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State ex rel. Dawn M. v. Jerrod M.

Court of Appeals of Nebraska

April 7, 2015


Page 756

Appeal from the District Court for Howard County: Karin L. Noakes, Judge.

James A. Wagoner for appellant.

Charles R. Maser for appellee Jerrod M.

MOORE, Chief Judge, and INBODY and PIRTLE, Judges.


Page 757

[22 Neb.App. 836] Pirtle, Judge.


Amber M. appeals the custody determination, made by the district court for Howard County, which awarded primary physical custody of the minor child, Dawn M., to Jerrod M., subject to parenting time as provided in the parenting plan. The court also ordered Amber to pay child support to Jerrod and denied Amber's application to move out of the State of Nebraska with Dawn. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.


Dawn was born in November 2006 and shares a last name with her mother, Amber. Dawn's father, Jerrod, was not aware of Dawn's birth until a year or two later, when he was served with notice that he was named as her father in a paternity case. Jerrod has a criminal history and has been incarcerated for most of Dawn's life. Amber also has a criminal history,

Page 758

but has been incarcerated only for short periods of time.

Janet S., Amber's mother, provided a home and daily care for Dawn for most of Dawn's life. Amber resided with Dawn and Janet for periods of time, but not continuously. In the summer of 2012, Amber contacted Lori P., Jerrod's mother, to see if she would take care of Dawn, and Dawn was removed from Janet's home. Dawn spent the summer of 2012 and the 2012-13 school year with Lori at her home in Smith Center, Kansas. In September 2012, Amber signed a consent form giving Lori and her husband " physical care" of Dawn and the authority to consent to " any medical, dental, surgical, emergency treatment and / or [the] release of medical information" related to Dawn. Dawn returned to Janet's home with Amber after the end of the 2012-13 school year in Smith Center. Dawn's school records indicate she struggled in some areas in school in Smith Center and noted areas where she needed to improve.

In August 2013, Dawn began living with Jerrod, and on August 20, a temporary order was entered granting Jerrod temporary custody. Dawn has resided with Jerrod since that [22 Neb.App. 837] time. Jerrod filed a motion to modify custody, parenting time, and child support on August 21. During the 2013-14 school year, Dawn attended Banner County School. She demonstrated some improvement, but had some trouble in certain areas, and Jerrod decided to hold her back to repeat the first grade.

In January 2014, Amber moved to Riverdale, Utah, to live with her boyfriend, who is now her fiance. Amber filed a complaint to modify on January 13, and she filed a request to move out of the state with Dawn on February 3. She had visits with Dawn 5 to 10 times at Janet's home between September and December 2013, and she has not seen Dawn in person since December 2013. Amber has missed scheduled visits, but she has spoken with Dawn on the telephone.

The parties' complaints regarding custody, child support, and parenting time, and Amber's request to move out of the state, were addressed at trial on June 2, 2014. The parties stipulated that there had never been a permanent order establishing custody or parenting time and that the trial was held for that purpose. The court was also tasked with deciding whether to modify the child support order and, if Amber was awarded custody, whether she would be allowed to move out of the state with Dawn.

The court found that neither parent had been consistently present in Dawn's life, but that Jerrod has had day-to-day contact with her and has provided consistent care for her for the 10 months preceding the hearing. The court was " greatly concerned" with Jerrod's past criminal history, especially his convictions for assaultive behavior. However, the court found there was no evidence that indicated Dawn had been abused or placed in a dangerous situation since she was placed with Jerrod. The court found that Jerrod was taking the appropriate steps toward stability and providing for Dawn, including maintaining steady employment and providing for her physical care and educational needs. Ultimately, the court found it was in Dawn's best interests that Jerrod be awarded custody, subject to Amber's parenting time as set forth in the ...

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