DEAN P. MARTIN, APPELLEE,
RHONDA J. MARTIN, NOW KNOWN AS RHONDA J. BROWN, APPELLANT
from the District Court for Lancaster County: Steven D.
Catlett, of Law Office of Matt Catlett, for appellant.
J. Wasserburger, of Johnson, Flodman, Guenzel & Widger, for
C.J., WRIGHT, Conn. OLLY, MILLER-LERMAN, CASSEL, STACY, AND
an appeal from an order of the district court for Lancaster
County that found Rhonda J. Martin, now known as Rhonda J.
Brown, in contempt of court for willfully violating the
parenting provisions of her marital dissolution decree and
imposed sanctions. For the reasons set forth below, we
and Dean P. Martin were divorced in 2002. They share legal
custody of their two minor children, Taylor and Ethan Martin.
Initially, Rhonda and Dean shared equal physical custody of
the boys; but in 2008, the decree was modified to the effect
that Rhonda now has physical custody of the boys and Dean has
rights of visitation. Dean's visitation rights were
modified by a parenting plan entered into by the parties; the
plan was approved by the district court in December 2011.
to the 2011 parenting plan, Dean was to have the boys every
other weekend from 5 p.m. on Friday to 7 p.m. on Sunday, for
6 weeks during the summer, and on certain holidays. In 2014,
it was Dean's year to have the boys for Christmas and his
parenting time was to begin at 6 p.m. on December 19 and end
at 12 p.m. on December 27.
transportation, Dean was to pick up the boys at the start of
his parenting time from Rhonda's home in Prague,
Nebraska, and Rhonda was to pick them up from Dean's home
in Lincoln, Nebraska, at the conclusion of Dean's
parenting time. Previously, Rhonda had taken the boys to
Dean's home and he had returned them to Rhonda's
home; however, Dean requested the new arrangement because
Taylor's involvement in sports required Taylor to be in
Prague on Friday nights and Rhonda had taken the position
that she was not responsible for transporting Taylor to Dean
if his sporting events went past 5 p.m. On such occasions,
Rhonda would sometimes deliver Ethan to Dean at 5 p.m. and
Dean would drive to Prague to retrieve Taylor after his
April 3, 2015, Dean filed a motion for an order for Rhonda to
show cause why she should not be held in contempt for her
alleged failure to allow Dean to exercise parenting time on
the following days: (a) during the weekend of December 12,
2014; (b) from December 19 to 24; (c) on January 9, 2015
(with Ethan); (d) on January 23; (e) on March 6; and (f) on
March 20 and 21. At the time Dean filed the motion, the boys,
Taylor and Ethan, were 16 and 15 years old, respectively.
June 11, 2015, Hearing
hearing on Dean's motion was held on June 11, 2015. Both
Rhonda and Dean testified, and various exhibits were offered
and received. Much of the evidence in this case is in the
form of text messages sent back and forth between the parties
and their children. We reproduce the messages in their
Weekend of December 12, 2014
the parenting plan, Dean was to have the boys on the weekend
of December 12, 2014. Taylor had a basketball game that
Saturday and sent Dean several text messages on December 12
expressing his desire to travel with his team the next day.
arrived at Rhonda's house at 5 p.m. that night to
retrieve the boys. The boys went outside with their bags and
approached Dean's vehicle. Taylor got into Dean's
vehicle, but Ethan did not. Ethan refused to get in the
vehicle and returned to the house. Taylor stayed in the
vehicle and talked to Dean for a few minutes before returning
to the house. Rhonda testified that Taylor told her that Dean
wanted to know whether it was fine if the boys stayed home
that weekend. Rhonda testified that she told Ethan that she
was " 'not gonna shut [her] door'" on them,
but that it was up to Dean whether the boys went with him or
stayed with her. According to Dean's testimony, Taylor
told him that Rhonda said the boys could stay with her and
that they did not have to go with Dean. Dean left without the
testified that sometime after he left, he received a
telephone call from Ethan and eventually spoke with Rhonda
about what had happened. Dean testified that Rhonda asked
him, " 'Why'd you leave? It's your parenting
time. I'm kind of surprised. The boys came back in and I
had no idea if there was an issue of any kind.'"
Rhonda testified, " Physically, there [was] no way that
I could grab [Ethan] and shove him into the car and force him
December 19 to 24, 2014
was supposed to have the children from 6 p.m. on December 19,
2014, until 12 p.m. on December 27. On December 18, Taylor
sent Dean the following text message in the afternoon:
Hey I got my drivers license today for my 16th birthday. You
don't have to come get us this weekend because we would
like to stay home until the 24th. I can drive to ur house
then, but we would like to come on the 24th by noon, stay on
Christmas, and then go home on the 26th at 3:30. Please Let
responding to Taylor, Dean forwarded the text message to
Rhonda and asked whether she was going to tell Taylor and
Ethan that they needed to go with him on December 19, 2014.
Rhonda responded to Dean, " I've encouraged them to
do so, but it sounds like they told you what they want."
later, Rhonda sent a text message to Dean asking if
everything was worked out in terms of his parenting time.
Dean replied that it was all worked out and that he would
retrieve the boys from their grandparents on December 24,
2014. The boys went to Dean's house on December 24 and
stayed until December 26.
January 9, 2015
was supposed to have the boys over the weekend of January 9,
2015. Taylor had a basketball game that Friday, and Dean made
arrangements to pick Taylor up after his game. As for Ethan,
Dean drove to Rhonda's house to pick him up at 5 p.m.
However, Ethan refused to go with Dean.
time, Rhonda was in Missouri for a National Guard drill. Dean
called Rhonda and told her that Ethan was refusing to get in
his vehicle, and he asked Rhonda for help. Rhonda testified
that the telephone was put on the speakerphone setting and
that on speakerphone, she told Ethan that Dean had been
waiting 2 weeks to see him and that he needed to go spend
time with Dean. Rhonda testified that Ethan said he did not
want to ...