The state of Nebraska had a relatively consistent divorce rate from 2019 to 2021, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The divorce rate in the state was 2.7 in 2019, 2.8 in 2020, and 2.6 in 2021. During the same three-year period, Nebraska’s marriage rate was similarly consistent at 5.5, 5, and 5.3. This means more than half of marriages in the state end in divorce.
Various factors can cause a dissolution of marriage in Nebraska, but petitioners do not have to find or establish fault for divorce to be granted by the court. Issues such as infidelity, alcohol abuse, and drug addiction will instead be taken into consideration by the court only when making decisions on alimony, property, child custody, and child support.
People in Nebraska planning to file for divorce should remember how the divorce law works in the state, including the residency requirement and the mandatory waiting periods. They must also have an idea of how much it would cost. Typically, an uncontested divorce, where both parties are in agreement on matters such as property division and spousal support, will not cost as much as a contested divorce, which would require the couple to prove their case at trial.
Given the complexities of the divorce process, some people may choose to forego filing a Complaint for Dissolution. This article provides information about the divorce process in Nebraska to prepare couples residing in the state for an unfortunate yet common occurrence affecting marriages across the country.
Divorce vs. Annulment vs. Legal Separation in Nebraska
People in Nebraska can end their marriage through divorce, annulment, or legal separation. There are some differences between the three methods.
A divorce in Nebraska terminates the marriage, while an annulment declares that the marriage was never valid. To have a successful annulment case, the petitioner must provide evidence that the marriage was against the law. The grounds for a marriage annulment in Nebraska include: either party was impotent; either party had a living spouse at the time of marriage; the marriage was induced by fraud or force; or the marriage was incestuous.
Legal separation in Nebraska is different from divorce because the former does not require that at least one of the spouses have lived in the state for one year before filing for divorce. Legal separation also means that, despite the parties dividing the marital property and no longer living together, they are still married and cannot remarry.
Is Nebraska a No-Fault State When It Comes to Divorce?
Yes. Nebraska is a no-fault divorce state. Couples in the state can file for divorce without the need to prove that the other party committed wrongdoing, such as abuse, abandonment, or adultery. The dissolution of marriage may be granted by the court if the marriage is considered irretrievably broken.
How to File for Divorce in Nebraska
Before filing for divorce, the petitioner must know whether they meet the residency requirements for divorce in Nebraska. The state allows people to file a petition for dissolution of marriage only if they or their spouse has resided in Nebraska for at least 12 months. This means that if a couple has just moved back to the state, they must live in Nebraska for another 12 months before they can file for divorce.
Petitioners must also determine what the grounds are for the dissolution of marriage. Since Nebraska is not a fault-based divorce state, individuals may file a petition on the grounds that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
People planning to file for divorce must take into consideration whether they need an attorney for their case. Individuals may handle relatively uncomplicated cases by themselves, but a lawyer can guide them throughout the process and help them protect their legal rights.
File a Complaint for Dissolution of Marriage
To start the divorce process, individuals must fill out the divorce papers and submit them to their county’s district court clerk’s office. The forms the petitioner must file will vary depending on their circumstances, but in most situations, they must provide the court with the following:
These forms are typically used for simple divorce cases, such as where no alimony will be requested by either party, neither party has a pension or retirement plan, both spouses have agreed on how to divide all their debt and property, and there are no child custody issues.
If the petitioner’s situation is more complex, they should check with their local district court clerk’s office and inquire about the necessary documents relating to their case.
Serve Notice of Divorce Filings
After filing for divorce, the petitioner is required by law to provide their spouse with an official notice of the divorce by sending them a copy of the documents they have submitted to the district court clerk and having them sign a Voluntary Appearance form.
The petitioner can also complete a Praecipe for Summons to have the spouse served by the sheriff. This method requires the petitioner to submit the form to the court clerk.
The clerk will then prepare the actual summons and send it to the sheriff in the county where the spouse resides. If the spouse lives in a different county or state, the petitioner will have to mail the summons to the sheriff of that county after picking up the document from the clerk.
The petitioner can contact their local district court clerk’s office to inquire about the other methods of serving the divorce papers, especially if the spouse is in the military or the individual does not know where their spouse currently lives.
Wait for the Spouse to Respond
After receiving the divorce papers, the petitioner’s spouse will have 30 days to file their response under Nebraska law. The spouse can either file to contest the divorce or sign the forms to show that they consent to the divorce.
If the spouse does not respond to the notice within the allotted time, they will not be able to dispute the information provided by the petitioner and may receive an unfavorable verdict regarding issues such as child custody and property division.
The petitioner will still have to wait for 60 days after serving the divorce documents before they can have their first divorce hearing, even if their spouse does not respond.
Request a Hearing or Trial Date
After the spouse’s response or lack of response, the petitioner will need to schedule either a trial or a hearing. A trial will be necessary if the other party contests any part of the Complaint for Dissolution; otherwise, the court will not be able to grant the divorce. If the divorce is uncontested, only a hearing will be necessary in order to receive the judge’s approval. Once the court date is scheduled, the petitioner must notify their spouse of the date in writing.
Attend Hearings or Trials
It typically takes only one hearing to grant a divorce if it is uncontested. The judge will examine the case and check whether the terms are fair to both parties before finalizing the dissolution of the marriage.
Contested divorces may require more court appearances, depending on the disputed topics. If there are only a few contested points and there are no children involved in the case, it may be possible to resolve the issues in one court appearance. Complex divorce trials may take months or years, depending on the circumstances.
Finalize the Divorce
Once the issues of the divorce case are settled, the judge will sign the divorce decree. Both parties can appeal the decision before the decree is finalized and operative after 30 days.
How Property Is Divided in a Nebraska Divorce
Property division is one of the common issues separating couples in Nebraska have to resolve to have their divorce granted by the court. Nebraska follows the equitable distribution law on divorce cases, which means only marital property will be divided while non-marital property remains with the spouse who owns it.
Marital property refers to the property earned or acquired by the couple during their marriage, including investments, debts, assets, retirement accounts, and pension funds. Non-marital property refers to what each party owned prior to getting married.
There are some situations where property earned during the marriage will be considered non-marital property. A gift from a third party, an inheritance, and profits from non-marital property will not be considered marital property.
The court divides the marital property based on several factors, including the duration of the marriage, the circumstances of the parties, and the history of the contributions to the marriage by each spouse. The contributions that will be considered include child care and homemaking. The court will also take into consideration sacrifices for the benefit of the marriage, such as postponing career or educational growth.
Nebraska Divorce FAQs
Nebraskans may have several questions about the divorce process. This section answers some of the most frequently asked divorce questions in the state and may help some people decide whether divorce is right for them.
Legal Resources for Getting a Divorce in Nebraska
Nebraska residents who have decided to divorce may still have several questions about the process. Going through a divorce is a very difficult process for most people. This section of the article provides several legal resources that may assist individuals in learning more about the process.
The Legal Aid of Nebraska provides services to Nebraskan residents with limited resources. It has been helping people in the state for more than 50 years. It handles family law cases involving divorce, paternity, child custody, child support, and child support modification. Other issues the group works on include harassment orders, domestic abuse protection orders, and financial abuse of elders. Individuals who want to find out if they are eligible for the group’s services can visit the Law Help Nebraska website. They can also call 1-877-250-2016.
Nebraska Free Legal Answers is a virtual legal advice clinic. Questions on the website are answered by pro bono attorneys licensed to practice in the state. The website can help answer legal questions about divorce, unemployment, eviction, consumer rights, and child custody.
The Milton R. Abrahams Legal Clinic offers free legal assistance to low-income residents of Douglas County. The clinic is staffed by Creighton University School of Law students and operates as a law firm. It works on civil cases such as divorce, wills and trusts, child support and child custody, and landlord and tenant issues. The group handles all aspects of a case, including the preparation of legal documents, the identification of legal needs, and representation in court. Potential clients may contact the clinic at 402-280-3068.
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