State Supreme Court rejects Hastings divorce appeal

Published: Oct. 9, 2020 at 11:15 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KSNB) - The Nebraska Supreme Court Friday rejected a Hastings man’s argument that the state’s no-fault divorce law was unconstitutional. In so doing, the court upheld the divorce granted to Debra Dycus against Michael Dycus.

A no-fault divorce allows for someone to file for divorce even if the other spouse does not agree. The person only has to prove the marriage is broken and cannot be fixed.

Debra Dycus filed for divorce in 2018. The Adams County District Court granted the divorce in 2019. Michael Dycus, through his attorney, Robert Sullivan, appealed the district court’s decision.

During a hearing last month before the Nebraska Supreme Court, Sullivan argued that the state’s no-fault divorce law denied due process to the party opposing the divorce. He further argued that the state statute deprived his client of adversarial procedures essential to procedural due process and that the lower court’s decision was based only on its acceptance of Debra Dycus' contention that the marriage was irretrievably broken.

The court, citing previous case law, rejected the argument, writing in part, “that defendants in no-fault divorce actions are given opportunities to object and present contrary evidence, and the court makes a factual determination that the marriage is irretrievably broken upon consideration of the evidence present by both parties.”

The court also pointed out that the Nebraska no-fault divorce law, “provides for hearings in open court upon the oral testimony of witnesses or upon the depositions of such witnesses.” Further, the court wrote that “The court’s finding as to whether a marriage is irretrievably broken does not depend only on the will and deliberation of the plaintiff spouse. Defendants in dissolution actions in Nebraska are given their ‘day in court’ to litigate the question of whether the marriage is irretrievably broken.”

In addition, the court, again citing previous case law, ruled that, “the Nebraska no-fault divorce statutes do not deprive defendants of a substantial vested property interest, as “marriage is not an ordinary civil contract.” We explained that marriage is, instead, “a personal relationship subject to dissolution on terms fixed by state law.” In other words, one’s status as a married person is not property within the purview of the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

The court also pointed out that case law, including rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court does not redefine the, “contract of marriage as a property interest.”

You can read the court’s entire ruling on Dycus v. Dycus here.

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