In re Interest of Emilee J.

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In re Interest of Emilee J.

Caselaw No.
Filed on
Tuesday, September 10, 2013

SUMMARY: Termination of parental rights was proper where the father was repeatedly incarcerated on drug-related convictions, could not maintain abstinence from drugs and did not develop a consistent, strong relationship with the child.

Emilee, DOB 3/07, is the child of Josey and Michael. Emilee lived with Josey while Michael had regular visitation about once a week. During that time, Michael struggled with drug abuse and had criminal convictions as a result of his drug use. He was convicted in July 2009 and sentenced to one year in jail. He achieved work release but lost it due to a failed drug test. He was again released in January 2011. In August 2011, the State filed a 3a petition as to Emilee, who was residing with her maternal grandmother. Michael began having supervised visits with Emilee twice per week in his home but after insects were found in his toys the visits were moved to a visitation center. Once the location was changed, Michael stopped visiting Emilee. At a hearing in January 2012, it was realized that paternity was not established and the court ordered genetic testing be made available. In March 2012, Michael was again incarcerated on a probation revocation and re-sentenced to 3 to 5 years. Once in jail, Michael took the paternity test which confirmed he was Emilee’s father. On August 2, 2012, the State filed a motion to terminate Michael’s parental rights. After trial on October 18 and December 4, 2012, the court terminated Michael’s parental rights pursuant to N.R.S. 43-292(2) and (4). Michael appealed.

The Nebraska Court of Appeals affirmed the termination of parental rights. It found that Michael’s multiple incarcerations suggest a history of law violations based on his drug use and that Michael has not been able to adequately address his drug abuse. When he wasn’t incarcerated, Michael made little effort to establish a relationship with Emilee and he never provided financially for her. The Court of Appeals also noted Michael didn’t immediately submit to paternity testing. Given those findings, the Court of Appeals concluded grounds for termination existed under 43-292(2). As to best interests, the Court of Appeals found that Michael had not make significant progress toward reunification in that he has not maintained any stability, he will have a long road after being released from prison and he does not have a strong bond with Emilee that would persuade them otherwise.