In re Interest of Haden N.

Caselaw Number
Filed On

SUMMARY: Termination of the father’s parental rights was proper where he did not live with or support the child prior to removal, was incarcerated for two years, and had made many poor life decisions that placed him in a poor position to be able to parent.

Hayden, DOB 1/08, was removed from his mother’s care on May 18, 2011, after he was found wandering alone in a park. His mother relinquished her parental rights and is not party to this appeal. The father, Keith, never married the mother and had set up an informal visitation arrangement after Hayden’s birth. Hayden was placed with his great grandmother where he remains and is doing well. He was developmentally behind at removal – he could not state his name or where he lived, was not potty trained and could not be understood by the therapist. He also had severe tantrums lasting up to an hour after being placed with his great grandmother. Hayden is now stable and about to enter kindergarten. On May 27, 2011, Keith had a visit with Hayden but tested positive for marijuana. He was arrested on a warrant after a June 14, 2011, hearing and was convicted to 3 to 4 years in prison for sexual assault on the 14-year-old daughter of his roommate. While in prison, Keith completed violence alternatives and parenting programs but failed to complete the required sex offender program because he found it “nonsense” that other inmates could tell him what he needed to do in his life. On October 5, 2012, the State filed a motion to terminate Keith’s parental rights. Keith has two other young children from other relationships and is behind on child support. In the past 6 years, he had lived in 6 places and had 7 jobs. Keith was released from prison on May 27, 2013. He moved in with his parents and started a full-time job building trailers. Trial was held soon after Keith’s release and on July 26, 2013, the court terminated his parental rights. Keith appealed.

The Nebraska Court of Appeals affirmed the termination. It first found that the child was out of home more than 15 of the past 22 months, thus satisfying grounds for termination under N.R.S. 43-292. As to best interests, the Court of Appeals noted Keith’s poor choices prior to entering prison and his inability to care for Hayden at his removal. It acknowledged the programs Keith completed in prison but expressed concern at his quitting the sex offender treatment program and noted that it casts doubt on his ability to complete a rehabilitation plan to be able to have Hayden placed with him. It noted Keith has not had contact with Hayden for two years, had not lived with Hayden for a significant time prior to incarceration, and it was uncertain when Keith would be in a position to parent Hayden. Finally, the Court of Appeals noted that the trial court found Keith’s testimony not to be credible and gave deference to the court on that matter before concluding termination was in Hayden’s best interests.