who have lived in Nebraska for 6 months, a Court also can:
* Decide the issues of custody and visitation; and
* Award child support.
The complaints for legal separation and divorce are a little different. Instead of alleging that there is no way you can save your marriage, you allege that you and your spouse live apart. Also, the caption in your complaint will read “Complaint for Legal Separation” instead of Complaint for Divorce.” A sample is attached.
A legal separation is like a divorce. But you remain married with a legal separation.
You can change your complaint for legal separation to a divorce complaint if:
* You have lived in Nebraska for one year before the legal separation is final.
o However, you may have to pay a filing fee when you change the complaint.
Once the court enters an order of legal separation, you cannot amend the complaint to ask for a divorce. Instead, you have to file a new complaint asking for a divorce.
You cannot marry someone else after you get an order of separation. You need a divorce to get re-married.
Even though a court can consider issues of custody and child support in a case for legal separation, special time rules apply.
Many of the documents you need for a divorce can be used for a separation. You can continue using this interview as if you are completing divorce proceedings. Just make sure that every reference to “divorce” is changed to “legal separation” before you file anything.
Q: Can I get an annulment since my spouse and I never lived together after our marriage?
A: No. Under Nebraska law, any one of the following five reasons will allow you to get an annulment: 1) the marriage between the parties is prohibited by law (for there to be a valid marriage, both parties must be at least 17 years of age and free from venereal disease); 2) either party is impotent at the time of the marriage; 3) either party had a spouse living at the time of the marriage, 4) either party was mentally ill or was mentally retarded at the time of the marriage; or 5) force or fraud.
The fact that you and your spouse never lived together and/or consumated your marriage does not give you a reason to ask for an annulment.
Q: What’s the difference between Legal Separation and Divorce?
A: There are two differences between a Legal Separation and a Divorce. Nebraska law requires that at least one party to a divorce has lived in this state for one year immediately prior to the filing of a Petition for Divorce. There is no such requirement for a Legal Separation.
A Legal Separation decides custody, support, property/debt division, etc. just like a Divorce, but the parties still remain married to each other.
Q: My spouse and I have been separated for a long time and I have had children during this time that are not my spouse’s. Is this a problem?
A: No, not necessarily. Under Nebraska law, any child born while his or her mother is married is presumed to be a child of the marriage. To prove otherwise, there must be some sort of evidence that the husband is not the father. For example, if identity of the father (paternity) has been established by the Court or the real father has signed a document stating he is the father, this would be enough to show that the husband is not the father of the children. If the husband or wife states that the child is not the husband’s, this is not enough proof for the Court.
If there is no evidence that the child is not the husband’s, the Court must find that the husband is the father and the Court will order the husband to pay child support.
Q: What if I don’t know where my spouse is?
A: The law requires that you must serve a copy of your Petition for Divorce upon your spouse. Service (notice that the divorce was filed) is generally obtained by having the sheriff give a copy of the petition to the other party either at home or at work.
Nebraska law provides that service may be obtained by “publication” with approval from the Court. This means that there will be a notice in your local newspaper that you have filed for divorce. Before the Court will let you publish your notice, you must have made a good effort to locate your spouse. You will have to complete an affidavit (a statement given under oath) describing the efforts you have made to locate an address where your spouse can be served. Unless you have tried all reasonable means to locate your spouse, the Court will not allow you to publish the notice.
Some examples of reasonable efforts are: contacting friends or family members to see if they can assist you in locating your spouse; internet searches; a letter sent to spouse’s last known address that is returned as undeliverable.
You should also know that if you get service by publication, the Court cannot enter any orders dealing with money issues (i.e. child support, alimony, debt division). If you are able to locate your spouse at some point in the future, you can go back to Court so that the judge can decide these issues.
Q: My spouse and I have divided all of our property and debt. Why do we have to include that in the divorce papers?
A: Every petition for divorce should contain some statement asking the Court to approve of the property and debt division. Many times, parties have been separated for a long period of time and things have already been split between them. In that case the Court simply wants to approve of the division. As a practical matter, the Court is not going to worry about the distribution you and your spouse have agreed to unless one of you objects or the Judge believes the distribution is not fair.
You should be aware, however, that certain debts may be your responsibility regardless of how you decide to divide them. For example, car loans and home mortgages that were obtained by both of the parties will likely continue to be the responsibility of both parties. Lenders are not eager to remove a party’s name from a note, since they have the right to seek repayment from either or both of the parties who signed the loan document.
If the Court orders your spouse to pay a debt and he or she does not, the creditor can require you to pay. If you do pay, all you can do is ask the Court find your former spouse in contempt for not paying the debt and try to collect the money you paid on the debt from your spouse
Again, if you obtain service on your spouse by publication, the Court cannot make any orders regarding property and debt division. Those issues can be addressed if you are able to locate your spouse at a later time.
Q: Shouldn’t I be able to get alimony? What about spousal support?
Spousal support and “alimony” are the same thing
Whether someone can get spousal support depends on a number of things including:
* How long you were married;
* The contributions each of you has made to the marriage;
* Whether one of you gave up working to raise your children;
* One party’s education, ability to get a good job, health, and income as compared to the other spouse;
* One person’s need for alimony and the other person’s ability to pay alimony; and
* Whether one of you is in a much better financial situation compared to the other spouse.
There are so many factors to consider in a decision about alimony that there is no basic standard for when alimony will be awarded by a court.
But a way to think about it is whether one spouse will be significantly economically disadvantaged as the result of a divorce. In that situation, alimony would be used to provide a certain level of support while the disadvantaged spouse gets on his or her economic feet.
There are a number of important things to remember about spousal support. Here are a few:
* It is a complicated issue.
* Generally it is a temporary bridge paid for a specified period of time. It is not intended to be a lifetime supplement to a person’s income.
* An award of spousal support could affect a person’s eligibility for public benefits, including Medicaid.
* If you get re-married, spousal support ends.
* To order spousal support, a court will need specific proof about differences in the parties’ ability to earn money, and why those differences exist.
* A court cannot order your spouse to pay alimony unless your spouse has been personally “served” with notice of the divorce or has “voluntarily appeared” before the court.
* If you do not ask for alimony at the time of the divorce, you give up the possibility of ever getting alimony.
Resources: Divorce in Nebraska, Dunne & Koenig, pp. 138-144 (Addicus Books, 2d Ed. 2013); Neb.Rev. Stat.§42-365.
Q: How long does all this take?
A: Under Nebraska law, the soonest a person can get a divorce is 60 days after papers are filed in Court. Realistically, the time is closer to 90-120 days.
If you are having the sheriff serve your spouse with the Petition for Divorce, the sheriff has 20 days from the date the summons is issued to get service. Once your spouse receives the Petition, he or she has 30 days in which to file an Answer. Nebraska law requires that a total of 60 days must pass after the date of service before a party can go in front of the Judge for a final hearing.
If you and your spouse are on good terms and he or she is willing to sign a Voluntary Appearance (a paper stating that he or she has received a copy of the Petition and does not wish to be served by the sheriff), you could cut out the 20 days the sheriff has to serve the Petition.
The Decree of Divorce will become final for purposes of appeal 30 days after it is signed. For purposes of continued health insurance and remarriage, the Decree is not final for six months. This means you cannot remarry anywhere in the world for six months after the Judge signs the Decree.
Q: I’m not sure what kind of custody arrangement is right. What do I do?
A: The answer to this question really depends upon how well you and your spouse are able to work together. Many clients say that they want joint custody with their spouse. This raises a question of what the parties think “joint custody” really means. There are four types of custody arrangements: Joint Legal Custody, Joint Physical Custody, Split Custody and Sole Custody.
Types of Custody
• In a joint legal custody arrangement, the children live primarily with one parent and the parent who doesn’t have the children has visitation or parenting time. Both parents are able to work together in making decisions involving the children. If an agreement cannot be reached in decisions involving the children, the parent who has custody of the children will decide. Before the Court will approve joint legal custody, both parties will have to testify that they are able to cooperate with each other for the children’s educational, medical and religious needs. Without that testimony, the Court will not enter an order for joint legal custody.
• A joint physical custody situation is one in which the children actually move from one parent’s home to the other for a specified amount of time (for example, school year with one parent and summers with the other OR alternate weeks with each parent).
• Split custody: This means the children are actually separated and do not live together with the same parent. Joint physical custody and split custody are generally not favored by the Court. The Court has concerns about separating children and shuffling them back and forth between parents.
• Sole custody occurs when physical custody is placed with one parent. The parent without the children is given visitation or parenting time with the children.
Q: My spouse has custody of our children and is planning to move from Nebraska after the divorce. Can he/she do that?
A: The parent who has custody of the children must get permission from the Court before moving the children from Nebraska. If the other parent does not object to the move, it will be approved. If the parent who doesn’t have custody of the children objects, there will be a hearing. The Court will approve the move if the parent with custody of the children proves that (1) there is a good reason for leaving the state and (2) it is in the children’s best interest to continue to live with that parent.
A good reason to leave the state is often found in the following situations:
• The parent’s occupation
• A career improvement
• The parent’s remarriage
This is not a complete list; it is only an example of the commonly raised reasons for such a request. The Court will consider whether there are similar career opportunities (in pay and type) available in Nebraska; however, wanting to move to more interesting or attractive surroundings is not a good enough reason to move with the children.
The second part of the test is that the move is in the children’s best interests. In determining whether this is the case, the Court will look at the following factors: will the move improve the quality of life for the parent and the children; motives of the parent for moving; motives of the other parent for fighting the move; visitation or parenting time of the parent without custody of the children and whether reasonable and realistic visitation schedules can be made if the move is approved.
Q: I don’t know what kind of visitation to ask for. What should I do?
A: The answer to this question also depends upon how well you and your spouse are able to work together. Some couples feel that they can work together to establish reasonable visitation and want the flexibility of not having a set visitation schedule. Others feel more comfortable with a set plan so that they can know for sure when the visits are occurring.
The standard visitation model in Nebraska is called Wilson visitation. Essentially, this provides for alternate weekend visits from Friday evening to Sunday evening. In addition, the parents also alternate holidays. For example, in odd numbered years the parent without custody of the children would have visits for the following holidays: Easter, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. The other parent would have the children for the following holidays: Memorial Day, Labor Day and Christmas. The parent without custody of the children might also have some mid week parenting time.
Recognizing that some families may celebrate other holidays not listed above, a similar schedule could be done including any family celebrations or religious observances.
In some cases, a parent may request visitation with special conditions, such as supervised visits, etc. Judges are very leery about putting conditions on visitation without enough evidence to support the request. There is concern that requiring visits to be supervised may hamper a parent’s ability to see his or her child. At the same time, the Court is also concerned about entering orders that are in the minor children’s best interests.
Q: My spouse wants to do split custody of the children so there will no child support ordered. Can we do that?
A: The answer is that it depends. Courts frequently frown on parents’ structuring a custody arrangement as a way of eliminating or minimizing a parent’s child support obligation. The Nebraska Supreme Court holds the opinion that both parents have some responsibility for supporting their children.
In an effort to ensure that child support is calculated and ordered in a uniform manner across the state, the Nebraska Supreme Court has developed Child Support Guidelines. The Court takes each parent’s income and subtracts from it any health insurance premiums paid for the minor children and any other court ordered child support payments for other children to determine each parent’s income after taxes.
The Guidelines direct that the parents’ income is combined to determine the total monthly income. A calculation is done to determine what percentage of the combined total each parent should pay. The monthly child support is determined by looking on the court-created matrix. The combined income after taxes is on one side and the number of minor children is on another. By following the numbers down until the two lines intersect, the monthly child support figure is determined.
The monthly child support figure is divided proportionately between the parents, by using the same percentage of their portion of the combined income after taxes. It is through this mathematical relationship that the Court determines each parent’s child support obligation.
It is possible to differ from the standard child support. In order to have any change approved, enough evidence must be presented to the Court to support the requested change. Some of the factors that the Court may look at in support of a change are: amount of time the minor children spend with the parent who doesn’t have custody; whether the parent who doesn’t have custody provides childcare for minor children. This is intended to illustrate situations when a change from the standard support calculation may be appropriate and is not a complete list.
All child support payments are paid through the State Disbursement Unit. Some parents prefer to have child support payments directly withheld from the paying parent’s wages. The parent paying the support is responsible for making sure his or her employer forwards those payments to the State Disbursement Unit, on time.
Domestic violence occurs when someone is abused by their intimate partner. Domestic violence is a serious subject. This handbook is intended to help victims of domestic violence escape their abusive situations, and regain personal independence.
This handbook will focus on domestic violence as it pertains to economic issues, such as joint bank accounts, housing, and employment.
Please contact Legal Aid of Nebraska for more information.
TYPES OF ABUSE
Economic Abuse:Behavior that causes one to be financially dependent, by maintaining total control over the person’s financial resources.
Emotional Abuse:Behavior that is intended to adversely affect the mental well being of another.
Physical Abuse:Contact that is intended to cause physical pain, injury, harm, or suffering.
Sexual Abuse:The use of force that compels someone to engage in sexual activities against their will.
FINANCIAL CONTROL Many times an abuser will use finances to control an abusive environment and/or the victim. An abuser can control the victim by: withholding access to bank accounts and credit cards, preventing the victim from seeking employment, withholding resources such as food, clothing, and shelter, and/or exploiting the victims financial resources.
JOINT DEBT Joint Debts are debts that you share with another person. Joint Accounts are accounts that allow you and that other person full access to the account.
****This section will explain more about joint debts, and how to get out of joint debt situations.
Having a joint account can be helpful in that it allows two people to pool together their income, making paying bills easier. However, for victims of domestic violence having a joint account and/or debt can be detrimental.
A joint account can be dangerous because many times the victim is unaware of the activity going on with the account. The abuser may use the account to control the victim’s access to money. The abuser may even open up additional accounts, or charge additional debt that will negatively impact the victim’s credit. And unfortunately, both parties are liable for all debts and activity placed on the account. Joint debt may even provide the abuser a way to locate the victim to continue harassment.
How to Get Out of a Joint Debt Situation:
1. Get a copy of your credit report
* Review the credit report for all debts and potential accounts that you were not aware of.
2. Contact Creditors
* Call all your creditors with whom you have a outstanding balance with, and arrange a payment plan.
3. Pay Debts Off
* It is important that you continue to make payments, until the debt is paid in full.
4. Close Accounts
* After you have successfully paid of a joint debt, close the account immediately.
Debt Collection And Bankruptcy
Debt collection is the first step from the creditor in trying to collect the debt owed. If the creditor is unable to collect the debt, you may be sued.
Bankruptcy becomes an option when you have too much debt to pay it all back. Bankruptcy is intended to eliminate some or all of your debt, giving you a fresh start. However, bankruptcy is potentially damaging to your credit report.
****This section will help you understand the process of debt collection and whether or not bankruptcy is the right option for you.
Types of Debt
There are two types of debts: secured and unsecured.
Secured debt– the debtor offers property as collateral (security) for the loan.
The creditor can take the collateral if the debtor defaults on the loan.
Examples: Car payments or furniture payments
Unsecured debt–any other debt for which the debtor did not promise collateral, like medical bills.
Examples: Medical bills or utility bills
If a debt is secured, it means that you signed a paper which says that if you do not pay the loan, the creditor can take or repossess the property which is described in that paper. That paper is known as a security agreement. The property described in that security agreement is called collateral or security.
If the debt is unsecured, the creditor must sue you and win before he can take any of your property.
Collection of Debts
A creditor will first call or write asking for the money you owe. The first calls and letters are usually friendly reminders that you forgot to pay. If you still do not pay, the calls and letters begin to demand payment. If you and the creditor cannot work out a payment agreement, you may be sued.
If you and your spouse have joint debts, even if the debts are not in your name, you both may be responsible for repayment.
If you are divorced, the court will usually say who will have to pay what. The divorce decree will only state who is to repay the debt, it does not take the other spouse’s name off of the bills. So, your creditors can still require the both of you to repay the debt.
Whenever you have problems with creditors whom your spouse is supposed to be paying, see a lawyer. There are things he or she can do to enforce the divorce decree which may help. If you find out that your spouse is filing for bankruptcy, see a lawyer.
Creditor → Collection Agency:
If after repeated failed attempts to contact you, your creditor may hire a collection agency to collect the debt from you. Not all creditors will hire a collection agency, some will go straight to a lawyer to sue you.
A collection agency may demand the whole amount due from you, but they may agree to take installment payments. If you cannot agree on payments, the collector will have to sue you to collect.
It is always better to try to arrange a payment plan with your creditors. It will prove to the creditor that you are trying to repay the debt.
Secured creditors and collection:
Secured debts make it easier for the creditor to get their money back if you do not pay. The creditor can take whatever you put up as collateral for the loan and sell it. This is called repossession. You cannot claim exemptions against a secured creditor repossessing its property.
The secured creditor does not need permission from a court to repossess. As long as the secured creditor can take the collateral without disturbing the peace, they are free to do so. The creditor must first send you a letter telling you they are going to repossess your property.
If your property is sold for less than what you owe, you will still owe the bank the difference. The difference in price is called a deficiency. The creditor can still sue you for the deficiency. If the creditor wins a judgment against you, they can garnish your paycheck or take other property, just like any other judgment creditor.
Unsecured creditors and collection:
Unsecured debts are harder for the creditor to get their money back if you do not pay. The creditor must sue you, and win a judgment against you in order to get their money back.
The following are the steps the unsecured creditor will take to receive a judgment against you, and how you fight the suit.
Do not ignore papers from the Court
- After you receive the summons and complaint, you usually have 30 days to file a written response to the creditor’s claim.
- A written response is also known as an answer. In the answer, you say whether or not you agree you owe them money.
- If you do not file an answer by the due date, the creditor can get a judgment against you without going through a trial. The creditor wins automatically.
- You should only file an answer if you have a defense. Otherwise, you are just increasing the amount of your debt because the creditor is spending more money on its attorney which it will later recover from you. You should speak with an attorney about whether you have a defense.
The Court or creditor’s attorney is required to tell you about all hearings in your case. You should always go to any hearings in your case. A warrant may be issued for your arrest if you do not attend a hearing.
You may also get court papers after a judgment
After your creditor gets a judgment against you, it can use different ways to collect on that judgment through the court. You should always get a copy of any paperwork your creditor uses to collect through the court system. This paperwork often requires you to respond, so read it carefully.
A creditor who has a judgment against you is called a judgment creditor. There are several ways a judgment creditor can try to collect its money. It can:
1. put a lien on, and force the sale of your home or other real property you own;
2. force a sheriff’s sale of some of your personal property, like your car;
3. your bank account; or
4. garnish your pay.
Execution on Real Property
If you find out a creditor has placed a lien against your home, and is selling your house to recover your debt, you should immediately contact a lawyer. You have a limited amount of time to try to stop the sale. You will know if this has happened because the Sheriff will serve you with a Writ of Execution on your home.
Bank Account Garnishment
If your creditor knows where you bank, it may ask the Court to send Interrogatories, questions to your bank about whether you have an account there, and how much is in it. You should get a copy of these Interrogatories. You have a limited amount of time to request a hearing in Court if you think the creditor should not be allowed to take money from your bank account.
Judgment creditors can garnish your wages. a judgment creditor knows where you work, the creditor’s lawyer asks the Court to send Garnishment Interrogatories to your employer asking how much you make, the hours you work, when are you paid, etc.
Your employer must give some of your pay to your creditor if you earn more than $217.50 take home pay per week.
- Garnishments can last until the debt is paid off.
- If you are the head of household, 15% of your wages over $217.50 may be garnished. If you are not the head of household, 25% of your wages over $217.50 may be garnished.
- You may also be garnished for the amount the creditor had to pay to collect from you.
Some of your property is protected
There are state laws (“exemptions”) which limit what your creditors can take from you to pay a judgment. Nebraska exemptions protect:
1. your immediate personal possessions, like a wedding ring or family photos;
2. your clothing;
3. up to $1,500 in household furnishings, goods, computers, appliances, books;
4. up to $2,400 of tools and equipment you use for your own support including a car you use to get to and from;
5. up to $2,500 in other personal property except wages. Personal property is all property except land and buildings;
6. up to $60,000 equity in the home you live in with your family is protected. Equity is the difference between what property is worth and what you owe on it. If your home is worth $50,000 and you owe $40,000 on the mortgage, your equity would be $10,000.
You cannot claim your home as exempt from a mortgage holder.
Federal law provides other exemptions, for example:
- Social Security Benefits
- Veterans benefits
- Unemployment Benefits
- Welfare Benefits
- Workmen’s Compensation
These benefits are exempt even after they have been deposited in your bank account, as long as no other money is ever deposited in the account.
***You must file a Notice with the court that you are claiming exemptions. You may need a lawyer to do this, or you may want to contact Legal Aid of Nebraska.
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
The Fair Debt Collection Practice Act is a federal law which controls collection practices. Personal, family, and household debts are covered under this Act. This includes money owed for the purchase of an automobile, medical services, and credit card use.
A creditor cannot:
- Harass, oppress, or abuse you or any third party they contact.
- Use any false or misleading statements when collecting a debt.
- Talk to a third party about your debt.
- Collect a greater amount than owned, deposit a post dated check prematurely, or threaten to take your property, or take legal action they cannot take.
You can stop debt collector contacts:
If you write a letter to a debt collector telling them to stop contacting you, they must do so after receiving your letter. However, they may call you one last time to say that there will be no further contact or to notify you that the debt collector or the creditor intends to take some specific action.
***Your debt will not go away if the creditor stops calling you. You will still owe the money and can be sued.
You must be given information on the debt:
Within five days after you are first contacted, the debt collector must send you a written notice telling you the amount of money you owe; the name of the creditor to whom you owe the money; and what action to take if you believe you do not owe the money.
Try to stop debt collection:
The best way to stop debt collection is to pay off the debt voluntarily. Even if you cannot afford much, try to work out a payment plan with your creditor which you can afford. You must pay more than the interest accruing on the debt each month to pay the debt off. You can also ask the creditor to accept less than the full amount you owe; some debt collection agencies only expect to recover a percentage of what you owe.
You can complain about a debt collection agency:
Report any problems you have with a debt collector to your state Attorney General’s office and the Federal Trade Commission. Many states have their own debt collection laws, and your Attorney General’s office can help you determine your rights. The Nebraska Attorney General’s number is 1-800-727-6432.
To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit www.ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-382-4357; TTY: 1-866-653-4261.
The Fair Debt Collection Practice Act may also allow you to sue the debt collector for any violations.
TYPES OF BANKRUPTCY
There are two different types of bankruptcies. The first is called a Chapter 7, and is also known as a “straight bankruptcy.” The second is a Chapter 13 plan. The type of bankruptcy you should file depends on the type of debts that you have and your assets.
SHOULD YOU FILE BANKRUPTCY?
- The filing of a bankruptcy should always be your LAST choice.
- Bankruptcy can stay on your credit history for up to 14 years.
- You can only file bankruptcy every 8 years.
The filing of a bankruptcy is intended to give you a fresh start. The timing of the filing is very important. You want to make sure that you do not wind up in the same position again. However, if you have tried to work out payments and you know there is no way you will be able to pay off your debts, bankruptcy may be right for you.
The question you should ask yourself is …. If I don’t file a bankruptcy what can a judgment creditor take from me? If the answer to this question is that creditors can not take anything from you then filing a bankruptcy at this time may not be in your best interest. Maybe you should wait !
**** This section will explain the different types of bankruptcies, the procedure, and consequences of filing bankruptcy.
THE CHAPTER 7 BANKRUPTCY OVERVIEW
- Also known as “straight bankruptcy”.
- Instead of repaying your debts, you are discharged from doing so.
- Legally, this means that these debts do not exist for you anymore.
- Not all debts are dischargeable.
* Such as: child support, alimony, taxes, and student loans
- Debts acquired through fraud are not discharged by bankruptcy.
- Debts ordered to pay in a divorce may not be discharged.
- Secured debts (when you put something up as collateral) are not discharged, and the creditor may repossess your property.
- If you want to keep your property, you may have to sign an agreement that states that you will pay the debt even after you have filed for bankruptcy. This is also known as a reaffirmation.
- Chapter 7 bankruptcy cost $299.00
- Be sure you list all your creditors upon first filing. There is a $20.00 fine for each additional creditor you add after the paperwork has been filed.
- The fee may be waived by the Judge.
- Chapter 7 Bankruptcy takes about 4 months from start to finish.
- Can only file chapter 7 bankruptcy once every 8 years.
- If your case is accepted by Legal Aid, you can discuss this possibility with your attorney.
- You will have to go to court at least 1 time.
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy:
When the bankruptcy trustee sells the debtor’s nonexempt assets and uses the proceeds to pay off the debtor’s creditors.
Who Can File?
- An Individual
- No previous bankruptcy petition that was discharged due to willful failure to appear or voluntarily dismissed by the debtor within the last 180 days
- Debtor has to receive credit counseling from an approved agency within 180 days before filing.
- Debtor has to complete a financial management course after filing bankruptcy.
- Debtor must complete and file a Means Test.
Results of Filing Chapter 7:
- Designed to give the debtor a fresh start.
- Debtor is released from all liability for discharged debts.
- Not all debts are dischargeable.
THE CHAPTER 13 BANKRUPTCY:
- Chapter 13 also known as the wage earner plan.
- Allows you to pay all or some of your debt.
- Usually large secured debt is paid.
* Such as: A mortgage on a home
- Once the secured debt is paid off, then a percentage of the unsecured debt is paid.
- The percentage can range from 0-100%.
- Chapter 13 has a $274.00 filing fee.
- You may be able to qualify for free legal services.
- Chapter 13 must last for 3 years, but can last up to 5 years.
- The length of time involved in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy depends on the plan which you submit and approval by the court.
- There is also a 10% fee to be paid to the Trustee that manages your payments.
- To file you must have lived in the state for at least 6 months and 1day.
- You will have to go to court at least 1 time.
Credit Counseling Requirement:
- Must be completed six months before filing for bankruptcy.
- Counseling must come from an approved/non-profit credit counseling service.
- A list of approved credit counseling agencies can be found at:
*After completion of counseling, the agency will give you a certificate.
- The certificate and debt repayment plan (if one was created) must be filed with the Court at the time of filing the petition for bankruptcy.
Exception to Credit Counseling Requirement:
- Debtors who do not reside in judicial districts for which the service is not available.
* A list of those districts can be found at: http://www.usdoj.gov/ust/
- Debtors who have difficult circumstances that warrant a waiver.
* If granted a waiver, the debtor has 30 days from filing to complete the counseling requirement.
- Debtors who are incapacitated, disabled or on active duty in a combat zone.
* Definitions for incapacity and disability are limited. Check the web address above for more information.
Financial Management Course Requirement:
- Complete financial management course from an approved agency.
- Upon completion of the course, the agency will give you a Certificate of Completion
- The certification must be filed within 45 days of the date of the 341 meeting of creditors for Chapter 7, and by the date of the last payment for Chapter 13.
Exceptions to Financial Management Requirement:
- Debtors who are incapacitated or disabled , on active military duty in an active combat zone, or if the United States Trustee has decided that there are not adequate financial management services in the area.
**** Failure to submit certification will result in the case being closed without granting a discharge.
PROTECT YOUR CREDIT
Filing for bankruptcy can seriously hurt your credit score. However, there are many things you can do to start rebuilding your score and prepare for a bigger and brighter future.
You can also protect your credit, before a bankruptcy situation arises. If you guard your credit, you can ensure a strong financial future for yourself and family.
You can contact the credit bureau and report errors or discrepancies on your report.
Credit report should not…
- contain negative information older than 7 years
- Contain bankruptcy information older than 10 years
How to protect and rebuild your credit score:
- Focus on the fact that you are free of debt (if you have just completed a bankruptcy).
- Build up a savings account.
- Pay all your bills on time.
- Use Debit Cards/ Prepaid Credit Cards
- Adopt a lifestyle that you can maintain with your current finances.
* Ask yourself if you really need to purchase a particular item.
* Shop around. You may be able to find a better bargain.
All these things will help you rebuild your credit score, and become more economically secure.
You can obtain a free credit report once a year from Annual Credit Report Services. You can request your credit report in writing, over the telephone, or by internet. The name, address, telephone number and web address are as follows:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
If you believe that the information contained on your credit report is inaccurate, you may dispute the information.
Domestic Violence and Federal Income Tax
It is important that you know how to correctly file your taxes. Improper filing can result in additional financial difficulties.
***This section will explain how to file your taxes if you are divorced or separated from your spouse.
Information was provided by the Internal Revenue Service: www.irs.gov
Your filing status depends on your marital status.
- You can file jointly or separately.
- If you live apart from your spouse, under certain circumstances, you may be considered unmarried and can file as head of household.
- You have never been married.
- You have a final divorce decree or you were legally separated by the last day of your tax year.
Married Filing Jointly:
If you and your spouse file jointly, you both must include your income, exemptions, deductions, and credits on that return.
~ You can file jointly even if one of you does not have income or deductions.
~ You and your spouse are required to sign the return.
~You and your spouse are responsible, jointly and individually, for the tax and any interest or penalty due on your joint return.
* Even if you are divorced you are still responsible, jointly and individually for all tax returns that were filed jointly with your ex-spouse.
Relief from Joint Liability:
A spouse may be relieved of liability. You can ask for relief no matter how small the liability. There are three types of relief available. Each relief has different requirements. You must file Form 8857 to request relief.
1. Innocent Spouse Relief:
~ Applies to all filers.
~ Only applies to items incorrectly reported on or omitted from the return
2. Separation of Liability:
~ Applies to joint filers who are divorced, widowed, legally separated, or who have not lived together for the 12 months ending on the date on which election of this relief is filed.
~ Only applies to items incorrectly reported on or omitted from the return.
*** Domestic Abuse Exception– Even if you have actual knowledge, you may still qualify for relief if you establish that:
1. You were the victim of domestic abuse before signing the return AND
2. Because of that abuse, you did not challenge the treatment of any items on the return because you were afraid of your spouse.
~ If you establish that you signed the joint return under duress, then it is not a joint return and you are not liable for any tax shown on that return or any tax deficiency for that return. However, you may be required to file a separate return for that year.
3. Equitable Relief:
~ Applies to filers that do not qualify for innocent spouse relief or separation of liability, and married residents of community property states who did not file joint returns.
Overpayments and Debts:
The overpayment on your joint return may be used to pay the past due amount of your spouse’s debts. Debts include: federal tax, state income tax, child or spousal support payments, or a deferral non tax debt, such as a student loan.
You are an injured spouse if you file a joint return and all or part of your share of the overpayment was, or is expected to be, applied against your spouse’s past-due debts. If you are considered an injured spouse you can get a refund for your share of the overpayment that would otherwise be used to pay the past-due amount. If you are an injured spouse, you must file Form 8379.
To be considered an injured spouse, you must:
1. Have reported income on the joint return;
2. Have made and reported tax payments or claimed the earned income credit, or other refundable credit on the joint return, and
3. Not be legally obligated to pay the past due amount.
Married Filing Separately:
If you and your spouse file separate returns, you should each report only your own income, exemptions, deductions, and credits on your individual return. Generally, if you file separate returns you will pay more combined federal tax than you would with a joint return. You can file separately even if only one of you had income.
~ You and your spouse are each responsible for only the tax due on your own return.
~ If you and your spouse file separate returns and only one of you itemizes deductions, the other spouse cannot use the standard deduction and should also itemize deductions
~ You may be able to claim itemized deductions on a separate return for certain expenses that you paid separately or jointly with your spouse. See Table 1.
Itemized Deductions on Separate Returns-Table 1
If you paid…
Paid with funds deposited in a joint checking account in which you and your spouse have an equal interest
THEN you can deduct on your separate federal return…
half of the total medical expenses, subject to certain limits, unless you can show that you alone paid the expenses
If you paid…
State Income Tax
- File a separate state income tax return
- File a joint state income tax return and you and your spouse are jointly and individually liable for the full amount of the state income tax
- File a joint state income tax return and you are liable for only your own share of state income state
THEN you can deduct on your separate federal return…
1. The state income tax you alone paid during the year.
2. The state income tax you and your spouse paid during the year.
3. The smaller of:
* the state income tax you alone paid during the year, or
* the total state income tax you and your spouse paid during the year multiplied by the following fraction. The numerator is your gross income and the denominator is your combined gross income.
If you paid…
paid the tax on property held as tenants by the entirety
THEN you can deduct on your separate federal return…
the property tax you alone paid.
If you paid…
paid the interest on a qualified home held as tenants by the entirety
THEN you can deduct on your separate federal return…
the mortgage interest you alone paid.
If you paid…
half of the loss, subject to the deduction limits. Neither spouse may report the total casualty loss.
THEN you can deduct on your separate federal return…
the mortgage interest you alone paid.
Additional Rules for Filing Separately:
1. Your tax rates will increase at income levels that are lower than those for a join return filer.
2. Your exemption amount for figuring the alternative minimum tax will be half of that allowed a joint return filer.
3. You cannot take the credit for child and dependent care expenses in most cases.
4. You cannot take the earned income credit.
5. You cannot take the exclusion or credit for adoption expenses in most instances.
6. You cannot take the credit for higher education expenses, or the deduction for student loan interest.
7. You cannot exclude the interest from qualified saving bonds that you used for higher education expenses.
8. If you lived with your spouse at any time during the tax year:
A. You cannot claim the credit for the elderly or the disabled,
B. You will have to include income from social security or equivalent railroad retirement benefits you received, and
C. You cannot roll over amounts from a traditional IRA into a Roth IRA.
9. Your income limits that reduce the child tax credit, retirement savings contributions credit, itemized deductions, and the deduction for personal exemptions will be half of the limits allowed a joint return filer.
10. Your capital loss deduction limit is $1,500 instead of $3,000
11. Your basic standard deduction, if allowable, if half of that allowed a joint return filer.
Head of Household:
Filing as head of household has the following advantages:
- You can claim the standard deduction even if your spouse files a separate return and itemizes deductions.
- Your standard deduction is higher than is allowed if you claim a filing status of single or married filed separately.
- Your tax rate is usually lower than it is if you claim a filing status of single or married filing separately.
- You can claim certain credits. Such as, dependent care credit and earned income credit).
- Income limits that reduce credits will be higher than the income limits if you claim a filing status of married filing separately.
Requirements for Head of Household:
- You are unmarried or considered unmarried on the last day of the year.
- You paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home for the year.
- A “qualifying person” lived with you in the home for more than half a year.
To be considered unmarried you must meet all of the requirements.
1. You must file a separate return.
2. You paid more than half the cost of keeping up your home for the tax year.
3. Your spouse did not live in your home during the last 6 months of the tax year.
4. Your home was the main home of your child, stepchild, or eligible foster child for more than half the year.
5. You must be able to claim an exemption for the child.
There are five requirements for determining whether someone is a qualifying child for tax purposes. If the child meets the rules to be a qualifying child of more than one person, you must be the person entitled to claim the child as a qualifying child.
1. The child must be your son, daughter, stepchild, eligible foster child, brother, sister, half brother, half sister, step brother, step sister or a descendant of any one of them.
2. The child must be under the age of 19 at the end of the year, or under 24 and a full-time student, or any age and permanently and totally disabled.
3. The child must have lived with you for more than 1/2 of the year.
4. The child must not have provided more than 1/2 of his or
her own support for the year.
If a child is the qualifying child of more than one person only one person will get to claim the child. The IRS has a series of tie breakers to determine who has the right to claim the child.
- If between a parent and non-parent, the parent has the right to claim the child.
- If between two parents, then the parent whom the child lived with for the longer period of time during the year has the right to claim the child.
- If between two parents who had the child for equal times during the year, the parent with the highest Adjusted Gross Income has the right to claim the child.
- If none of the persons are the parent, then the person with the highest Adjusted Gross Income has the right to claim the child.
Benefits for having a Qualifying Child….
- The exemption for the child, $3,000 off of your taxable income.
- Child tax credit
- Head of household filing status.
- Credit for child and dependant care expenses.
- Exclusion from income for dependent care benefits.
- Earned income tax credit.
You can only split up the benefits for having a qualifying child, if the parents are divorced or separated.
A child can be considered a qualifying child of a non-custodial parent, if all of the following apply…
1. The Parents are…
* divorced or separated under a decree
* separated under a written separation agreement, or
* lived apart at all times during the last 6 months of the year.
2. The child received over half of his support for the year from his or her parents.
3. The child is in the custody of one or both of his or her parents for more than 1/2 of the year.
4. Either of the following applies
* The custodial parent signs a written declaration that he/she will not claim the child as a dependant that and the non-custodial parent attaches this declaration to his/her return, or
* A pre-1985 decree states that the non-custodial parent can claim the child and the non-custodial parent provides at least $600 for the child’s support during the tax year.
* For a decree entered into after 1984. The non-custodial parent can attach certain pages to his or her return instead of a written declaration. To be able to do this the decree must state:
1. the non-custodial parent can claim the child as a dependant without regard to any condition (such as payment of support).
2. the custodial parent will not claim the child for the year.
3. the years for which the non-custodial parent can claim the child as a dependant.
Tax information can be found at:
* Order forms and publications by phone. It will take about 10 business days for
your materials to arrive by mail.
- Taxpayer Assistance Centers
The IRS has additional information available about taxes and how to file.
- 504– Divorced or Separated Individuals
- 501– Exemptions, Standard Deductions, and Filing
- 555– Community Property
- 971– Innocent Spouse Relief
Protecting Your Identity
Identity theft affects about 10 million people per year. Victims of domestic violence are also often victims of identity theft. Abusers will use the victims identity information to stalk, harass, and even open fraudulent accounts in the victim’s names or the victim’s children’s name.
*** This section will explain how you can protect yourself from potential thieves.
Abuser often has access to sensitive information of the victim. Such as, credit cards, SSN, and address history. It is important that you safeguard this sort of information as best as you can. Some things you can do are:
- Sign your credit cards
- Keep your social security card in a safe place
- Change and/or guard your PIN numbers
- Shred all papers that have sensitive information on them.
- Apply to the address confidentiality program
- Open a post office box
* Unlike a regular mailbox, only the person with the key will have access to the mail.
- Check your credit report for any unusual activity.
- Relocate and/or change your identity (this should only be done as a last resort).
Address Confidentiality Act:
This act was devolved so state and local agencies could respond to requests for public records, without identifying the location of a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
A new address is given to the victim. Only the Secretary of State will have that address, and will not be released to the public.
How to Qualify:
1. File application with the Secretary of State stating:
* That the applicant has good reason to
believe that he or she is a victim of abuse,
Sexual assault, or stalking.
* Applicant fears for his or her safety.
An alternative option to the Address Confidentiality Program, is opening up a Post Office Box. If you have a post office box, mail is generally delivered faster, more secure, and can serve as a permanent address. However, there is a small fee associated with having a post office box. Check your local post office for fees and availability.
If you are trying to protect your identity and whereabouts from your abuser, it is important to consistently review your credit report.
If you and the abuser are married, the abuser can obtain a joint credit report and use the information on the report to find your current address. However, as a victim and survivor you can use the report to protect yourself. If you know what is on the credit report, you will be able to use that information to your advantage.
Changing your Identity:
Changing your identity should be the last resort. However, it is important to understand that changing your identity means leaving behind everything that makes you “you”, and it does not 100% guaranteed that the abuser will not find you.
What will be Changed:
If you change your identity, you may also be required to do the following:
- Change your name
- Change your SSN
- Obtain a new phone number and email address
- Find a new job
- Change your appearance
- Find a new doctor, bank, school, etc.
Identity Change Process for Nebraska:
1. File a petition in district court stating that you have resided in the county for at least a year, the reason for name change, and the name you are asking for.
Problems with Name/Identity Change in Nebraska:
In Nebraska, all name change request are published in a newspaper or a newspaper of general circulation. If the victim is over the age of 19, the notice will run once a week for four weeks. If the victim is under the age of 19, the notice will run once a week for two weeks, and the non-custodial parent will receive a notice by certified mail within five days of the publication.
- Publication requirements disclose location
- Records are not sealed.
- There is a requirement to notify the non-custodial parent, if children are involved.
Changing your Social Security Number:
In order to change your social security number, you must file an application with the Social Security Administration. New social security numbers are granted on a case by case basis. All applications must be filed in person, at the local office. You must also bring the following with your application:
- Evidence documenting harassment or abuse
- Current SSN
- Original documents to establish:
* Citizenship or immigration status
* Evidence of name change
More information can be found at:
Other Problems with Identity Change:
- Identity changes of children can complicate the process
* SSN is often part of school, medical, and
- Limits the effectiveness of…
* Diplomas & professional licenses, health records
* DMV records, birth certificates, etc.
- If you are involved in a civil or criminal litigation, you will not be able to protect your new name.
- Children involved might disclose new or old identity
- Important documents cannot be changed
- Ownership in property may be affected.
**** Other states have more friendly identity change rules. Some of those states include, Kansas, Colorado, and Iowa.
Housing Rights for Victims of Abuse
Many of those that are victims of domestic violence often suffer discriminatory practices by landlords as a barrier to obtaining housing.
Many times landlords give evictions and/or housing denials because of:
- Criminal activity on the property
- Property damage
- Police being called too often
Victims of domestic violence also deal with other threats such as:
- Denial for early termination of lease
- Denial for new locks
- Denial for housing in shelters, if they have a protection order
Federal Fair Housing Act:
The Federal Fair Housing Act was enacted to make it illegal to refuse housing to applicants based on sex, race, religion, color, creed, age, or disability.
This act generally applies if the landlord owes more than 4 units.
This act is an amendment to the Nebraska Fair Housing Act. The act prohibits landlords from denying housing to an applicant that is or has been a victim of domestic violence.
The landlord may only terminate a lease if there is an actual and imminent threat to the other tenants or those employed at or providing service at the property.
The act also allows victims to bifurcate their lease, to allow the rest of the household to remain. Victims also have the choice of voucher portability. Voucher portability allows victims, who live in public housing, to have more flexibility to change residences. This means that victims will not be punished if they have to violate a lease in order to protect their safety. However, victims of abuse must be able to provide evidence of the abuse to qualify for this law.
Proof of Abuse:
- Certification from an attorney, domestic violence service provider, or medical professional
- Police records
- Court records
Documentation forms can be found at:
Other Resources for Housing Information:
- Legal Momentum-
- ACLU Women’s Rights Project–
- National Housing Law Project–
- National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty-
Employment Rights for Victims of Domestic Violence
There are many issues that can impact a victim at his or her workplace. The victim may suffer decreased work performance, increased days of absence, and a feeling of lack of safety.
It is important that you understand your employers policies and procedures, and understand that there are federal and state laws designed to protect you from discrimination and harassment.
Ask your employer for a copy of the employment manual and policies. Review this information to determine how, when, and how much time off you are able to receive. Check all of your options, such as, paid vacation, sick time, PTO, and unpaid leave and know the policies, procedures, and limitations for each.
Family and Medical leave Act (FMLA):
The Family and Medical Leave Act provides an employee to receive up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave every year. The act also guarantees…
- Unpaid leave.
- Continued health care benefits.
- Job protection (cannot be fired for taking leave and can return to same or equivalent position after leave).
Conditions for using FMLA:
- Employee must be employed for at least 12 months.
- Employee must have worked at least 1259 hours in the last 12 months.
- Employer must have at least 50 employees.
- The leave must be used to recover or deal with a serious health condition for the employee, or the employee’s child, spouse, or parent.
Rights Violated Under FMLA:
If your feel as if the rights granted to you under FMLA were violated, you can petition the court to review your case.
- Write a demand letter to your employer. You may want an attorney to help you with this.
- File a complaint with the Department of Labor
- However, all complaints must be filed within 2 years of the occurrence.
Americans with Disabilities Act:
This act prohibits an employer from discriminating against employees, if the employer has more than 15 employees. The employer is also required to provide reasonable accommodations to any disabled employee.
Federal Civil Rights Act:
This act prohibits an employer from discriminating against employees, if the employer has more than 15 employees.
You must prove that you were treated unfairly at work by a supervisor or co-worker because of your sex, race, religion, national origin, or color.
Your employer can be held liable if, he or she failed to exercise reasonable care to prevent and correct the behavior, and if the employee reasonably attempted to take advantage of corrective opportunities.
Nebraska State Law:
Nebraska constitutional and statutory law gives victims the right to attend court proceedings in criminal cases, without suffering repercussions from your employer.
Nebr. Const. Art. 1 §28 and Nebr. Rev. Stat. §81– 1848
Unemployment Benefit Waiver:
Nebraska state law states: if an employee voluntarily leaves a job after making all reasonable efforts to preserve the employment, but voluntarily leaves his or her work for the necessary purpose of escaping abuse, then that employee may be entitled to unemployment benefits.
Neb. Rev. Stat. §48-628.01
****By having a clear understanding of these laws and policies, you could use these laws in your favor. Even though you are a victim of domestic violence, you still have the right to be treated fairly and the right to gainful employment.
Other Resources Regarding Employment:
Nebraska’s Statewide Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Crisis Line
National Domestic Violence Sexual Assault Hotline
National Victim Helpline
National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline 24/7
Abuse/Neglect Hotline for Adults & Children
United Way of the Midlands — Utility/rent/financial services, food, shelter, clothing, abuse counseling, mental health services, medical support groups, senior services, child/teen services. Dial 2-1-1 24 hours a day/7 days a week
Department of Health and Human Services— (WIC) Women, Infants, and Children Program 1-800-942-1171
Child Support Hotline
Nebraska Public Housing
National Mental Health Association
Alcohol and Drug Abuse Helpline
Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services—Food Stamps, Medicaid, ADC, AABD, Energy Assistance, Kids Connection, Child Support Enforcement, Child Care, Refugee Resettlement Program, and Other Services
Legal Aid of Nebraska
If you need help, apply online at https://lawhelpne.legalaidofnebraska.org/intake
or call our:
Monday & Wednesday 9 a.m. – 11 a.m. CST
Tuesday & Thursday 1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. CST
Elder AccessLine (age 60 and over)1-800-729-9908
Monday-Thursday 9am-12pm & 1pm-3pm CST
Friday 9am-12pm CST
Native American AccessLine 1-800-527-7249
Monday-Friday 9am-12pm CST
You need to let your spouse know that you have filed for divorce. This is called giving your spouse notice of the divorce case. You give your spouse notice by serving him or her with the Complaint for Dissolution. Service can be done personally or by publication.
- Personal service is completed by either having the Sheriff serve your spouse with the Complaint for Dissolution or by having your spouse sign a Voluntary Appearance. By signing a voluntary appearance the opposing party is affirming to the court that they have received a copy of the Compliant for Divorce, they waive service by Sheriff and understand that the Divorce is pending in Court
- Service by publication is completed by following Nebraska law. You must ask the court for permission to serve your spouse by publication if you cannot locate your spouse to personally serve him or her with the Complaint. If the Court grants your request to serve your spouse by publication you must then run your publication in the newspaper. There are specific rules with respect to which newspaper you should run the publication in and how many times it must run. It is very important to follow these rules otherwise the Court may not recognize that your spouse has been served properly. Additionally, there is always a fee to run your publication in the paper and if you need to rerun your publication it could become very costly.
It is best to serve your spouse personally and not by publication. If you properly serve your spouse by publication, the court will be able to grant you a divorce and award custody. If you want the Court to award child support, spousal support, divide debts or make other property awards, the opposing party must have been “personally served.” This means that the person was handed the original Compliant for Divorce by the Sheriff, or that the opposing party signed a voluntary appearance. In order to ask the court for permission to serve your spouse by publication, you first need to make a good faith effort to locate your spouse. You need to check with friends, family and others to see if they know where your spouse is. If you do this and still cannot locate your spouse, you could try to find him or her through some resources that are available to the public. If you still cannot locate your spouse, you can request permission of the court to serve your spouse by publication.
In all court actions it is always better if you can personally serve the opposing party with the Compliant. If you don’t know where the opposing party is you might try to locate them with a little detective work. Some things you could do to try to locate your spouse include:
- You can search for them on the internet.
- Doing a Nebraska court records search on JUSTICE, which is Nebraska’s online court case database. If there is a court case involving your spouse, especially if it was filed more recently, it may contain their address. There is a fee charged for this search. You could see if the clerk of the district court or county court could help you with this as well. The JUSTICE database is located at http://www.nebraska.gov/allservice.html.
- Doing an online search to see if your spouse is incarcerated in a Nebraska jail or prison through VINE. The link is VINE. In Nebraska – anyone can access the VINE which tells if someone is in jail. It will also search other states that use VINE as well.
- Doing an online search to see if your spouse in incarcerated at a State of Nebraska facility run by searching the Nebraska Department of Corrections Website.
- Doing an online search to see if your spouse is incarcerated at a federal facility by searching the Federal Inmate Locator website.
- If your spouse is a registered sex offender, you could do an online search to see if his or her address is available through Nebraska Sex Offender Registry or another state’s registry.
- Requesting that the post office provide you with mailing address information for your spouse if you are requesting the information only for the purposes of serving your spouse with court documents, like your Complaint for Dissolution. The post office should release this information to you or tell you that they do not have mailing information for your spouse pursuant to 39 CFR 265.6(d)(5)(ii). The link to the regulation is http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/cfr_2011/julqtr/pdf/39cfr265.6.pdf. You can contact the post office for more information.
Partner Resources and Other Helpful Links:
Victimsofcrime.org Brochures on Stalking
UNL Center on Children, Families, and the Law
Guide for Parents: Walking Your Way Through the Nebraska Juvenile Court Child Protection Process
Catholic Charities of Omaha Domestic Violence Services
Jennifer Ann’s Group
The National Domestic Violence Hotline
National Center for Victims of Crime Stalking Resource Center
National Crime Victim Bar Association
Nebraska Domestic Violence Sexual Assault Coalition
Map of Nebraska’s Network of Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Programs, including shelters.
Sexual Assault: Get the Facts
US Dept. of Justice Office on Violence Against Women
National Center for Victims of Crime
Stalking Resource Center
Bulletins for Teens: Dating Violence
National Domestic Violence Hotline
Women’s Center for Advancement
Lutheran Family Services
Guide to Dometic Abuse and Harassment Protection Orders
Nebraska Parenting Act Information Brochure
Nebraska Supreme Court | Divorce, Parenting and Support