Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Nebraska Supreme Court
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This case involves a dispute between a decedent's wife and the co-personal representatives of the decedent's estate over the ownership of $100,000 and a camper under the terms of a premarital agreement. The decedent's wife, Yvonne M. White, argued that she was entitled to these assets based on the premarital agreement she had with her late husband, Leonard P. White. The co-personal representatives of Leonard's estate, his sons Jamison Patrick White and Ryan Howard White, contested this claim.The District Court for Washington County, Nebraska, ruled in favor of Yvonne, awarding her the $100,000 and the camper. The co-personal representatives appealed this decision to the Nebraska Court of Appeals, which affirmed the lower court's ruling. They then sought further review from the Nebraska Supreme Court.The Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals. The court found that Yvonne's suit for the $100,000 and the camper did not constitute a "claim" against the estate, but rather, she was a beneficiary of the estate entitled to the assets she sought under a breach of contract theory according to the terms of the premarital agreement. Therefore, her suit was not subject to the nonclaim statute's requirements for the timely filing of a claim. The court also found that the camper was a joint asset under the premarital agreement, rejecting the co-personal representatives' argument that it was the decedent's separate property. View "White v. White" on Justia Law

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The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that the State of Nebraska and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) are immune from a lawsuit brought by three siblings who were physically and sexually abused in a foster home. The siblings, Joshua M., Sydnie M., and Abigail S., were placed in the foster home by DHHS in 1996. They alleged that DHHS was negligent in recommending and supervising their placement and in failing to remove them from the home when DHHS knew or should have known they were being abused. The court found that the siblings' claims fell within the State Tort Claims Act's exemption for claims arising out of assault or battery, and thus were barred by the State's sovereign immunity. The court also found that DHHS did not breach its duty of care to the siblings. The court affirmed the judgment in favor of DHHS and remanded the case with directions to dismiss the claims against DHHS. The court also affirmed a judgment against the siblings' former foster parent in the amount of $2.9 million. View "Joshua M. v. State" on Justia Law

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The case involves an appeal against a county court's decision to appoint a permanent guardian for Patrick W., an individual deemed incapacitated due to a stroke. The appellant, Patrick W., argued that the court erred in admitting a neuropsychological report as evidence over his hearsay objection and that without this report, the evidence was insufficient to prove his incapacitation.Previously, Adult Protective Services (APS) had opened an investigation into Patrick's medical needs and financial management. Concerned about Patrick's vulnerability to financial exploitation, self-neglect, and undue influence, APS contacted an attorney to inquire about establishing a guardianship. Becky Stamp was identified as a potential guardian. The county court appointed Stamp as Patrick's temporary guardian, and later, Patrick's cousin, Terry Crandall, was substituted as the temporary guardian. The court also ordered Patrick to undergo a neuropsychological evaluation.At the guardianship hearing, the county court received several exhibits into evidence and heard testimony from six witnesses, including Patrick. The court found clear and convincing evidence that Patrick was incapacitated and appointed Crandall as his permanent guardian.The Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed the county court's decision. It held that the neuropsychological report was admissible in evidence under Nebraska Revised Statute § 30-4204, as it was a medical report obtained by the guardian ad litem regarding the person for whom she was appointed. The court also found sufficient evidence to support the county court's finding that Patrick was incapacitated and that a full guardianship was the least restrictive alternative to provide for his continuing care. View "In re Guardianship of Patrick W." on Justia Law

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In this case, a couple, Kelley L. and Richard L., sought to have Richard adopt Kelley's daughter, Kate S., without the consent of the child's biological father, Dustin S., alleging that Dustin had abandoned Kate. The Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed the County Court's decision, which denied the adoption petition, holding that Dustin had not abandoned Kate. The Supreme Court found that, although Dustin could have done more to be involved in Kate's life and did not fully comply with court-ordered reunification therapy and child support payments, the evidence suggested that Kelley had hindered Dustin from having meaningful contact with Kate. Therefore, they found that Dustin had not demonstrated a "settled purpose to forgo all parental duties and relinquish all parental claims" to Kate. The court also noted that the county court's reference to unresolved proceedings in the District Court did not constitute an error, as it simply acknowledged another potential route to adoption without Dustin's consent if his parental rights were subsequently terminated in those proceedings. View "In re Adoption of Kate S." on Justia Law

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In this Nebraska case, the appellant, Christian G., filed a motion to vacate a domestic abuse protection order issued against him, arguing that the district court lacked personal jurisdiction over him and that the court erred in excluding his affidavit, which sought to prove he did not receive timely notice of the hearing. The Nebraska Supreme Court held that by filing a request for a hearing on the protection order, Christian made a general appearance in court, thereby conferring the court personal jurisdiction over him. The court also held that while an affidavit may be used in motion practice, including for preliminary, collateral, and interlocutory matters, it is not exempt from the rules of evidence. The court determined that the portion of Christian's affidavit that contained hearsay was correctly excluded by the district court because Christian did not properly limit his offer to the admissible parts of the affidavit. Therefore, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals, which upheld the district court's ruling that denied Christian's motion to vacate the protection order. View "K. v. G." on Justia Law

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In a divorce case, the appellant, Brian M. Noland, sought to establish that he stood in loco parentis to his stepdaughter, A.B., in order to litigate issues of custody and parenting time. The Nebraska Supreme Court found that the district court had erred in its interpretation of the law when it ruled that the biological mother, Erin N. Yost, had the absolute right to unilaterally terminate the in loco parentis relationship. The Nebraska Supreme Court held that parental preference principles did not give natural parents an absolute right to terminate an established in loco parentis relationship at will. The court reasoned that while the presumption that fit parents act in their child's best interest must be considered, it must give way where the child has established strong psychological bonds with a person who, although not a biological parent, has lived with the child and provided care, nurture, and affection. The court reversed the order of the district court and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Noland v. Yost" on Justia Law

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In this case, the Nebraska Supreme Court had to consider an appeal against a lower court's decision to terminate the parental rights of a mother, Samantha M., to her daughter, Jessalina M. The child had been removed from Samantha's care shortly after her birth due to concerns about Samantha's behavior and mental health issues. The child was placed in foster care and later with her father, Jose M.The court firstly clarified the meaning of "out-of-home placement" for the purposes of the relevant statute, Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-292(7). It held that this term refers to any placement outside the home of the parent whose rights are at issue, including placement with another parent. Therefore, it held that Jessalina’s placement with her father was an “out-of-home placement” as far as Samantha was concerned.The court then considered the point at which the existence of the statutory basis for termination should be determined. It held that this should be determined as of the date the petition or motion to terminate parental rights is filed, not the date of trial or the date of the termination order. This is because the facts supporting the grounds for termination must be set forth in the petition or motion and must be based on facts existing at that time.Based on these interpretations, the court determined that the statutory basis for termination existed in this case, as Jessalina had been in out-of-home placement for more than 15 of the most recent 22 months before the termination petition was filed. It also held that the lower court did not err in finding that Samantha was unfit and that termination of her parental rights was in Jessalina's best interests. Therefore, it affirmed the decision of the lower court to terminate Samantha's parental rights. View "In re Interest of Jessalina M." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decree of dissolution in this case, holding that the district court did not err in awarding Wife alimony and an equalization payment and in equally dividing student loans for the parties' children.After the district court entered its judgment Husband timely filed a motion to alter the judgment or alternatively, for a new trial, arguing that the district court erred in awarding Wife alimony, awarding Wife a $53,200 equalization payment, and classifying the student loans incurred for the parties' adult children as marital debt subject to equal division. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the alimony award was not unreasonable; (2) the equalization payment was not an abuse of discretion; and (3) the district court did not abuse its discretion in classifying the student loans incurred for the parties' children as marital debt that was to be equally divided between the parties. View "Radmanesh v. Radmanesh" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court awarding Mother sole legal and physical custody of the parties' minor child and making some of Mother's requested findings to support an application to obtain special immigrant juvenile (SIJ) status for the child under 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(27)(J) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, holding that there was no abuse of discretion.Mother and Father were married in Mexico and had one child, Max. The parties later moved to Nebraska, where they separated. Mother filed a complaint for dissolution, requesting sole legal and physical custody of Max. The district court dissolved the marriage and awarded Mother custody. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err by refusing to make all the SIJ findings that Mother requested; and (2) Mother's second assignment of error was without merit. View "Hernandez v. Dorantes" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court granting Wife's motion to alter or amend after granting Husband's motion to alter or amend a stipulated decree of dissolution of marriage based upon a written agreement between the parties, holding that Husband was not entitled to relief on his allegations of error.Inaccurate information during settlement negotiations ultimately resulted in the failure of a portion of the stipulated decree of dissolution. Therefore, the district court granted Husband's motion to alter or amend, vacating portions of the stipulated decree concerning spousal support and division of property and the court's equitable division of property calculation. Wife subsequently moved to alter or amend the judgment, which the court granted, recalculating the division of property and limiting the alimony award to fifteen years. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by limiting the alimony award to fifteen years or in classifying and dividing the marital estate. View "Karas v. Karas" on Justia Law