Despite Late Filing, COA decides Father’s Appeal on Merits

Family Law Case Review

Case: Charles Cannon v. Kristy A. Caldwell
by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: Despite Father filing his notice of appeal nearly one month late, the trial court’s modification of Father’s child support obligation was so manifestly unjust as to provide a compelling reason for the Court of Appeals to decide Father’s appeal on the merits.

HELD: The trial court’s child support order violated the Indiana Child Support Guidelines because it included in Father’s income his Social Security Income (“SSI”), even though SSI – a means-tested public assistance program – is excluded from the Guidelines’ definition of gross weekly income.

*The Court’s opinion refers to Father’s SSI benefit as “Social Security Income,” but “Supplemental Security Income” may have been intended.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:  
Mother and Father divorced in 2011, pursuant to which Father was ordered to pay child support of $20/wk for two minor children. The children also received $93 per month, each, as a derivative benefit of Father’s Social Security Disability (“SSD”).  Father later became ineligible for SSD, which caused the children to stop receiving their $93/mo ancillary benefit. Father did, however, begin receiving SSI of $773 per month.  Mother filed a petition to modify child support.

The trial court held a hearing, with both parties pro se, which was conducted in summary fashion and in chambers. After the hearing, the trial court increased Father’s child support obligation to $35/wk.  Father filed a motion to reconsider and, later, his tardy notice of appeal.

Most of the Court’s opinion concerns the decision to accept Father’s tardy appeal due to “extraordinarily compelling reasons.” Having decided to entertain the case on its merits, the Court reversed the trial court’s modification order. “[T]he Indiana Child Support Guidelines specifically provide that means-tested public assistance programs, including SSI, are excluded from the definition of weekly gross income used to determine a parent’s child support obligation.”

The matter was reversed and remanded for further consideration, and a determination of whether a modification is appropriate without including Father’s SSI benefit as his “income.”  

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: Charles Cannon v. Kristy A. Caldwell

 

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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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