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In re Adoption of Chase T.

Supreme Court of Nebraska

December 23, 2016

In re Adoption of Chase T., a minor child. Jennifer T., appellant,
v.
Lindsay P. and Jessica P., appellees.

         1. Jurisdiction. Statutory authority to exercise subject matter jurisdiction may be raised sua sponte by a court.

         2. Statutes: Appeal and Error. Statutory interpretation presents a question of law. When reviewing questions of law, an appellate court resolves the questions independently of the conclusions reached by the trial court.

         3. Jurisdiction: Appeal and Error. Before deciding the merits of an appeal, an appellate court must determine if it has jurisdiction.

         4. ___:___. If the court from which a party appeals lacked jurisdiction, then the appellate court acquires no jurisdiction. But an appellate court has the power to determine whether it has jurisdiction over an appeal and to correct jurisdictional issues even if it does not have jurisdiction to reach the merits.

         5. Adoption. The matter of adoption is statutory, and the manner of procedure and terms are all specifically prescribed and must be followed.

         6. Adoption: Courts: Jurisdiction. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-104 (Reissue 2016) mandates that certain consents be filed in the county court before an adoption can proceed, including the consent of any district court in Nebraska having jurisdiction of the custody of the minor child.

         7. Adoption: Statutes. Before holding hearings and ruling on matters in an adoption proceeding, the county court should first consider whether it has statutory authority to proceed with the adoption.

         8. Adoption: Courts: Jurisdiction. Failure to file the consents required by Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-104 (Reissue 2016) is a procedural defect that is jurisdictional in nature.

         9. ___:___:___. Without the consents required by Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-104 (Reissue 2016), a county court lacks authority, or jurisdiction, to entertain an adoption proceeding.

         10. Statutes: Appeal and Error. The rules of statutory interpretation require an appellate court to give effect to the entire language of a statute, and to reconcile different provisions of the statutes so they are consistent, harmonious, and sensible.

         11. ___:___. The language of a statute is to be given its plain and ordinary meaning, and an appellate court will not resort to interpretation to ascertain the meaning of statutory words which are plain, direct, and unambiguous.

         12. Adoption: Statutes. The requirement of Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-102 (Reissue 2016) that necessary consents must be on file "prior to the hearing" is designed to ensure that before the county court entertains a decision on the merits in an adoption proceeding, all those required to consent to the adoption proceeding have done so.

         13. ___:___. Although the adoption statutes no longer require that necessary consents be filed "together with" the adoption petition, the statutes still require that such consents be filed before a county court holds hearings and entertains the merits of any issue in the adoption proceeding.

         14. Statutes: Presumptions: Legislature: Intent. When construing a statute, appellate courts are guided by the presumption that the Legislature intended a sensible rather than an absurd result in enacting a statute.

         15. Jurisdiction: Appeal and Error. When a lower court lacks the authority to exercise its subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate the merits of a claim, issue, or questions, an appellate court also lacks the power to determine the merits of the claim, issue, or question presented to the lower court.

         Appeal from the County Court for Douglas County: Lawrence E. Barrett, Judge. Judgment vacated, and cause remanded for further proceedings.

          Angela Lennon, of Koenig Dunne Divorce Law, PC, L.L.O., and George T. Babcock, of Law Offices of Evelyn N. Babcock, for appellant.

          Desirae M. Solomon, and Terry M. Anderson, of Hauptman, O'Brien, Wolf & Lathrop, for appellees.

          Heavican, C.J., Wright, Miller-Lerman, Cassel, Stacy, Kelch, and Funke, JJ.

          Stacy, J.

         NATURE OF CASE

         Jennifer T. appeals from an order of the county court dismissing her complaint to intervene in an adoption proceeding and denying her request to stay the adoption. We conclude the county court lacked statutory authority to exercise subject matter jurisdiction over the adoption proceeding, and we thus vacate the order from which Jennifer appeals ...


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