- Associated Press - Friday, May 27, 2016

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - The parental rights of a man serving prison time for molesting his 6-year-old daughter will not be restored as a result of a ruling on Friday by the Nebraska Supreme Court.

The court ruling reversed a lower appeals court decision in the case brought by the mother and the girl’s stepfather, who is seeking to adopt the girl and her two younger brothers. The Nebraska Court of Appeal issued a ruling last year that faulted a Lincoln County Court judge for finding that the Missouri prisoner had abandoned his children. The appeals court reasoned that the imprisoned father had sent the children letters and cards and paid $50 a month in child support.

But appellate courts can only hear appeals in cases in which a judge has issued a final order, the state’s high court said Friday. Because the case before the judge was ultimately about the adoption, the judge’s order to terminate the parental rights of the imprisoned father was not the final order in the case, the high court found. For that reason, it said, neither the state Supreme Court nor the Court of Appeals had jurisdiction to rule on the biological father’s appeal.

Neither attorneys for the imprisoned father nor the mother and stepfather immediately returned calls Friday seeking comment.

The Associated Press is not naming any of the parties to protect the identity of the children.

Court records show the children’s mother moved to Nebraska after her ex-husband - the children’s father - was convicted in Missouri in 2009 of first-degree child molestation and sentenced to 16 years in prison.

The mother remarried in 2013, and a year later asked the imprisoned father to voluntarily relinquish his parental rights to the children. He refused.

Nebraska adoption laws require the consent of the child’s biological parents. One exception is if the parent abandoned the child for at least six months prior to the adoption filing.

The mother and stepfather went ahead with the adoption process, simultaneously filing a petition to terminate the father’s parental rights, alleging he abandoned the children and that termination was in their best interests.

Lincoln County Judge Michael Piccolo agreed, saying that while the father had expressed remorse for the molestation, he intentionally removed himself as a parent by molesting his daughter.

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