In re Interest of Eli S.

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In re Interest of Eli S.

Caselaw No.
Filed on
Monday, December 30, 2013

SUMMARY: Immediate termination of parental rights to a child born after the involuntarily termination of prior children was proper where the mother continued to deny physical abuse by the father that led to the prior terminations and maintained a close relationship with him. 

Eli, DOB 8/12, was born to Tammy and Daniel. On August 29, 2012, the State filed a motion to terminate Tammy’s parental rights, a motion requesting reasonable efforts were not required and a request for temporary custody. Tammy had two older children, Paige and Jay, which she lost her parental rights to in March 2011 after failing to resolve issues involving domestic violence with Daniel. Jay had told his therapist he witnessed domestic violence and Daniel has a history of assaultive behavior, which includes his 14-year-old sister and Tammy. However, Tammy consistently refused to acknowledge the abuse. On October 12, 2012, the court ordered that DHHS was not required to provide reasonable efforts to reunify, and trial was held on February 26 and March 29, 2013. At trial, Tammy testified that Eli’s conception had been the only sexual encounter she had had with Daniel after the earlier case but that she remained close friends with Daniel, uses him as a support system and that he may have stayed the weekend with her. Tammy continued to deny that Daniel was ever physically assaultive. Daniel stated he had never committed domestic violence and claimed he was wrongfully convicted of the crimes in his lengthy criminal history. Daniel had not completed any therapy or batterer’s classes and stated he didn’t need to work on anything because he was “perfect the way he was.” A caseworker testified that the same issues existed in the current case that were in the prior one. After trial, the court terminated Tammy’s parental rights. Tammy appealed.

The Nebraska Court of Appeals affirmed the termination of parental rights. It first held that there was sufficient evidence that Tammy committed substantial or continuous neglect of a sibling given the prior terminations of Paige and Jay. To Tammy’s challenge that the state’s sole reliance on a prior case was unconstitutional, the Court of Appeals noted, citing prior cases, that proving a ground for termination was not the sole requirement. The State still had to prove termination was in the children’s best interests. As to best interests, the Court of Appeals noted that Tammy has an ongoing relationship with Daniel and that she refused to acknowledge and continues to refuse the abuse by Daniel. Tammy speaks with Daniel frequently, uses him as a support system and even gave him a car to use. The Court of Appeals had great concern that Tammy did not recognize the danger Daniel posed to the children and concluded she was therefore unable to protect Eli from that danger. The circumstances from the prior case had not changed and therefore termination was proper.