Wife Looses Healthcare Coverage for Failure to Prove Medical Condition

Case: In the Matter of the Adoption of J.L.J. and J.D.J., Minor Children; J.J. and T.H. v. D.E. 
by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: The Family Law Arbitration Act permits a party to file a motion to correct errors with the trial court within 30 days of the trial court entering a final judgment based upon the arbitrator’s findings of fact and conclusions of law.

HELD: A spousal maintenance order, which required Husband to provide healthcare coverage to Wife for 12 months following Decree, was reversed because it was contrary to a specific finding of fact that Wife failed to prove she had any medical conditions.

HELD: Property division was reversed where Wife’s request for a deviation from the statutorily presumed equal division of the marital estate was specifically denied by the arbitrator, but then the arbitrator separately stated that the property division awarded 61% of the marital estate to Wife.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY: Husband and Wife married in 1992. Wife filed for divorce in 2011. After an unsuccessful mediation, the parties agreed to binding arbitration. The arbitration proceeding was held on March 4, 2013, and the arbitrator filed written findings and conclusions with the trial court on April 12, 2013. The trial court accepted the findings and entered them as a final Decree. The resulting Decree awarded certain property to Husband, certain property to Wife, and Husband was further ordered to provide and pay for Wife’s healthcare coverage for one year.

Husband filed a motion to correct errors on May 1, 2013. Because the MCE was not ruled upon or set for hearing, it was deemed denied 45 days later. Husband filed his notice of appeal within 30 days of the MCE being deemed denied.

On appeal, Wife asserted that Husband failed to file his notice of appeal timely. Wife argued that, under the Family Law Arbitration Act, a motion to correct errors cannot be filed, and the only avenue to relief from judgment is to file an appeal. Thus, Wife argued, because Husband failed to file a notice of appeal within 30 days of the trial court’s entry of the Decree, Husband’s appeal was not filed timely. The Court of Appeals disagreed with Wife, concluding that Husband was permitted to file a motion to correct errors and, thus, his appeal was initiated timely.

Turning to the merits of Husband’s appeal, the Court of Appeals determined the arbitrator’s findings and conclusions were internally inconsistent. For example, the arbitrator made a finding that “there was no credible evidence presented by [Wife] in support of her” claimed medical conditions, yet the arbitrator awarded Wife one year of healthcare coverage.

On the property division, the Court of Appeals found similar inconsistencies between the arbitrator’s findings and conclusions. Wife had requested of the arbitrator a deviation in her favor from 50/50, which the arbitrator expressly denied; however, the arbitrator subsequently indicated an intent to distribute the property 61% to Wife and 39% to Husband. Further, the findings and conclusions contained too little information, including as to asset values, for the Court of Appeals to conduct an intelligent review of the division of the marital estate.

Thus, the trial court’s judgment was vacated and remanded for further proceedings to remedy these inconsistencies.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: In Re the Marriage of: Frank J. Ozug v. Karen S. Ozug

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The Indiana Family Law Update is a free service provided by the Matrimonial Law Group of Bingham Greenebaum Doll, LLP. While significant efforts are made to ensure an accurate summary and reproduction of each opinion, readers are advised to verify all content and analysis with a traditional case law reporter before relying on the content and analysis offered here.

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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