Justia Nebraska Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Family Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed as modified the judgment of the district court determining that it was in Child's best interests to continue living with Mother and in declining to change custody of Child to Father, holding that deployment of Mother's military spouse for one year to a base near Washington, D.C., coupled with a change in employment conditions after the deployment ended, constituted a legitimate reason for leaving the state. After Mother, who had custody of Child, remarried, she sought a modification requesting permission to move with Child to the District of Columbia and thereafter to wherever he husband was stationed. The court granted Mother leave to remove Child from Nebraska and to determine his primary place of residence. The Supreme Court affirmed as modified, holding (1) Mother established a legitimate reason for leaving Nebraska and moving with Child to the District of Columbia, and the district court did not err in determining that it was in Child's best interests to continue living with Mother; (2) the court did not err in declining to change custody of Child to Father; and (3) to the extent the order authorizes Mother to later move with Child to Missouri or Alabama, the order is modified to eliminate that authority. View "State, ex rel. Ryley G. v. Ryan G." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court affirming the decision of a state agency ruling several noncitizen applicants ineligible for all public benefits of the Bridge to Independence program (B2I), holding that the district court did not err in determining that applicants were not eligible for B2I. The applicants in this case were Guatemalan citizens who fled to Nebraska as minors. Each applicant was adjudicated pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. 43-247(3)(a) and placed in foster care. The applicants, who had already received special immigration juvenile status, applied to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) for B2I. DHHS denied the applications because each applicant failed to meet the citizenship and lawful presence requirements. The district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in determining that the applicants were not eligible for B2I because the applicants were not "lawfully present" and the legislature did not "affirmatively provide[]" for unlawful applicants to be eligible under the Young Adult Bridge to Independence Act, Neb. Rev. Stat. 43-4501 to 43-4514. View "E.M. v. Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals finding sufficient evidence to support modifying legal custody of the minor child in this case but not physical custody, holding that the court of appeals erred in finding that Father did not prove a material change in circumstances justifying modification of physical custody. Upon their divorce, Mother was awarded legal and physical custody of the child. The court later entered a modified decree awarding the parties joint legal and physical custody. Father then filed the instant complaint to modify, alleging that there had been a material change in circumstances warranting a change in the joint custody arrangement. After a trial, the court gave Father physical custody subject to Mother's parenting time and found it unnecessary to modify the parties' joint legal custody. The court of appeals found insufficient evidence to warrant modifying physical custody but sufficient evidence to modify legal custody. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that Mother's continuous unemployment and chronic housing instability was a material change in circumstances that affected the child's best interests, and the district court's custody arrangement was in the child's best interests. View "Jones v. Jones" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the court of appeals affirming the order of the county court appointing Suzette G.'s brother, Alvin G., as her limited guardian, holding that the court of appeals did not err when it allowed the appointed guardian ad litem (GAL) to testify at the trial. Alvin filed petitions seeking temporary and permanent appointments as Suzette's limited guardian, alleging that because of mental health issues Suzette was incapable of making responsible decisions regarding her person and her health. After a trial, the court appointed Alvin as a permanent limited guardian for Suzette. On appeal, Suzette argued that the county court erred when it allowed the court-appointed GAL to testify. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, the GAL was allowed to testify under the rules of professional conduct and, consequently, under Neb. Ct. R. 6-1469(E)(4)(b). View "In re Guardianship of Suzette G." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the juvenile court terminating Father's parental rights to his minor child, holding that the juvenile court did not deny Father procedural due process and did not err when it determined that terminating Father's parental rights to the child was appropriate under Neb. Rev. Stat. 43-292(2) and (7) and was in the best interests of the child. The juvenile court terminated Father's parental rights to his child on three statutory bases. Father appealed, arguing that his procedural due process rights were violated and that the juvenile court erred when it terminated his parental rights. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Father was not denied procedural due process rights at the termination hearing; and (2) there was support in the record establishing grounds for termination under section 43-292(2) and (7) and the evidence demonstrated that termination of Father's parental rights was in the best interests of the child. View "In re Interest of Taeson D." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the district court declining to make specific findings of fact for purposes of special immigrant juvenile (SIJ) status under federal law after rendering judgment dissolving the marriage of Mother and Father and awarding full custody of the parties' child to Mother, holding that the court had the authority to make these findings. After the court made an oral pronouncement granting the parties' divorce and awarding custody to Mother, it signed a decree that included findings sought regarding abuse, neglect, or abandonment and best interests of the child. The court, however, struck through those findings and therefore did not make the findings requested by Mother, concluding that it lacked the authority to make the requested findings. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court erred in not making the findings of fact requested by Mother because the court had the jurisdiction to make an initial child custody determination and to make the requested findings. View "Sabino v. Ozuna" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the county court establishing a guardianship for an Indian child, holding that the guardianship proceeding was governed by the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and the Nebraska Indian Child Welfare Act (NICWA) and that the required showing under ICWA and NICWA was not made in this case. Grandmother sought to establish a guardianship for a Native American child over the objection of Mother. At the conclusion of the evidence at trial, the county court stated that it had found a sufficient basis for the appointment of Grandmother as the child's guardian. The court did not mention ICWA or NICWA in its written order appointing Grandmother as guardian for the child. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the cause with directions to vacate the guardianship, holding (1) ICWA and NICWA applied to the guardianship proceeding; and (2) the guardianship proceeding failed to comply with ICWA and NICWA. View "In re Guardianship of Eliza W." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court modified a decree dissolving Timothy White's marriage to Ann White, holding that Tim established that part of an investment account was nonmarital, and therefore, that account was not properly classified as marital property. The main issue in this appeal was whether the growth in value of one investment account, which was derived from a nonmarital source, was properly classified as marital property. The Supreme Court affirmed the decree as modified, holding (1) Tim failed to meet his burden to prove that the growth was not due to the active efforts of either spouse; (2) the district court erred in classifying certain holdings in another investment account as marital property; and (3) there was no abuse of discretion regarding the court's division of a tax liability, order fo an equalization payment, and valuation date of the marital assets and liabilities of the parties. View "White v. White" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the juvenile court declining to adjudicate a newborn that reportedly tested positive for methamphetamine on the grounds that the State failed to prove that he was at risk of harm, holding that the evidence demonstrated that the newborn lacked proper parental care due to his mother's fault or habits. The State sought to adjudicate the newborn, who had been in a hospital with Mother, and his two siblings, who lived with and received appropriate care from their grandmother, solely on the basis that the children lacked proper parental care. The juvenile court declined to adjudicate the children. The Supreme Court affirmed the juvenile court's decision as to the older siblings because they did not lack proper parental care but reversed as to the newborn, holding that the newborn lacked proper parental care, as demonstrated by Mother's drug use during pregnancy until the time of his birth. View "In re Interest of Jeremy U." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the district court's determinations that a portion of Husband's 401K and proceeds from an inheritance constituted nonmarital property, holding that the court did not abuse its discretion in setting off property as non marital in accordance with Husband's testimony. In reversing, the court of appeals found that Husband did not meet his burden of proving that his 401K had a value of $130,000 at the time of his marriage to Wife and did not prove the amount he inherited from his father. Husband appealed, arguing that the court of appeals erred in determining that because he offered no documentary evidence at trial to support his undisputed testimony he failed to meet his burden of proof that he had $130,000 in a 401K at the time of marriage and that he received a $60,000 inheritance during the marriage. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the court of appeals erred in determining that documentary evidence is necessary to establish a claim to non marital property and that a nonmarital value must be proved definitively; and (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding Husband's testimony to be credible and setting off the amounts claimed as nonmarital. View "Burgardt v. Burgardt" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law