Family Law Case Review: Trial Court Committed Reversible Error

Case: Carrie Baker v. Michael Baker
by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: Trial court committed reversible error when it granted Husband’s motion to dismiss Wife’s motion to reopen the parties’ property settlement without holding a hearing, in contravention of local rule.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
In 2009, Husband and Wife entered into a Decree and Property Settlement Agreement in Porter County. The Decree recited that the parties were agreeing to an “equal” division of the marital property.

At the time of the Decree, Husband had counsel and Wife was pro se. According to Wife, she was aware of certain limited deferred income assets that were held by Husband. However, in November 2014, Wife discovered an additional amount of such assets worth in excess of $1,000,000. A few months later, she filed a motion to reopen the property division. Wife’s motion did not cite a specific rule under which she was proceeding.

Husband responded with a motion to strike and dismiss Wife’s pleading. The same day, without holding a hearing or Wife having an opportunity to respond, the Court granted Husband’s motion to dismiss. The trial court’s order concluded that Wife’s effort to reopen the matter was time-barred per Trial Rule 60(B)(3).

On review, the Court of Appeals focused on Porter County Civil Rule 3300.20 which requires, except for certain exceptions not applicable here, “all motions are set for hearing at the time of their filing.” Thus, Husband’s motion to dismiss was granted improperly.

The Court of Appeals also discussed that there are other means of reopening a matter based upon fraud, even if over a year has passed. Thus, the fact that over a year had passed before Wife initiated proceedings to reopen the property settlement was not dispositive.

The matter was reversed and remanded.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: Carrie Baker v. Michael Baker

 

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James A. Reed and Michael R. Kohlhaas of Bingham Greenebaum Doll represent clients in a wide spectrum of relationship transition and wealth planning matters, including premarital agreements, estate planning, 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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