Justia Nebraska Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles 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
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In this case disputing grandparent visitation the Supreme Court affirmed the district court's dismissal of Grandfather's civil contempt proceeding but vacated the court's order modifying the decree for grandparent visitation to reduce summer visitation with Grandfather, holding that the court's determination of modification as a consequence of the contempt hearing was improper due to a lack of notice and an opportunity to be heard. After the father of two children died, the paternal grandfather (Grandfather) obtained a decree for grandparent visitation. When the children later refused to visit Grandfather and Mother was unable to compel then Grandfather bought a contempt proceeding against Mother. Mother subsequently filed a complaint for modification of grandparent visitation. The district court found that Mother did not willfully and contumaciously violate the visitation decree and further dismissed the complaint for modification. The court, however, ultimately modified the decree to reduce visitation with Grandfather without holding a separate hearing on modification. The Supreme Court held (1) the district court's determination that Mother was not in contempt was not an abuse of discretion; and (2) the district court erred when it modified the decree in its order filed after the contempt hearing. View "Krejci v. Krejci" on Justia Law

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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

Posted in: Family 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

Posted in: Family 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

Posted in: Family 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

Posted in: Family Law