In re Interest of Nyajok, Wiu, and Ruey

Caselaw Number
Filed On

SUMMARY: Termination of a father’s parental rights was proper where the evidence taken together demonstrated that the father was not interested in reunifying with his children. The juvenile court did not rely solely on the father’s financial situation or cultural differences.

On September 28, 2009, Nyame (DOB 4/1995), Nyakim (DOB 12/1997), Nyajok (DOB 1/2000), Ruey (DOB 3/2001), and Wiu (DOB 8/2002) were removed from their mother’s care after their mother was arrested and jailed due to causing a disturbance at the homeless shelter where they were all staying. The children’s father, Peter, lived in Kansas City, KS at the time with his second wife and six children. At the hearing on the petition in December 2009, Peter appeared and requested appointed counsel. Several months later, Peter petitioned for leave to intervene and, after that was granted, moved to have the children placed in his care. The court denied this petition, and the State filed a supplemental petition alleging Peter failed to place himself in a position to care for the children. The children were adjudicated July 28, 2011. Peter was originally granted unsupervised visitation but this was suspended at a hearing in February 2013, at which Peter did not appear. The State filed a motion to terminate Peter’s parental rights in April 2013 as to Nyajok, Ruey, and Wiu; Nyame and Nyakim were not mentioned in the motion presumably because they were nearing the age of 18. At the termination hearing held May 20 and 21, 2013, the State presented evidence that Peter made very little effort to maintain contact with the kids. Peter had had very little phone contact and only ten visits with his children in three and a half years. During one visitation, Peter left the children with a distant relative. The children’s CASA workers testified that the children were disappointed that they could not see their father but had grown numb to the situation. In addition, Peter never obtained housing adequate for all eleven of his children and never provided proof of his employment. In contrast to the State’s evidence, Peter testified that he loved his children and that is was customary in Sudanese culture for fathers to provide financially for their children while the mothers took care of their daily needs. The juvenile court terminated Peter’s parental rights.

The Nebraska Court of Appeals affirmed the termination of Peter’s parental rights. Though Peter argued that the termination was due to his financial situation and a difference in cultural expectations, when the Court of Appeals examined the evidence as a whole, they found it sufficiently showed that Peter had no interest in reunifying with his children. Peter did not comply with court orders because he never obtained housing suitable for all of his children and never provided proof of employment. Most important to the Court of Appeals was the fact that Peter did not maintain a relationship with his children and, due to this, his children did not have a strong bond with their father. Termination of Peter’s parental rights was in the children’s best interests.