Valerie K. Connolly, appellant,
Monte D. Connolly, appellee.
Statutes: Appeal and Error. Statutory interpretation presents
a question of law that an appellate court resolves
independently of the trial court.
Divorce: Appeal and Error. In actions for dissolution of
marriage, an appellate court reviews the case de novo on the
record to determine whether there has been an abuse of
discretion by the trial judge.
Evidence: Appeal and Error. In a review de novo on the
record, an appellate court reappraises the evidence as
presented by the record and reaches its own independent
conclusions with respect to the matters at issue.
Judges: Words and Phrases. A judicial abuse of discretion
exists if the reasons or rulings of a trial judge are clearly
untenable, unfairly depriving a litigant of a substantial
right and denying just results in matters submitted for
Appeal and Error. Error without prejudice is not a ground for
Divorce: Attorney Fees: Appeal and Error. In an action for
dissolution of marriage, the award of attorney fees is
discretionary, is reviewed de novo on the record, and will be
affirmed in the absence of an abuse of discretion.
Divorce: Attorney Fees. The award of attorney fees depends on
multiple factors that include the nature of the case, the
services performed and results obtained, the earning capacity
of the parties, the length of time required for preparation
and presentation of the case, customary charges of the bar,
and the general equities of the case.
from the District Court for Scotts Bluff County: Leo
Dobrovolny, Judge. Affirmed.
Neb. 104] Paul W. Snyder, of Smith, Snyder, Petitt &
Hofmeister, G.P. for appellant.
William E. Madelung, of Madelung Law Office, for appellee.
Heavican, C.J., Miller-Lerman, Cassel, Stacy, Kelch, and
dissolution action, Valerie K. Connolly filed a petition for
legal separation. Valerie and her husband, Monte D. Connolly,
then filed a stipulation and agreement, which was approved by
the district court in its decree of legal separation. Monte
subsequently filed a motion to amend the complaint from legal
separation to dissolution of marriage. Following a hearing,
the district court issued a divorce decree, which differed
from the decree of legal separation and included both an
award of alimony and an award of half of the attorney fees to
Valerie. Valerie appeals. We affirm.
and Valerie were married on April 15, 1974. At the time of
trial, Monte was 64 years old and Valerie was 61 years old.
Valerie worked from approximately 1976 until 2008, when, as a
result of two automobile accidents, she became medically
disabled and required continuing medical treatment. Valerie
collects, as her sole source of income, approximately $1, 500
per month in long-term disability payments. Prior to the
divorce decree, Valerie received medical insurance coverage
through Social Security, Monte's health insurance policy,
and a supplemental policy paid for by Monte.
also suffers from medical issues that prevent him from
working. Monte collects long-term disability payments
totaling approximately $3, 600 per month. Monte placed $78,
062.74 from a lump-sum payment of his retirement program in
an [299 Neb. 105] annuity with an insurance company.
Together, these form his sole sources of income.
their marriage, the couple purchased a home as joint tenants.
Monte placed a value of $250, 000 on the marital home, while
Valerie valued the home at $299, 950. As of July 2016, the
home had a mortgage of $182, 598. According to their 2015
joint income tax return, the couple's adjusted gross
income was $20, 018.
August 15, 2012, Valerie filed the petition for legal
separation against Monte. On December 12, Monte and Valerie
filed a stipulation and agreement, agreeing that in the event
the parties' marriage dissolved, their jointly owned real
estate property would be sold and the proceeds would be
divided equally between the parties. The parties agreed that
Monte would continue to carry Valerie on his health insurance
policy and be responsible for the premiums on that policy
through December 31, 2012. Monte further agreed that
commencing January 1, 2013, he would pay the premiums on
Valerie's Medicare supplemental policy. The parties also
agreed that neither party shall pay or receive alimony.
Furthermore, each party agreed to be responsible for one-half
of the attorney fees incurred in the processing of this
action for a legal separation. Both parties were using the
same attorney at the time.
parties waived a hearing on the entry of a final decree of
legal separation. On December 12, 2012, the district court
issued a decree of legal separation, approving the
parties' stipulations and granting the parties a decree
of legal separation.
September 9, 2015, Monte filed a motion to amend the
complaint from legal separation to dissolution of marriage.
Valerie filed an answer requesting that the real estate owned
by the parties be sold; that Monte provide health insurance
for Valerie until Valerie reached the age of 65 or, in the
alternative, that Monte pay spousal support; and that Monte
pay Valerie's attorney fees. Valerie subsequently filed a
separate application for attorney fees.
Neb. 106] On November 15, 2016, following a hearing, the
district court filed a decree of dissolution. The decree