Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Nebraska Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court reversed the termination of Mother's parental rights to one, but not both, of her minor children, holding that the indistinguishable progress made by Mother with both children did not support a sufficient factual basis that termination of her parental rights was in the best interests of only one child. In affirming the termination of Mother's parental rights the court of appeals affirmed the juvenile court's decision to accept Mother's admissions as a voluntary relinquishment of her parental rights to one child and challenged the termination of her parental rights. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the factual basis was insufficient to support that termination of Mother's parental rights to one of her children was in that child's best interests. View "In re Interest of Donald B." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the county court declining to terminate the guardianship of Child or to grant Mother visitation, holding that the county court's findings were supported by competent evidence. In 2014, Mother's parents (Grandparents) were appointed as coguardians for Child. Thereafter, Mother was convicted of child abuse for failing to protect Child from sexual abuse while in Mother's care. In 2017, Mother filed a motion to terminate the guardianship and a motion to reinstate visitation. After a trial, the county court entered an order denying Mother's motions. The court of appeals affirmed, finding that it was in Child's best interests for the guardianship to remain in place and for there to be no visitation. The Supreme Court affirmed, although based on different reasoning than that of the court of appeals, holding that the county court's determination that, at the time of trial, Mother was unfit to parent Child was supported by competent evidence. View "In re Guardianship of K.R." on Justia Law

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In this paternity action, the Supreme Court held that a blanket rule disfavoring joint physical custody is inconsistent with the Parenting Act, Neb. Rev. Stat. 43-2920 to 43-2943, which requires that all determinations of custody and parenting time be based on factors affecting the best interests of the child, thus disapproving of its prior rule disfavoring joint physical custody. The district court entered an ordering finding Father was Child's father. Two years later, the court awarded primary legal and physical custody of Child to Father and awarded Mother nearly equal parenting time. Father appealed, arguing that the award of nearly equal parenting time was effectively an award of joint physical custody and an abuse of discretion. Relying on Nebraska precedent holding that joint physical custody is disfavored, the court of appeals remanded with directions to modify Mother's parenting time so it was "consistent with an award of primary physical custody" to Father. The Supreme Court reexamined that precedent and held (1) Nebraska law does not favor or disfavor any particular custody arrangement and instead requires all such determinations be based on the best interests of the child; and (2) there was no abuse of discretion in the custody and parenting time in the instant case. View "State, ex rel. Kaaden S. v. Jeffery T." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed as modified the order of the district court modifying the parenting plan agreed to by Anne VanSkiver and Todd VanSkiver and approved by the district court, holding that the order of modification was warranted by a material change in circumstances, and the court did not improperly delegate its authority to determine parenting time. When the marriage between the parties was dissolved Anne was granted legal and physical custody of the parties' two minor children, subject to the parenting plan at issue. Anne later moved to modify and suspend Todd's parenting time pending family therapy. The district court modified the parenting plan but did not order family therapy. The Supreme Court affirmed as modified for clarity, holding (1) the district court's order suspended Todd's parenting time entirely, and the court did not abuse its discretion in this regard; and (2) Anne showed a material change in circumstances affecting the best interests of the children, and the district court did not improperly delegate to the minor children the right to determine whether to exercise parenting time. View "VanSkiver v. VanSkiver" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decree of dissolution entered by the district court dissolving the marriage of Marissa Blank to Caleb Blank and awarding joint legal and physical custody of the parties' two minor children, holding that the district court did not err in awarding joint physical custody. Specifically, the Court held (1) Marissa had reasonable notice that joint custody was at issue during the trial, had an opportunity to be heard on the issue of joint custody during the trial, and presented evidence on the issue of joint custody during the trial, and therefore, the district court did not err in considering joint physical custody where neither party made such a request prior to trial and the court did not provide notice of its consideration; (2) the court did not err in determining that the case did not involve domestic abuse; and (3) the court did not abuse its discretion in determining that joint custody was in the children's best interests. View "Blank v. Blank" on Justia Law

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In this post-divorce action, the Supreme Court vacated in part and affirmed in part the order of the district court requiring Mother to bring the parties' children to Catholic Mass every weekend in which she was exercising parenting time or to allow Father to take the children during her parenting time, holding that the parenting plan did not require the Mass attendance ordered by the district court. During their divorce proceedings Mother and Father agreed to a stipulated parenting plan that was later incorporated in the decree dissolving their marriage. The parenting plan included a provision that the children "will be enrolled and be participants in the Catholic religion." Father later filed a motion alleging that Mother was not complying with the provision in the parenting plan regarding the children's participation in the Catholic religion. The district court entered an order providing that the children must attend Catholic Mass every weekend and on Holy Days of Obligation. The Supreme Court vacated the order in part, holding that the district court erred in interpreting the decree and that the language of the parenting plan did not require Mother to facilitate the children's attendance at Catholic Mass as ordered by the district court. View "Gomez v. Gomez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part, affirmed in part as modified, and reversed in part the decree of dissolution in this case, holding that the district court erred in calculating child support and in dividing certain marital assets and that the parties' remaining arguments on appeal were without merit. Shawn Dooling appealed the decree of dissolution, arguing that the trial court erred in calculating child support, dividing the martial state, and awarding alimony. Kristina Dooling cross-appealed, assigning errors relating to the issues of child support, division of the marital estate, and the award of joint physical custody. The Supreme Court held (1) the district court erred in calculating child support, and the matter is remanded for the district court for a proper calculation of child support; (2) the court erred in its equitable division of the house proceeds, and the division of the house proceeds requires modification; (3) there was no abuse of discretion in the district court's determination that joint physical custody and the parenting plan incorporated into the decree are in the best interests of the children; and (4) the parties' remaining arguments were without merit. View "Dooling v. Dooling" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed this appeal from civil contempt proceedings in a dissolution action, holding that a contemnor's full compliance with a purge plan rendered moot a subsequent appeal of the finding of contempt. After the dissolution of her marriage to James Bramble, Lori Bramble was found to have willfully violated the provisions of the decree. The court established a purge plan but did not impose a sanction for the contempt. Lori filed a timely motion to alter or amend the order, which the court overruled. Lori appealed, arguing that the district court erred by finding her in contempt and by imposing a purge plan. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that the appeal was moot because Lori had fully and voluntarily purged herself of the civil contempt finding she sought to overturn, and no legally cognizable interest continued to exist. View "Bramble v. Bramble" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court denying Ariana Bernal Sabino's request for in forma paupers status on appeal from the district court's entry of a decree dissolving her marriage to Juan Carlos Genchi Ozuna, holding that the district court erred in denying Sabino's request to proceed in forma paupers in her appeal from the divorce decree. The district court dissolved the parties' marriage in this case but denied Sabino's petition for findings of fact regarding the abuse, abandonment, and neglect of her children by Ozuna. Sabino filed a motion to appeal accompanied by a motion to proceed in forma pauperis. The district court denied the motion, finding that Sabino was not destitute or not in the condition that she could not pay the appeal expenses. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, under Neb. Rev. Stat. 25-2301.02, Sabino lacked sufficient funds to pay costs, fee, or security. View "Sabino v. Ozuna" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the domestic abuse protection order obtained by Robert M. on behalf of Bella O., holding that the trial court did not err in determining that Bella was a victim of abuse within the meaning of Neb. Rev. Stat. 42-903. Robert and Danielle O. were the parents of Bella. Robert filed a petition and affidavit to obtain a domestic abuse protection order for Bella against Danielle under Neb. Rev. Stat. 42-924. Robert's affidavit stated that Danielle physically attacked two other family members while Bella was present. Danielle, however, did not attack Bella. The trial court determined that Danielle's conduct put Bella in fear of bodily injury by means of a credible threat and thus constituted domestic abuse under section 42-903(1)(b). The Supreme Court affirmed, although its reasoning differed from that of the trial court, holding that Bella did to have to be the target or recipient of a threat in order to be a victim thereof and that Bella was entitled to a protection order under the circumstances of this case. View "Robert M. v. Danielle O." on Justia Law