Largen v. Gerritsen-Largen

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Largen v. Gerritsen-Largen

Additional Case Names
(second case to argue)
Case Number
Court Number
Call Date
September 15, 2023
Case Time
1:00 PM
Case Summary

A-22-0095, Largen (Appellant) v. Gerritsen-Largen   

 Hall County, District Court Judge Patrick Lee

Attorney for Appellant: Jennifer D. Kearney (Bradley Law Office, PC)  

Attorney for Appellee:  Mitchell C. Stehlik (Stehlik Law Firm, P.C., L.L.O.)

Civil Action:  Dissolution of Marriage; Child Custody/Parenting Time; Child Support

Action Taken by Trial Court:  The district court granted custody of the parties’ two younger children to the husband and custody of the eldest child to the wife. The district court ordered child support to be paid monthly after the eldest child reached the age of majority.

Assignments of Error on Appeal:  On appeal, the mother contends that the district court abused its discretion in determining that: (1) split custody was in the minor children’s best interests; (2) the wife engaged in alienation of the husband’s parental rights; (3) the husband was a fit and proper parent; and (4) granting custody of the parties’ two minor children to the husband who lived in Iowa.

Extended Case Summary

A-22-925, Largen v. Gerritsen-Largen

Hall County, District Court, Judge Patrick Lee

Attorneys for Appellant: Jennifer D. Kearney (Bradley Law Office, PC)

Attorney for Appellee: Mitchell C Stehlik (Stehlik Law Firm, PC)

Civil Action: child custody; parenting time; and child support.

Action Taken by Trial Court: Elizabeth A. Largen, now know as Elizabeth A. Barnes, appeals from the Hall County District Court’s dissolution decree and its award of custody and parenting time. She generally argues that the court erred in finding that it was in the minor children’s best interests to award a split custody arrangement and in finding that Elizabeth had engaged in parental alienation.

Elizabeth and Josiah were married in 2005 and had 3 children during the course of the marriage: Simon, born in 2005; Lincoln, born in 2011; and Cyrus, born in 2013. Lincoln and Cyrus both have disabilities: Simon has hearing loss and Cyrus is deaf. During their marriage, the parties primarily resided in Nebraska, until 2016 when they moved to Iowa. One of the reasons for the move was so that Lincoln and Cyrus could attend the Iowa School for the Deaf. The parties remained in Iowa until June 2019, when Elizabeth and the children moved back to Nebraska due to Josiah’s aggression and controlling behavior.

Upon returning to Nebraska, Elizabeth sought a protection order on behalf of herself and the minor children against Josiah based on allegations that Josiah had engaged in physical intimidation and violence towards her. After Josiah contested the protection order, the order was modified to apply only to Elizabeth. The protection order was renewed annually, uncontested by Josiah, and remained in place until the week before the dissolution trial. In October 2020, Elizabeth filed a complaint for dissolution of marriage in which she requested primary legal and physical custody of the parties’ children subject to Josiah’s supervised parenting time.

During the trial Elizabeth testified she fled to Nebraska with the children in 2019 because she feared for their safety due to Josiah’s behaviors which Elizabeth described as a pattern of physical intimidation and control.

At the time of the trial, Josiah had not seen the children for 3 years, nor did he provide financial support to them. Josiah stated that he did not make efforts to see the children after the first three resulted in protection order violations against him. The children had been attending school in Nebraska and Lincoln and Cyrus received accommodations for their disabilities. All the children were doing well in their current schools.

Following the trial, the district court entered a decree dissolving the parties’ marriage and determining custody, parenting time, and child support. The district court awarded the parties joint legal custody of all 3 children but split physical custody of the children between the parties awarding physical custody of Simon to Elizabeth and awarded physical custody of Lincoln and Cyrus to Josiah. The district court specifically found that it was in Lincoln and Cyrus’ best interests to return to the Iowa School for the deaf. The court further found that the protection order “significantly alienated” Josiah’s parental rights and access to his children and that Josiah’s compliance with the protection order “was the direct cause of the resulting parental alienation and placed [Josiah] in a situation where he had no legal choice but the one he took.”

Elizabeth now appeals from the order dissolving the parties’ marriage and awarding custody of the parties’ two younger children to Josiah.  

Assignments of Error on Appeal: Elizabeth’s assignments of error, renumbered and restated, are that the district court abused its discretion in (1) finding that a split custody arrangement was in the best interests of the minor children and awarding physical custody of the parties’ two youngest children to Josiah; (2) finding that Elizabeth engaged in significant alienation of Josiah’s parental rights; and (3) finding that Josiah was a fit and proper parent.

Case Location
University of Nebraska Omaha
Court Type
District Court
Schedule Code
Panel Text
Bishop, Arterburn, and Welch, Judges