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State v. Mark E.

Supreme Court of Nebraska

March 8, 2019

State of Nebraska on behalf of Walter E., a minor child, appellant,
v.
Mark E., appellee. and Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, appellee,

          1. Judgments: Jurisdiction: Appeal and Error. Determination of a juris-dictional issue which does not involve a factual dispute is a matter of law which requires an appellate court to reach its conclusions independent from a trial court.

         2. Jurisdiction: Words and Phrases. Subject matter jurisdiction is the power of a tribunal to hear and determine a case in the general class or category to which the proceedings in question belong and to deal with the general subject matter involved.

         3. Jurisdiction. A lack of subject matter jurisdiction may be raised at any time by any party or by the court sua sponte.

         4. Jurisdiction: Child Support: Actions. As a prerequisite for an action under Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-512.03(1)(a) (Reissue 2016), there cannot be an existing child support order in any jurisdiction. Hence, a court has subject matter jurisdiction for an action under § 43-512.03(1)(a) only "when there is no existing child support order" in Nebraska or any other jurisdiction.

          Appeal from the District Court for Sarpy County: George A. Thompson, Judge. Affirmed.

          Sarah E. Preisinger, Deputy Sarpy County Attorney, for appellant.

         No appearance for appellee Mark E.

         [302 Neb. 484] Heavican, C.J., Miller-Lerman, Cassel, Stacy, Funke, Papik, and Freudenberg, JJ. Miller-Lerman, J.

         NATURE OF CASE

         The State of Nebraska on behalf of Walter E. appeals the order of the district court for Sarpy County which dismissed the State's complaint filed against his father, Mark E., to establish an order of support. The complaint was filed pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-512.03 (Reissue 2016). We conclude that because there was an existing support order, the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction under § 43-512.03(1)(a) to consider the State's complaint. We therefore affirm the district court's order which dismissed the State's complaint.

         STATEMENT OF FACTS

         The record on appeal indicates that on February 9, 2016, the juvenile court ordered Walter to be placed in the custody of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) with placement at home pending an assessment for safety and services. In an order filed February 22, the juvenile court determined that Walter should be in the protective custody of DHHS, because although his parents had attempted numerous therapeutic interventions, he continued to engage in "extremely aggressive and out-of-control behaviors as well as self-harming behaviors." The juvenile court ordered Walter to be placed in the temporary custody of DHHS, pending an appropriate placement for treatment. In the February 22 order, the juvenile court further ordered that "[t]he costs of the child's care to the extent not covered by the parent's insurance shall be borne by the State of Nebraska." On March 11, the juvenile court ordered Walter to be placed at the Boys Town psychiatric residential treatment facility.

         On July 19, 2016, the juvenile court filed an order in which it found Walter to be a child within the meaning of Neb. Rev. [302 Neb. 485] Stat. § 43-247(3)(a) (Supp. 2015) and ordered him to remain in the custody of DHHS for placement at the Boys Town main campus. The juvenile court further ordered, inter alia, that DHHS "continue to be responsible for all costs associated with the Order herein not covered by insurance." The record on appeal contains two orders filed by the juvenile court following subsequent reviews: one order was filed February 14, 2017, and the other was filed June 19. In both orders, the juvenile court ordered Walter to remain in the custody of DHHS for placement at the Boys Town main campus.

         On June 12, 2017, the State, through a deputy Sarpy County Attorney, filed a complaint in the district court on behalf of Walter and against Walter's father, Mark. The State alleged that the complaint was filed pursuant to § 43-512.03, which generally authorizes the county attorney to take certain actions in connection with child support, including filing a complaint against a nonsupporting party when there is no existing child or medical support order. See § 43-512.03(1)(a). The State alleged that Walter was under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court, that he had been placed in the custody of DHHS in an out-of-home placement, that he was in need of financial support from Mark, and that Mark had a duty of support for Walter. The State requested an order from the ...


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