In re Interest of Tristan C

Caselaw Number
Filed On

SUMMARY: Termination of parental rights was in the child’s best interests where the parents had failed to maintain a relationship with the child or ever inquire into the child’s well-being.

Tristan (DOB 6/21/2012) tested positive for Methadone and exhibited withdrawal symptoms shortly following his birth. The State of Nebraska removed Tristan from his parents’ care and filed a petition on June 27, 2012. Tristan was adjudicated December 27 as to his mother, Nicole, and adjudicated as to his father, Michael, in April 2013. Michael and Nicole appealed the adjudication, which was affirmed. On October 15, 2013, Tristian’s guardian ad litem filed a motion to terminate Michael and Nicole’s parental rights. Neither parent appeared at the termination hearing held January 13, 2014 but both were represented by counsel. Two DHHS child and family service specialists testified that they had minimal contact with Michael and Nicole despite making numerous attempts. Michael had not seen Tristan since Tristan’s birth in June 2012. Nicole had only seen Tristan two times since he was removed from her care, and the last visit was in March 2013. Michael and Nicole lived in Iowa and stated transportation was an issue, but Michael and Nicole did not see Tristan despite travel vouchers. When the case managers made contact with Michael and Nicole, their main focus was changing Tristan’s placement to a relative placement in Iowa and they never asked about Tristan’s well-being. Nicole did complete a drug and alcohol evaluation in Iowa as part of a child welfare case there, but did not sign the necessary releases to share that information with Nebraska. The juvenile court terminated Michael and Nicole’s parental rights so to Tristan on January 15, 2014.

The Nebraska Court of Appeals affirmed the termination of parental rights. The Court of Appeals noted that Michael and Nicole had failed to maintain a relationship with Tristan or even inquire into his well-being, which amounted to substantial and continuous or repeated neglect. Michael had not seen Tristan since Tristan’s birth and Nicole had only seen Tristan on two other occasions, despite having travel assistance from DHHS. Though the parents’ distance was a barrier to visitation, the parents failed to recognize that they were the ones responsible for living far away. Michael and Nicole had a “personal deficiency or incapacity which has prevented performance of a reasonable parental obligation in child rearing” and, thus, termination of their parental rights was in Tristan’s best interests.