IN RE ADOPTION OF MADYSEN S. ET AL., MIN OR CHILDREN.
JEREMY S., APPELLANT NICOLE K. AND WILLIAM K., APPELLEES,
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Petition for further review from the Court of Appeals, IRWIN,
INBODY, and RIEDMANN, Judges, on appeal thereto from the
County Court for Lincoln County, MICHAEL E. PICCOLO, Judge.
Jeffers, of Brouillette, Dugan & Troshynski, P.C., L.L.O.,
M. Franz and Patrick M. Heng, of Waite, McWha & Heng, for
C.J., WRIGHT, CONNOLLY, MILLER-LERMAN, CASSEL, STACY, and
Neb. 648] Wright, J.
an appeal from an interlocutory order of the county court in
a stepparent adoption proceedings finding that the natural
father abandoned his children and therefore his consent to
the adoption would not be required. We find that the order
appealed from is not a final order, and the Nebraska Court of
Appeals and this court lack jurisdiction over the appeal.
K. and Jeremy S. were married, and three children were born
of the marriage. Madysen S. was born in February [293 Neb.
649] 2001, Orion S. was born in January 2004, and Leo S. was
born in November 2005. The family lived in Missouri.
2007, Madysen, who was then 6 years old, reported that Jeremy
had been sexually abusing her for more than a year. Jeremy
was arrested and charged with first degree statutory
sodomy--deviate sexual intercourse with a person less than 14
years old and four counts of first degree child molestation.
moved with the children to Nebraska and filed for divorce.
The decree of dissolution was entered in July 2007.
The decree granted sole custody of the children to Nicole and
stated that Jeremy " shall not have any parenting
time." The court ordered Jeremy to pay $50 per month in
August 2009, pursuant to a plea agreement, Jeremy was
convicted of three counts of child molestation. He was
committed to a total term of 16 years' confinement in
married William K. in 2013. In 2014, Nicole and William
simultaneously filed in the county court for Lincoln County,
the county where the children reside, a petition for adoption
by a stepparent and a " Petition to Terminate Parental
Rights" for each child. The petitions asked that the
court approve the adoption of the children by William. Jeremy
opposed the adoptions. He refused to voluntarily relinquish
his parental rights and consent to the adoptions. The
petitions asked the court to find that Jeremy had abandoned
the children, as provided under Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-104
(Reissue 2008), such that Jeremy's consent to the
adoptions would not be required.
hearing was held on the consolidated " Petition[s] to
Terminate Parental Rights." Nicole testified that she
allowed the children to visit their extended family on
Jeremy's side, but asked Jeremy's family not to allow
any contact between the children and Jeremy. Jeremy indicated
that he had not seen the children since he was arrested,
approximately 7 years prior to the filing of the petitions.
While incarcerated, he sent the children cards and letters.
He also occasionally listened over the telephone to the
children talk to his family members when [293 Neb. 650] they
visited them. Jeremy consistently paid the $50 per month in
child support ordered in the dissolution decree. The child
support was paid by Jeremy's mother.
county court issued an order on the consolidated "
Petition[s] to Terminate Parental Rights." However, the
court acknowledged that in adoption proceedings, it is the
adoption itself which terminates the parental rights, and
that until the adoption is granted, the parental rights are
not terminated. And a " Petition to Terminate
Parental Rights," as such, is not a pleading provided
for in the adoption statutes.
county court's order found that Jeremy had abandoned his
children for purposes of § 43-104. Accordingly, the
court ordered that Jeremy's consent would not be required
for the adoptions and that the guardian ad litem could
provide all substitute consents as may be required by
statute. The hearing on the adoptions was scheduled and is
finding that Jeremy abandoned his children, the court stated
that Jeremy was " unavailable to parent his
children." The court noted that this unavailability was
due to incarceration stemming from " his depraved choice
to sexually molest his own daughter multiple times over the
course of several months." The court also reasoned that
Jeremy abandoned his children by virtue of the "
negligible and supervised contact" with his children for
the past 7 years. Jeremy had not acted as a "
significant parental figure" for his children for most
of their lives.
appealed from the order finding that he abandoned his
children and that his consent to the stepparent adoptions was
not required. The Court of Appeals reversed. The Court of
Appeals explained that the only issue was whether Jeremy
abandoned the children; i.e.,
whether he had acted in a manner evidencing a settled purpose
to be rid of all parental obligations and to forgo all
Neb. 651] The Court of Appeals concluded that the record did
not support a finding upon clear and convincing evidence that
Jeremy had abandoned his children. It noted that although
Jeremy was incarcerated, he had continually paid his child
support obligation, had sent letters and cards to the
children, and had adamantly refused to relinquish his
granted Nicole and William's petition for further review.
and William assign on further review that the Court of
Appeals erred in determining that there was insufficient
evidence to support the county court's finding of