Family Law Case Review: Paternity & New Parenting Time Guidelines

Case: In Re The Paternity of J.T. and I.T., Minor Children; and In Re The Support of C.R.T., Minor Child; R.A.P., Mother v. C.D.T., Father
by
 Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: Mother’s egregious and ongoing violations of Father’s parenting time supported the trial court’s modification of sole legal and physical custody of the children to Father.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
In 2010, Father was established to be the father of three children born previously to Mother. The trial court’s paternity order also provided for a phase-in of Father’s parenting time to the schedule set forth in the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines. Father was also ordered to pay child support to Mother.

Later in 2010, and again in 2012, Father filed contempt petitions against Mother for violations of the parenting time order. In 2012, Father filed a third similar contempt, along with a petition to modify custody. After a hearing, the trial court found Mother in contempt for denying Father parenting time, ordered Mother to pay $963 to Father for attorneys fees, and awarded Father immediate sole legal and physical custody of the children. Mother appealed.

The Court of Appeals reviewed the statutory standards and related factors for a modification of child custody. Mother argued on appeal that Father failed to present any evidence of a substantial change in any of the statutory factors for modification.

The Court of Appeals disagreed. Turning to the trial court’s order, the trial court entered findings that, since the original parenting time order – which provided for a phase-in to the IPTG schedule – Mother had permitted Father to have only sparse parenting time opportunities. This included, in the seven month period leading up to the trial court’s hearing, Mother permitting Father to have only a six-minute phone call with the children on Christmas Day; eight minutes outside Mother’s house on one of the children’s birthday; and, six minutes outside Mother’s house on another of the children’s birthday. The trial court also made findings that Mother’s behavior in this regard was “not likely to change” based upon her comments and attitude at the hearing. Therefore, the trial court concluded that “it is in the best interests of the three children that the existing custody order be modified; otherwise, the children will be denied a meaningful relationship with their father.”

Concluding that routinely denying the other party his or her parenting time constitutes a substantial change in circumstances that permits modification of custody, the trial court’s order was affirmed.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: In Re The Paternity of J.T. and I.T., Minor Children; and In Re The Support of C.R.T., Minor Child; R.A.P., Mother v. C.D.T., Father

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The Matrimonial Law Group of Bingham Greenebaum Doll, LLP is one of the largest full-service matrimonial and family law practices in the State of Indiana. We represent clients in a wide spectrum of family law matters, including premarital agreements, cohabitation, separation, divorce (especially involving high net worth individuals and/or complex asset issues), custody, parenting arrangements, adoption, and domestic partnerships. Bingham Greenebaum Doll, a multidisciplinary law firm serving regional, national, and international clients, is the fourth-largest law firm in Indiana. The firm’s main practices include corporate, property, litigation, labor, government law, and personal services law. Visit the firm’s website at www.bgdlegal.com.

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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