Family Law Case Study: Jo. W. v. Je. W.

Case: Jo. W. v. Je. W.

Case Summary – by Mike Kohlhaas (with thanks to Kathleen Rudis)

HELD:  The Court of Appeals held that Father’s motion to establish paternity was not an independent action, as Father did not allege or present evidence of extrinsic fraud or fraud upon the Court.  The Court found that the fraud alleged by Father was intrinsic only, and was therefore governed by the requirement that a motion for relief be brought within one year from the date of the judgment challenged under T.R.60(B)(3).

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:  Mother and Father were married in 2001.  Child was born in 2003.  Mother filed for dissolution of marriage in 2005, and the trial court entered the dissolution decree in 2006.  Then, in 2010, Father filed a verified motion to establish paternity.  The trial court denied Father’s motion, finding that Indiana Trial Rule 60(B)(3) sets time limits for filing such a motion.  Father had filed his Motion four years after the entry of the dissolution order he wished to set aside.  Father next filed a motion to correct error which the court also denied.  Father appealed.   The Court reviewed for abuse of discretion.

In his motion for relief from judgment, Father asserted that Mother committed extrinsic fraud when she indicated on the dissolution petition that there was a child born of the marriage.  In considering this allegation, the Court noted that under T.R. 60(B)(3), a motion based on intrinsic fraud, extrinsic fraud, or fraud on the court may be brought if the fraud was committed by an adverse party and had an adverse effect on the moving party.  The Court continued in stating that while a motion for relief under T.R. 60(B)(3) must be filed within one year after the judgment was entered, T.R.60(B) does not limit the power of a court to entertain an independent action to relieve a party from a judgment, order or proceeding or for fraud upon the court.  The Court then found that an independent action can be brought within a reasonable time after the judgment and must allege either extrinsic fraud or fraud upon the court.

When Mother filed the dissolution action, she was required to inform the trial court of any child “of the marriage” as set forth in Ind. Code 31-15-2-5.  The Court found that Child was presumed to be of the marriage, as Indiana law presumes that a man is the father of a child if: a) the man and the child’s biological mother are or have been married to each other; and b) the child is born during the marriage or not later than three hundred days after the marriage is terminated by death, annulment or dissolution.  The Court noted that Father did not attend the dissolution hearing, respond to Mother’s petition, or attempt to rebut the presumption of paternity.  Moreover, the Court considered that Father did not argue that Mother questioned the child’s paternity or ever indicated Father might not be the Father, nor did he present evidence that Mother hatched an unconscionable plan or scheme to improperly influence the court’s decision.  Thus, the Court found that the elements of extrinsic fraud and fraud upon the court were not satisfied.  The Court concluded that the fraud alleged by Father was only intrinsic fraud, governed by T.R.60(B)(3). Therefore, Father’s motion for relief needed to be brought within one year from the date of the judgment challenged.

The Court determined that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying relief under T.R.60(B)(3), when Father waited more than four years after the entry of the Decree before filing the instant challenge to that decree.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: Jo. W. v. Je. W.

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