1. Jurisdiction: Statutes.
Subject matter jurisdiction and statutory interpretation
present questions of law.
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.
Actions: Jurisdiction. Lack of subject
matter jurisdiction may be raised at any time by any party or
by the court sua sponte.
Statutes. Statutory language is to be given
its plain and ordinary meaning.
Legislature: Intent. The intent of the
Legislature is expressed by omission as well as by inclusion.
Juvenile Courts: Statutes: Jurisdiction. A
juvenile court is a statutorily created court of limited and
special jurisdiction, and it has only the authority which the
statutes confer on it.
Courts: Juvenile Courts: Jurisdiction: Parental
Rights. A juvenile court lacks statutory authority
under Neb. Rev. Stat. § 42-364(5) (Cum. Supp. 2018) to
transfer a proceeding back to the district court where: (1)
The district court, having subject matter jurisdiction of a
modification proceeding under § 42-364(6) in which
termination of parental rights has been placed in issue and
having personal jurisdiction of the parties to that
proceeding, has transferred jurisdiction of the proceeding to
the appropriate juvenile court; (2) termination of parental
rights remains in issue and unadjudicated in the transferred
proceeding; (3) the State is not involved in the proceeding
and has not otherwise asserted jurisdiction over the child or
children involved in the modification proceeding; and (4) the
juvenile court has not otherwise been deprived of
Neb. 246] Appeal from the County Court for Washington County.
C. Matthew Samuelson, Judge, on transfer thereto from the
District Court for Washington County, John E. Samson, Judge.
Judgment of County Court vacated and remanded.
V. Hahn, of Hightower Reff Law, and, on brief, Tosha Rae D.
Heavican for appellant.
appearance for appellee.
Heavican, C.J., Miller-Lerman, Cassel, Stacy, Funke, Papik,
and Freudenberg, JJ.
Trevor W. commenced a modification proceeding in the district
court, Christine W. counterclaimed to terminate Trevor's
parental rights and obtained an order transferring the
proceeding to the county court, sitting as a juvenile court.
But when the proceeding reached the juvenile court, it
"denie[d]" the transfer and purportedly returned
the proceeding to district court. Christine appeals from the
juvenile court's order. Because the juvenile court's
order purporting to transfer the proceeding back to district
court was beyond the juvenile court's statutory authority
and void, we vacate that order and remand the cause to the
juvenile court for further proceedings consistent with this
order to understand the procedural background of this appeal,
the reader needs some familiarity with the statutes
concerning jurisdiction of trial courts over the matters at
issue: modification of a parenting plan and termination of
parental rights. Before setting forth the specific statute
controlling the transfer from district court to juvenile
court of a proceeding where termination of parental rights
has been placed in issue, [303 Neb. 247] we begin by
recalling statutes identifying the authority of district,
county, and juvenile courts over such matters. We then
summarize the specific statute addressing transfer or
retention of a district court proceeding where termination of
parental rights has been placed in issue.
Nebraska's marital dissolution, separation, annulment,
custody, and support statutes, a proceeding is commenced by
filing a "complaint" in the district
court. Consequently, dissolution and custody
proceedings begin in the district court.
another statute authorizes "domestic relations
matters, " which includes dissolution and custody
proceedings, to be heard by a district court judge or a
county court judge. Consistent with that other statute, the
statute governing commencement of a marital dissolution and
custody proceeding authorizes the proceeding to be heard
"by the county court or the district court as provided
in section 25 -2740. "
the procedure allowing selection of a county court judge in a
domestic relations matter, the matter remains as a district
court proceeding and achieves the same finality as a district
court judgment. According to § 25-2740(2), the party
shall state in the complaint whether he or she wants the
proceeding to be heard by a district court judge or by a
county court judge. If the party requests a county court
judge, "the county court judge assigned to hear cases in
the county in which the matter is filed at the time of the
hearing is deemed appointed by the district court and the
consent of the county court judge is not
required." Where the proceeding is heard by a county
court [303 Neb. 248] judge, it is "considered a district
court proceeding" and "an order or judgment of the
county court in a domestic relations matter has the force and
effect of a district court judgment."
42-364(6) authorizes modification proceedings relating to
support, custody, parenting time, visitation, other access,
or removal of children from the jurisdiction of the court. A
proceeding to modify a parenting plan is "commenced by
filing a complaint to modify" Under §§ 42-348
and 42-351(1), a district court has jurisdiction to
adjudicate such actions. But under § 42-348, marital
dissolution and custody proceedings "may be transferred
to a separate juvenile court or county court sitting as a
juvenile court which has acquired jurisdiction pursuant to
section 43-2, 113."
Rev. Stat. § 43-2, 113(2) (Cum. Supp. 2018) provides
that a juvenile court "shall have and exercise
jurisdiction . . . with the county court and district court
in all matters arising under Chapter 42, article 3, when the
care, support, custody, or control of minor children under
the age of eighteen years is involved." The statute
dictates, "Such cases shall be filed in the county court
and district court and may, with the consent of the juvenile
judge, be transferred to the trial docket of the separate
juvenile court or county court."
proceedings seeking termination of parental rights fall
within the jurisdiction of the juvenile courts. Such
jurisdiction is concurrent with the county court or district
this general framework in mind, we now recite the statute
governing retention or transfer of a proceeding where
termination of parental rights has been placed in issue-which
is the situation in the proceeding before us.
Neb. 249] Section 42-364(5) states:
Whenever termination of parental rights is placed in issue
the court shall transfer jurisdiction to a juvenile court
established pursuant to the Nebraska Juvenile Code unless a
showing is made that the county court or district court is a
more appropriate forum. In making such determination, the
court may consider such factors as cost to the parties, undue
delay, congestion of trial dockets, and relative resources
available for investigative and supervisory assistance. A
determination that the county court or district court is a
more appropriate forum shall not be a final order for the
purpose of enabling an appeal. If no such transfer is made,
the court shall conduct the termination of parental rights
proceeding as provided in the Nebraska Juvenile Code.
when termination of parental rights is placed in issue in a
district court dissolution and custody modification
proceeding, the district court is required to transfer
jurisdiction to a juvenile court unless the district court
concludes that it is the more appropriate forum.
this court and the Nebraska Court of
Appeals have only occasionally reviewed
proceedings to terminate parental rights which were retained
and actually adjudicated in district court, the statutes
authorize a district court to do so. Often, the decision to
do so may turn on the "relative resources available for
investigative and supervisory assistance."Typically, a
district court will conclude that where termination [303 Neb.
250] of parental rights has been placed in issue, the
proceeding should be ...