Parenting Time Order “Difficult”, but Enforceable

Case: Paternity of P.B., M.L.B. v. D.L.B.
by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: Trial court’s order that Mother was not in contempt of parenting time orders was reversed, where the trial court had put together a reunification plan for Father and Son, and Mother had plainly and admittedly failed to cooperate with it. The trial court’s reasoning — attempting to enforce a parenting time order on a 14-year-old child is extremely difficult — was unpersuasive.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
Son was born to Mother and Father in 2001. Paternity and related orders were later established. An extensive history of litigation at the trial court and appellate levels followed.

In 2009, Mother sought to terminate Father’s parenting time based upon assorted allegations that the trial court concluded were unsubstantiated. Nevertheless, and despite a parenting time order being in place, no parenting time occurred — over Father’s strenuous objection. Mother continued to refuse parenting time, a situation that would fester for years.

In 2012, after numerous petitions and hearings, the trial court put in place a professionally managed reunification process for Father and Son. Mother subsequently refused to cooperate with the reunification process, not taking Son to the related counseling sessions. Father filed another contempt citation against Mother.

Following a hearing in June 2015, the trial court issued an order that acknowledged that Father had no parenting time in five years and noted Mother’s complete and admitted failure to abide by the trial court’s parenting time orders. However, the trial court then discussed the dilemma of many parenting time cases where, unlike an infant, it is difficult to force parenting time to occur when a teenage child is involved. After that discussion, the trial court noted that it “declined to force parenting time upon a fourteen year old young man adamant about having no contact or relationship with his Father.” The trial court then denied Father’s contempt against Mother. Father appealed.

The Court of Appeals sympathized with the difficulty of the trial court’s situation, but underscored the importance of enforcing parenting time orders that were clearly being disregarded and ignored. The Court also noted that, while Son’s actions played a role in the situation, Mother was to blame as well. Mother had very candidly admitted that she was disregarding the parenting time and reconciliation orders. As such, the trial court’s order was reversed and remanded “with instructions that the trial court enter a contempt sanction against Mother that will be sufficient to enforce its parenting time order.”

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: In re the Paternity of P.B., M.L.B. v. D.L.B.

 

_________________________________________________________________________________

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

Leave a Reply