Dismissal of a Paternity Matter Acts to Terminate…

Case: Belinda Douglas v. Neil Spicer and L.S.
by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: The dismissal of a paternity matter acts to terminate any related preliminary orders that were issued in the case, much like a preliminary order in a dissolution case terminates with dismissal of the dissolution matter.

HELD: The trial court correctly calculated a child support arrearage by looking at the time from when the preliminary child support order was issued, until the paternity case was dismissed.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
Mother and Father were unmarried and living together when, in early 1994, Mother gave birth to Child. Father was listed on Child’s birth certificate, and the parties continued living together and sharing household expenses. However, when Child was four, Father moved out.

In 2004, Mother initiated a paternity action. In early 2005, the trial court issued a preliminary child support order of $200 per week. However, eight months later — after both parties failed to appear at a status hearing — the trial court dismissed the matter. Father never made any of the $200 court-ordered payments.  But, Father continued to provide regular and consistent financial support for Child, including providing health insurance coverage.

In 2012, Mother filed a “Motion to Re-Open the Case” along with a request to adjudicate the child support arrearage. After a hearing, the trial court found an arrearage of $6,600, which the court calculated as $200 per week from the entry of the preliminary support order, through when the case was dismissed. Mother appealed, arguing that Father’s arrearage was $74,000, relying in part upon a common law support theory.

The Court of Appeals concluded that the trial court acted within its discretion in calculating the arrearage. First, the formal obligation for Father to pay $200 per week terminated by operation of law with the dismissal of the case. Second, the evidence presented to the trial court about the substantial and consistent informal financial support that Father provided for Child supported the trial court’s decision to decline finding any additional arrearage.

The trial court’s judgment was affirmed.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: Belinda Douglas v. Neil Spicer and L.S.

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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.
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