In re Interest of Dusti M.

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In re Interest of Dusti M.

Caselaw No.
Filed on
Friday, November 8, 2013

SUMMARY: Termination of the mother’s parental rights was proper when there was evidence that the mother continued to jeopardize her daughter’s safety and was unable to recognize the danger that the men in her life, including her daughter’s father, imposed on the daughter.

The State of Nebraska filed a petition on January 23, 2012, alleging Sandi and Terry placed their daughter, Dusti (DOB 1/2011) at risk of harm. Terry previously had his rights to two biological daughters terminated based on allegations of sexual abuse. Sandi was made aware of Terry’s history, and temporarily moved to Arizona. Sandi and Dusti returned to Nebraska in January of 2012 and were seen with Terry. Dusti was adjudicated after a trial on 5/9/2012, and a motion to terminate Sandi’s parental rights was filed on 10/1/2012. Terry’s parental rights were terminated on 8/1/2012. At the trial, evidence was introduced that Terry was diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder and had refused treatment; additionally, Terry’s behavior showed a clear pattern of dangerousness. Evidence also showed that Sandi knew of Terry’s past history but insisted Terry had changed and was no longer in danger. At the time of the trial, Sandi was still in contact with Terry and his family. In addition, Sandi had entered relationships with two men during the proceedings and had quickly moved in with both of them. Sandi introduced evidence that she had a strong bond with Dusti and consistently attended visitations. The court terminated Sandi’s parental rights as to Dusti on 3/6/2013.

The Nebraska Court of Appeals affirmed the termination of parental rights. The Court first noted the unfortunate circumstances and that Sandi had a good relationship with Dusti and provided appropriately for her at all visits. However, termination was in Dusti’s best interests because Sandi repeatedly demonstrated an incapacity to recognize the negative impact of her unhealthy relationships on Dusti’s safety. Sandi knew of the consequences of staying with Terry, but continued to do so. Though Sandi did follow through with many of the recommendations required of her, Sandi continued to move in and out of relationships with men she barely knew without recognizing the imminent threat they imposed to Dusti. Therefore, the Court of Appeals found there was evidence that termination of Sandi’s parental rights was in Dusti’s best interests.