What happens if, shortly after the ink is dry on the divorce, you realize that you were short-changed in some way?
Whether or not the court will reopen the issue depends largely on what the issue is — in some cases, it can be impossible to reopen an issue once the divorce decree is final.
Take, for example, the issue of alimony, which can be an emotionally contentious issue for both parties.
The purpose of alimony is to provide a spouse with fewer financial resources a form of continuous income when it’s appropriate to do so. In many cases, that’s when one spouse has given up educational and career opportunities in order to manage the house and children so that the other spouse can focus on his or her education and career. Rehabilitative alimony is usually awarded to give that spouse a chance to regain his or her financial independence. Permanent alimony is rarer, but can happen — especially when one of the spouses is disabled or a couple divorces later in life.
The spouse with the higher income may resent having to pay alimony to his or her ex-spouse. The spouse with the lower income may actually not even want monthly alimony, preferring to make a clean break from his or her ex and seeing it as a tie to a relationship that’s over. Some spouses will also use alimony as a bargaining chip, leveraging it against some asset or right that he or she wants more. The higher-earning spouse might want to calculate out and pay the entire alimony at once — which may not be in the receiver’s best interests.
If you’re the spouse with the lower income, mistakes with alimony can spell disaster for your future should you regret your decision to either accept a lower alimony, a lump-sum payment in lieu of monthly payments or forgo it altogether in exchange for something else.
Nebraska statute won’t allow a court to reopen an alimony decision except under very limited circumstances. If alimony wasn’t awarded during the original divorce decree, or the entire alimony amount was already paid in a lump-sum amount, the statute bars modifications if you determine later that you should have taken a different route. That’s what makes it so very important to listen to your attorney’s advice along the way.
See our webpages for more information on alimony and family law issues.