Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Nebraska Supreme Court
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In case No. S-20-009, the Supreme Court reversed the order of the juvenile court denying Father's motion for placement, and in case No. S-20-244, affirmed the order of adjudication of the child over Father's objection, holding that the juvenile court erred in finding Father unfit and in denying his parental preference for physical custody.The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services was given temporary custody of the child and placed him in temporary foster care. After Father became aware that the child was in foster care he moved for temporary physical placement. The juvenile court denied the motion and proceeded with adjudication of the child. In case No. S-20-009, Father appealed the denial of his motion for placement. In case No. S-20-244, Father argued that his appeal in case No. S-20-009 divested the juvenile court of jurisdiction to issue the adjudication. The Supreme Court (1) reversed the order denying Father's motion for placement, holding that because Father was not given notice that his fitness or forfeiture were to be adjudicated at the hearing on his motion for placement, the juvenile court could not properly deprive him of his right to custody under the parental preference doctrine; and (2) affirmed the order of adjudication in case No. S-20-244, holding that the order of adjudication was not void. View "In re Interest of A.A." on Justia Law

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In this marital dissolution action, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals to the extent it affirmed the district court's disposition of Husband's 401K accounts, holding that the court of appeals and the district court erred in their application of the active appreciation rule.In its dissolution decree, the district court found that Wife should be awarded $10,500 from a 401K account owned by Husband but otherwise awarded Husband all funds in his retirement and investment accounts. The court of appeals affirmed the decree. The Supreme Court reversed in part, arguing that although the value of the 401K account at issue at the time of the parties' marriage was Husband's nonmarital property, under the active appreciation rule, the growth in that account during the marriage was marital. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that the increase in the value of the 401K account should have been treated as marital property subject to equitable division, and the lower courts abused their discretion in finding otherwise. View "Higgins v. Currier" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court dismissing Benjamin M.'s amended complaint seeking to establish custody, support, and parenting time, holding that the district court erred in failing to give proper legal effect to the two notarized acknowledgments of paternity Benjamin filed contemporaneously with his amended complaint.Benjamin and Jeri were the parents of two minor children, F.M. and L.M. The parents executed notarized acknowledgments of paternity for each child. Benjamin later filed a complaint seeking to establish paternity, child support, and parenting time. Jeri moved to dismiss the action as time-barred. Thereafter, Benjamin filed an amended complaint to establish child custody, child support, and parenting time and offered into evidence certified copies of the notarized acknowledgements of paternity for both children. The district court dismissed the case as being time-barred. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the cause for further proceedings, holding (1) where there is a properly executed and unchallenged acknowledgment of paternity, an action for establishment of paternity should be treated solely as an action to determine the issues of custody and support; and (2) the district court erred in failing to give proper legal effect to the signed, notarized acknowledgments of paternity in this case. View "Benjamin M. v. Jeri S." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the juvenile court terminating Mother's parental rights to her two children, holding that clear and convincing evidence supported termination of parental rights.After a termination hearing, the juvenile court entered an order terminating Mother's parental rights, finding that the State proved grounds for termination under Neb. Stat. 43-292(2), (4), and (6) as to both children and that termination of parental rights was in the children's best interests. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the juvenile court erred in determining that termination of Mother's parental rights was in the children's best interests. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the State adduced clear and convincing evidence that termination of Mother's parental rights was in the children's best interests and that the State proved a statutory ground for termination. View "In re Interest of Leyton C." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the dissolution decree in this case, holding that the no-fault divorce statutory scheme governing dissolution found at Neb. Rev. Stat. 42-347 to 42-381 is not unconstitutional.On appeal from the dissolution decree, Defendant argued that, by virtue of establishing no-fault divorce, the statutory scheme deprives defendants in dissolution actions of procedural due process and constitutes special legislation in favor of plaintiffs. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) section 42-347(3) does not violate the procedural due process provisions of the United States and Nebraska Constitutions; and (2) section 42-347(3) does not constitute special legislation granting divorces. View "Dycus v. Dycus" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the county court granting Gerald F.'s petition to be appointed guardian and conservator of a minor child and ordering Gerald to pay the guardian ad litem's (GAL) reasonable fees and costs, holding that the court acted within its statutory authority.After Gerald filed his petition to be appointed guardian and conservator he moved for the appointment of a GAL to represent the interests of the minor child. The motion was sustained by the county court. After a trial, the court granted Gerald's petition to be appointed the child's guardian and conservator. The county court subsequently determined that Gerald must pay the GAL's fees and costs. Gerald appealed, arguing that the order to pay fees and costs was not statutorily authorized. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court's order was authorized under Neb. Rev. Stat. 30-2643. View "In re Guardianship & Conservatorship of J.F." on Justia Law

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After Appellant appealed an order of the district court finding him in contempt of court and modifying terms of a parenting plan, the Supreme Court dismissed Appellant's appeal from an order of commitment and a purge order containing a reduction in Appellant's parenting time, holding that, as to the first appeal, there was no abuse of discretion, and that, as to the second appeal, there was no final order.The district court found Appellant in contempt of court for violating parenting provisions of a dissolution decree, imposed a suspended jail sentence, and modified terms of the parenting plan in this case. Appellant appealed this order. While the appeal was pending, the court entered an order of commitment and a purge order reducing Appellant's parenting time but setting the matter for a future review hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed as to the first appeal and dismissed the second appeal for lack of a final order, holding (1) the modifications at issue in the first appeal were part of the equitable relief the court had the authority to provide; and (2) the second appeal was not taken from a final order. View "Yori v. Helms" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed a series of orders fixing fees for court-appointed counsel in a juvenile proceeding, holding that the juvenile court did not abuse its discretion.After Mother's children were adjudicated under Neb. Rev. Stat. 43-247(3)(a) the State moved to terminate Mother's parental rights. The juvenile court denied the State's motion following a trial. The court of appeals affirmed. Thereafter, Mother filed three fee applications seeking payment for services rendered by court-appointed counsel. The court found Mother's requested fees were fair and reasonable and allowed the fee applications. The Supreme Court affirmed after clarifying the statutory framework for appealing such orders, holding that there was no abuse of discretion. View "In re Claim of Roberts for Attorney Fees" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court that modified the decree dissolving Jayson Tilson's marriage, holding that there was no merit to Jayson's claims on appeal.In 2015, the court entered a decree of dissolution ordering the continuation of the maternal grandmother's legal and physical custody as to Jayson's three minor children. In 2017, Jayson filed a complaint requesting that the decree be vacated as void and that, in the alternative, the decree be modified to place custody of the children with him. The district court rejected Jayson's argument that the original decree was void, ordered that custody should remain with the grandmother, but modified the decree as to parenting time and child support. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no error on the part of the district court. View "Tilson v. Tilson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court awarding custody of a child to an individual standing in loco parentis and, in this opinion, refined the standard for an exceptional case where a child's best interests can negate the parental preference principle.Father was awarded physical custody of Child. Mother later filed a complaint to modify child custody seeking to be awarded sole physical custody. After being allowed to intervene, Jo filed a complaint alleging that she was Child's primary caretaker and that she stood in loco parentis over Child. After a trial, the court placed legal and physical custody with Jo. Mother appealed, arguing that the court abused its discretion by awarding custody to Jo rather than to Mother. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion, holding (1) when a fit parent has not forfeited her or his superior right to custody, the best interests of the child will negate the parental preference principle only in an exceptional case; and (2) an exceptional case requires proof of serious physical or psychological harm or a substantial likelihood of such harm. View "State ex rel. Tina K. v. Adam B." on Justia Law