Experienced divorce attorneys can ensure that the agreements you sign are in your best interests, you don’t miss anything important when negotiating, and the paperwork is all in order before it is submitted to the court.
They can assist in a collaborative process with your spouse’s lawyer, mediating the divorce between you and your spouse, or in litigation if it ends up in the Nebraska courts.
This assistance can be a big relief at such a stressful time – but how much does a divorce attorney cost in Nebraska?
That depends greatly on how amicable your separation from your ex will be. Firstly, is your divorce contested or uncontested?
Contested Divorce Costs
A contested divorce is where one or both spouses don’t agree on one or more issues. Usually, this is a major issue such as child custody, alimony, child support, value of a business interest, or property division.
This type of divorce can increase both the costs and the time taken for it to be granted. In many cases, contested divorces are more stressful, especially if there are children from the marriage who must witness their parents in a heated dispute.
In some cases, professional assessors may need to be hired to value assets, value business interests, and decide what is best for the children. More time in court, higher court costs, and higher attorney fees are just a few of the other consequences when issues are contested.
According to a 2019 divorce survey conducted by Martindale-Nolo Research, the average divorce in the US costs around $15,500. From this total, $12,800 is attorney fees.
While average costs need to be treated with caution, the figures are useful in providing an idea of the proportion of attorney fees included in the total costs.
The average cost includes divorces that take years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to settle as well as uncontested divorces that cost a couple thousand dollars.
If your divorce is contested, you will pay more than with an uncontested divorce but it needn’t be as high as $15,500 if you and your spouse can settle before your case ends up at trial.
Some attorneys may charge you a flat fee rate while others charge hourly. Be clear on this from the start and there will be no nasty surprises later.
If the attorney charges hourly, try to get an indication not only of the hourly rate (anywhere from $100 to $650 an hour but averaging out at $250-$350 an hour) but also of the amount of work involved.
If many issues cannot be resolved by mediation and end up at trial, costs start to rise significantly. Be mindful of the charges you will incur by communicating too frequently with your attorney. Tip: It is best to condense concerns about issues in your case into one meeting instead of sending several emails or calling multiple times.
Bear in mind that the better the attorney you hire, the more your interests will be protected and the less time you will spend in court. So, you should win both ways – with a better settlement and lower court costs in the long run.
Uncontested Divorce Costs
In uncontested divorces, both spouses agree on the divorce and all the associated issues – both financial and those involving children, if applicable.
Most uncontested divorces require agreement on property division, debt payment, support payments, child custody, visitation rights, and so on.
The simpler the matters are, the more likely the divorce can proceed as uncontested. However, even if you and your spouse part on amicable terms, disputes can arise. If you cannot agree on any outstanding issues, the divorce must proceed with the delays and costs associated with a contested divorce.
In uncontested divorces, most or all of the negotiations may be out of the way before a lawyer is required. The attorney will simply prepare the paperwork, which you both sign before it is submitted to the court.
Your attorney may also help by flagging any issues that have been overlooked in negotiations – for instance, retirement account and/or pension division, which is sometimes forgotten when couples consider their financial positions.
Overall, you can expect the costs of an uncontested divorce to be much lower than a contested divorce – especially if there are no children.
While retainers vary by firm, make sure you do your research. It is like the old saying goes “you get what you pay for.” Strong representation may be more expensive, but often generates better long-term outcomes.
Division of Assets
Being that Nebraska is an equitable distribution state, marital assets are divided in a fair and equitable way between spouses. What this means can be fuzzy, but courts usually assume that parties will split the marital estate close to equally, but in no case shall the court award more than 2/3 or less than 1/3 of the marital estate to one party or the other. The court takes several factors into account to ensure equitable distribution for each spouse. Nebraska has a set list of factors they use to determine equitable distribution and the weight of those factors is different from case to case.
Nebraska is a no-fault state, meaning the reason for the dissolution cannot be held against the party who misbehaved. However, some actions occurring in the lead up to the divorce can be considered in how the Court distributes the marital estate – for instance, if a party spent substantial marital funds on a new romantic partner in the months leading up to divorce, or if one spouse gambled substantial marital sums in that period, that evidence may be considered when distributing the marital estate.
Nebraska does not favor one parent over the other based on sex. In Nebraska, the judge will determine the parental fitness of each parent and will then consider what is in “the best interests of the child” when determining custody arrangements. Parents in Nebraska are required to make a parenting plan, which includes a plan for physical and legal custody of the child. Parents can either have a joint custody arrangement or a sole custody arrangement.
Joint custody arrangements are preferred. Joint legal custody allows the child/children to live with one parent full time and gives the other parent visitation time. For joint legal custody to be granted, both parents will need to testify they are willing to cooperate and work together to provide the best interests of their child/children. Joint physical custody is a set arrangement that allows the child to move from one parent’s home to the other for an agreed amount of time. Sole custody is when one parent has full physical custody, the other parent is given visitation time. Split custody separates the children and they do not all live with the same parent. Joint custody is encouraged when possible, so the child can be in contact regularly with each parent.
In Nebraska all assets are divided the same way, including retirement assets. Any assets accumulated during the marriage are divided equitably. Nebraska law considers vested pensions to be marital property subject to division. Unvested pensions only provide the non-participating spouse with an expectancy interest in the pension. There are various ways to value pensions in Nebraska, and if the parties do not ultimately agree on a value, they may be required or ordered by the court to bring in a neutral expert to perform a pension valuation.
Need Help Filing For Divorce?
Many couples in Nebraska find that hiring a divorce attorney can help avoid delays and disputes. Call Nebraska Legal Group today at 402-509-7033 for our Omaha office and 531-248-5050 for our Lincoln office or get started with a free case evaluation.