Archive | Family Law RSS for this section

CoA: State had no authority to bring paternity action for stillborn baby

In what is an ultimately very sad case involving the stillborn birth of a baby to a barely teenage girl, the Court of Appeals found that neither the assignment of the matter to the State under Title IV-D of the Social Security Act or Indiana’s paternity statutes, provided an avenue for the State to bring an action to establish paternity. Here, the mother simply wanted to confirm who the father of her child was and was not seeking any other benefit or monetary amount.

Since Title IV-D’s purpose is to enforce support obligations and the paternity statutes are there to provide “proper care, maintenance, education, protection, support and opportunities” to the child, there was no interest or authority for the State to file an action for paternity. This did not mean, however, the mother could not do so on her own.

www.in.gov/judiciary/opinions/pdf/05081401mgr.pdf.

Estranged wife entitled only to 2.5% of husband’s lottery winnings

Married couple was physically separated in June, 2006. The husband then won $2,000,000 in the lottery in January, 2011 and coincidentally decided that a final divorce decree was long overdue. Trial Court found that wife was entitled to only 2.5%

Of note was that wife sent requests for admissions that husband did not answer. By these admissions, husband admitted that a 70/30 split to the wife was a just and equitable distribution. The Court of Appeals agreed, affirming that requests for admissions may be used to establish legal conclusions, but stated that husband only admitted that it was “a” just and equitable distribution and not “the only” such distribution. The trial court was still obligated to decide of the distribution was fair and reasonable. See Ind. Code § 31-15-7-5. In so holding, the Court noted: Discretion signifies choice, and a decision-maker exercising discretion has the ability to choose from a range of permissible conclusions. Johnson v. U. S., 398 A.2d 354, 361 (D.C. 1979).

Trial Court could not reserve issue of spousal maintenance after finding no evidence requiring it in final order

In a divorce case, the Trial Court found insufficient evidence so as to support a finding that Wife was entitled to maintenance (i.e. Indiana’s version of alimony). Wife later received ruling for Social Security appeal that she was in fact disabled and the Trial Court modified its final order.

The Court of Appeals disagreed with this approach, finding:

it is clear that a trial court is to determine whether a spouse is entitled to maintenance at the time the dissolution decree is entered. Ind. Code §§ 31-15-7-1, -2. Indiana Code Section 31-15-7-2(1) and (2) require the court to make certain findings, before it considers whether maintenance is necessary. The spouse seeking maintenance has the burden of proving that he or she is entitled to maintenance. Matzat v. Matzat, 854 N.E.2d 918, 921 (Ind. Ct. App. 2006). If, at the time of dissolution, the trial court finds that a spouse has not satisfied the statutory criteria entitling him or her to maintenance, then that is the end of the matter. The dissolution decree is final. Ind. Code § 31-15-2-16(b).

www.in.gov/judiciary/opinions/pdf/03251401tac.pdf.

Where Arbitrator’s report was messier than the divorce itself, case was reversed and remanded

In divorce case out of Lake County, parties submitted to arbitration. Arbitrator made ruling and Husband timely appealed after filing a timely motion to correct error that the Court did not address.

IN CoA found that report was inconsistent for several reasons, to wit:

  1. Finding that Wife submitted no evidence of medical condition but was awarded maintenance in the form of health insurance premiums for one year;
  2. Denying Wife’s motion for deviation from 50/50 split and then failing to account for several items of personal property;
  3. After the above defect was subsequently corrected, the CoA still found that the property was split in Wife’s favor and that some bank accounts were still not accounted for.

Court reversed and remanded case to remedy these issues.

www.in.gov/judiciary/opinions/pdf/03061401jsk.pdf.

IN CoA affirms denial of mother’s petition to relocate to Hawaii with son

Where mother petitioned to leave Bartholomew County for better employment and the long list of Hawaii v. Indiana pros, trial court erred in holding that mother did not make the petition in good faith but did not err overall in holding that move was not in child’s best interests. CoA factored in father’s limited ability to exercise parenting time (which he had exercised regularly); the child’s relationship with his extended family; child’s adjustment to school and friends in the area; opposing views of social workers; and mother’s previous contempt order where she obstructed father’s parenting time.

www.in.gov/judiciary/opinions/pdf/02051401cjb.pdf.

%d bloggers like this: