Trial Court Erred Imposing Accounting Obligation on Mother

Family Law Case Review
Case: Carrie A. Krampen v. James J. Krampen
by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: Trial court erred when it imposed upon Mother an obligation to provide an accounting for her future child support expenditures.

HELD: Trial court erred when it reduced Father’s weekly child support obligation to Mother.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
Mother and Father divorced in 2001, with four children. At the time, Father agreed and was ordered to pay child support to Mother of $835/wk.

After the amendments to the Indiana Child Support Guidelines went into effect in 2010, Mother filed a petition to modify child support. The matter was mediated, and resulted in an agreement that Father’s child support obligation would increase to $3,000/wk, retroactive to Mother’s filing date.

Mother is a veterinarian who previously worked part-time in a local vet’s office. However, in 2010 and 2011, Mother converted a rental property she owned into her own office, and opened her own veterinary practice.

In 2012, Father filed a petition to modify that asserted Mother had used child support monies to open and subsidize her practice, and that a downward modification of support was warranted. Father also requested an accounting.

A hearing was held. Important to this appeal, neither party testified and, instead, counsel submitted sworn depositions, exhibits, and presented argument. After the hearing, the trial court granted Father’s request to reduce child support, from $3,000/wk to $2544/wk, and required Mother to begin providing accountings of her use of child support money. The trial court’s reduction in child support was based upon findings that Mother was using some of the child support money to subsidize her veterinary practice, and that children were well provided for and their lifestyle would not suffer with the reduction of support. Mother appealed.

The Court of Appeals reviewed the statute and related case law concerning child support accountings. In general, they are disfavored — in part because of the logistical challenges of complying with them — and accountings should be ordered only upon a “proper showing of necessity.” Accountings are most appropriate when the party requesting the accounting is asserting that the parent receiving support is not providing for the children; that was not alleged in this instance. Where the children are adequately provided for, the burden is on a parent to demonstrate an impropriety by the other parent in using the support money that adversely affects the children.

Here, the Court of Appeals concluded that the record failed to establish misuse of child support by Mother. Father also acknowledged in his deposition testimony that the children were adequately provided for. With an inadequate record to support its finding that Mother misappropriated child support, the accounting order was error.

On the issue of support modification, the trial court’s reduction of the weekly support payment was also based upon its finding that Mother had misappropriated some of the child support monies. Having previously concluded that finding was unsupported by the record, the trial court’s modification of support was also error.

[The real takeaway of this opinion is that, when a party bears the burden of proof, it is critical to develop the record adequately and not necessarily rely upon a summary presentation of the evidence. – MRK]

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: Carrie A. Krampen v. James J. Krampen

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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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