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In re Gabriella H.

Supreme Court of Nebraska

October 24, 2014

IN RE INTEREST OF GABRIELLA H., A CHILD UNDER 18 YEARS OF AGE.
v.
RICARDO R., APPELLANT STATE OF NEBRASKA, APPELLEE,

Page 369

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 370

Petition for further review from the Court of Appeals, Irwin, Riedmannnn, and Bishop, Judges, on appeal thereto from the County Court for Colfax County, PATRICK R. MCDERMOTT, Judge.

Jerod L. Trouba, of Knoepfle & Trouba, P.C., L.L.O., for appellant.

Leslie J. Buhl, Deputy Colfax County Attorney, for appellee.

Jacqueline M. Tessendorf, of Tessendorf & Tessendorf, P.C., guardian ad litem.

HEAVICAN, C.J., WRIGHT, CONNNNOLLY, STEPHAN, MCCORMACK, MILLER-LERMAN, and CASSEL, JJ.

OPINION

Page 371

[289 Neb. 325] Cassel, J.

INTRODUCTION

The juvenile court terminated a father's parental rights based on abandonment of the child. The Nebraska Court of Appeals reversed that decision due to the father's lack of absolute certainty concerning paternity and his incarceration while awaiting trial.[1] We granted the State's petition for further review. Because the father was initially involved in the child's life but then demonstrated no interest in the child or in exercising parental responsibilities, we conclude that clear and convincing evidence supports the finding of abandonment. We reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals and remand the cause with direction.

BACKGROUND

Birth and Custody Of Gabriella H.

In November 2011, Dorothy G. gave birth to Gabriella H. The birth certificate did not identify her father, and Ricardo R. was not present for the birth. Gabriella was immediately taken into custody by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) due to Dorothy's use of illegal drugs.

Ricardo's Initial Involvement

Dorothy identified Ricardo as Gabriella's potential biological father, and Gabriella's caseworker approved Ricardo to be present with Dorothy during visitation with

Page 372

Gabriella. Dorothy referred to Ricardo as " the dad" when he attended visitation. According to visitation notes, Ricardo was present during visits on December 17, 2011, and January 12 and 13 and February 2, 2012.

[289 Neb. 326] Some of the visitation notes discuss Ricardo's interaction with Gabriella. The January 12, 2012, visitation note stated that Ricardo attended the visit for an hour, during which time he played with Gabriella and fed her. The January 13 visitation note reflected that Ricardo was present for 45 minutes and that he held Gabriella and fed her from a bottle. The February 2 note stated in part: " A male stopped by toward the last hour of the visit whom Dorothy identified as Gabriella's father, ...


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