Justia Nebraska Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Family Law

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Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant seeking to establish paternity, custody, and support of the parties’ minor child. Thereafter, Plaintiff moved to disqualify Defendant’s privately retained legal counsel. The district court granted the motion. Defendant filed a motion to reconsider, which the district court denied. Defendant then filed a purported appeal from the court’s order, assigning seven errors relating to the district court’s disqualification of her attorney. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding (1) this Court improperly exceeded its statutory and constitutional authority twenty years ago when it adopted the so-called Richardson exception to the final order requirement, and therefore, the Court’s line of decisions purporting to authorize an interlocutory appeal are hereby overruled; and (2) because the appeal from the order at issue in this case is not statutorily authorized, the appeal is dismissed. View "Heckman v. Marchio" on Justia Law

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Jay Bergmeier filed a complaint for dissolution of marriage. Nanci Bergmeier filed a counter-complaint. The district court filed a decree of dissolution of marriage that (1) determined Jay’s future termination payments and extended termination payments that he was expected to receive after the dissolution as a “captive agent” of State Farm Insurance Company were marital property and awarded Nanci a portion thereof, (2) divided the parties’ liabilities and other assets, and (3) awarded Nanci alimony and attorney fees. The Supreme Court affirmed in part as modified and in part reversed, holding that the district court (1) did not err in determining that Jay’s termination payments and extended termination payments under his contract with State Farm were marital property; (2) erred in assigning a specific value to the termination payments and in awarding Nanci fifty percent of the termination payments and extended termination payments; and (3) did not abuse its discretion in its award of alimony. Remanded. View "Bergmeier v. Bergmeier" on Justia Law
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The State filed juvenile petitions alleging that the three children of Mother and Father came within the meaning of Neb. Rev. Stat. 43-247(3)(a) due to the faults and habits of their parents. The juvenile court found the allegations of the petitions were true as to every child. The orders of adjudication placed custody of the children with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and ordered speech and language and early childhood development assessments for two of the children. Mother and Father, however, refused to complete consent forms necessary to authorize the assessments ordered by the court. Consequently, the court appointed an “educational surrogate” for both children. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the juvenile court did not err in ordering Mother and Father to show cause why they should not be held in contempt and subsequently appointing an education surrogate while the adjudications were pending in the Court of Appeals; and (2) the orders appointing an educational surrogate were not imposed as a sanction for civil contempt. View "In re Interest of Becka P." on Justia Law
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Plaintiffs were three same-sex couples who sought to enjoin Defendants from enforcing a 1995 administrative memorandum and from restricting gay and lesbian individuals and couples from being considered or selected as foster or adoptive parents. Plaintiffs generally alleged that the policy violated equal protection and due process and violated 42 U.S.C. 1983. The court ordered the memorandum rescinded and stricken and enjoined Defendants and those acting in concert with them from enforcing the memorandum and/or applying a categorical ban such as the one at issue in this case. Defendants appealed, arguing that Plaintiffs lacked standing to bring this case, that there was no case or controversy, and that the lawsuit became moot when the policy memorandum was removed from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) website after Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment was filed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the underlying action was justiciable; and (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding costs and attorney fees. View "Stewart v. Heineman" on Justia Law

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In 2004, Michael Burns and Kerry Burns divorced. This appeal involved a contempt proceeding between the parties that was pending before the district court for Adams County. Judge James Doyle, acting as the district judge for Adams County, issued an order requiring Kerry to appear in the Dawson County District Court and show cause why she should not be held in contempt for refusing to comply with prior orders. When Kerry did not appear for the show cause hearing the district court entered an order finding Kerry in contempt and sanctioning her to ten days in jail. Thereafter, Kerry moved the district court to vacate its order on the basis that the court did not have authority to hold an evidentiary hearing outside of the county in which it was sitting. The district court overruled Kerry’s motion to vacate. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court did not act in conformity with the law when it ordered Kerry to appear in Dawson County and when it held the contempt hearing there because Dawson County was outside the pending county of Adams County. Remanded. View "Burns v. Burns" on Justia Law

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Father appealed from a decree dissolving his marriage to Mother, contesting the award of custody of the parties’ two children to Mother, the order that Father pay child support, and the classification of lump-sum disability benefit payment from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as marital property. The Supreme Court modified the decree to exclude the payment’s proceeds, holding (1) federal law prevents a state court from exercising subject matter jurisdiction over VA disability benefits, and therefore a state court cannot include the amount of military retirement pay that a veteran waives in order to receive such benefits as divisible marital property; and (2) the remainder of the district court’s rulings were not in error. View "Donald v. Donald" on Justia Law
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The State filed motions for termination of Mother’s parental rights to her five children due to abandonment, neglect, and aggravated circumstances. After a hearing, the county court granted the State’s motions to terminate Mother’s parental rights. The consolidated order was issued on April 4, 2016. On April 28, 2016, the court issued a consolidated order nunc pro tunc, which stated that the April 4 order would be vacated and reissued under the date of April 28 to allow the parties to have an appropriate amount of time to file an appeal. No party moved to vacate the April 4 order. Mother subsequently filed notices of appeal from the court’s April 28 order nunc pro tunc, arguing that the county court erred in finding that it was in the children’s best interests to terminate Mother’s parental rights. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeals, holding (1) the district court had no authority to issue its April 28 order; and (2) Mother failed to file notices of appeal within thirty days of the April 4 order, and therefore, this Court was without jurisdiction. View "In re Interest of Luz P." on Justia Law

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After an adjudicative hearing, the juvenile court found the three children of Mother and Father were within the meaning of Neb. Rev. Stat. 43-247(3)(a) as to both parents due to physical abuse. The State subsequently filed a supplemental petition alleging that all three children were within the meaning of section 43-247(3)(a). Father filed a motion to dismiss the supplemental petition for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted because the allegations were barred by claim and issue preclusion. The juvenile court agreed and dismissed the State’s supplemental petition. The Supreme Court vacated the order of dismissal, holding (1) the juvenile court erred by not converting the motions to dismiss into motions for summary judgment and allowing both parties an opportunity to produce evidence supporting their arguments; and (2) the doctrine of claim preclusion should not be strictly applied in abuse and neglect cases when doing so would fail to protect children from continuing abuse or neglect. Remanded for further proceedings on the supplemental petition. View "In re Interest of Noah B." on Justia Law

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Appellee filed a complaint for dissolution of marriage against Appellant. During the pendency of the dissolution case, Appellant filed a separate complaint for declaratory judgment seeking an order regarding the parties’ rights under a prenuptial agreement. In the declaratory judgment action, the district court found the agreement to be valid and enforceable. The Supreme Court vacated the order of the district court and remanded with directions to enter an order dismissing Appellant’s complaint for declamatory judgment, holding that the district court abused its discretion when it entertained Appellant’s declaratory judgment action when another action was pending involving the same parties and the same issues. View "Mansuetta v. Mansuetta" on Justia Law

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Lindsay and Jennifer were involved in a committed relationship for several years but were never married. During their relationship, Lindsday gave birth to a son conceived by artificial insemination using an anonymous donor. After Lindsay and Jennifer separated, they continued to coparent Chase. Lindsay later married Jessica. Jennifer subsequently filed a complaint seeking to establish custody of Chase. Thereafter, Lindsay and Jennifer filed a petition for stepparent adoption. Jennifer sought to intervene in the adoption proceeding and also to stay the adoption proceeding pending resolution of the district court custody action. The county court denied relief. Jennifer appealed and moved to stay the adoption proceeding pending the outcome of her appeal. The court of appeals sustained the motion. The Supreme Court vacated the county court’s order, holding (1) the adoption statutes require that necessary consents, including the consent of the district court involved in a custody case involving the same child, be filed before a county court entertains the merits of any issue in the adoption proceeding; and (2) because the record in this case does not reflect the district court’s consent, the county court lacked the statutory authority to exercise jurisdiction over the adoption proceeding and lacked authority to rule on the merits of Jennifer’s intervention claim. Remanded. View "In re Adoption of Chase T." on Justia Law
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