Auto Change in Custody from Mother to Father if Mother Moved with Minor Child Reversed

Case: Jacqueline Myers v. Mark Myers 
by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll  & Tamara McMillian, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: The trial court’s ruling dismissing Mother’s motion for relocation was AFFIRMED because Mother failed to rebut the presumption that the child was of the marriage and she did not present a good faith basis for the relocation. Further, the parties’ actions post-dissolution supported the trial court’s conclusion that minor child was of the marriage.

HELD: The trial court’s order for an automatic change of custody from Mother to Father if Mother moved to Texas with minor child was REVERSED because this future condition violated Indiana’s modification statute.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
Mother and Father married in 2006. They had six children together. During the marriage, the youngest daughter was conceived from Mother’s affair while she was in Paraguay without Father. Although Father learned of Mother’s affair, he signed the birth certificate and acted as the minor child’s parent. Father and Mother divorced in 2012. Post-dissolution, Father exercised regular parenting time without any objection from Mother. The parties’ Decree of Dissolution was contradictory because although the decree questioned the paternity of the minor child, it awarded parenting time to Father. This court reasoned that the trial court would not have had the authority to grant Father parenting time if the minor was not a child of the marriage.

In 2012, Father filed a motion to modify custody and child support. The trial court appointed a guardian ad litem (GAL) to represent minor child. The court granted Father a modification for the minor son but excluded the daughter at issue here.  Later in 2012, Mother filed a notice of intent to relocate to Texas with the daughter out of concern for Mother’s financial challenges in Indiana. Father and GAL objected. During the hearing Mother testified that she wanted to relocate to Texas for financial reasons. Mother stated that she was unable to pay her Indiana expenses and that she could live rent free in Texas. However, Mother testified that her salary in Texas was identical to what she earned in Indiana. The parties’ daughter was a teenager with extra-curricular activities and paternal family in Indiana but no friends or connections in Texas.  The trial court dismissed mother’s motion to relocate to Texas with minor child. It further ordered physical custody to automatically change from Mother to Father if Mother later moved to Texas.

On the issue of paternity and relocation, the Court of Appeals supported the trial court’s finding barring Mother’s relocation to Texas with the child. The Court of Appeals, however, rejected the trial’s court automatic custody order. The Court of Appeals noted that Mother did not rebut the presumption that minor child was of the marriage, she failed to demonstrate a good faith basis for locating the child to Texas and it was not in the child’s best interest to relocate to Texas.  The court’s conclusion was supported by Mother and Father’s post-dissolution behavior, namely Father’s regular parenting time and Mother not objecting to Father’s time with the child.  The doctrine of laches also prevented Mother from raising the issue of the child’s paternity.

Regarding the trial court’s order for an automatic transfer of custody if Mother relocated to Texas, the Court of Appeals rejected this future condition as improper under the Indiana modification stature. The trial court could have included language that Mother’s present custody award was conditioned upon her remaining in Indiana with the child.

The trial court’s relocation judgment was affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the trial court’s automatic change of custody order.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: Jacqueline Myers v. Mark Myers

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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

Posted in Family Law Case Review0 Comments

Law Tips: Smoking Guns; 3 Ways Technology has Changed Employment Law

Technological advancements such as email and the virtual office have made life easier, for sure! But these conveniences can carry challenges. Certain areas of law, such as employment law, are impacted directly by these changes in the technology arena. Our latest Law Tips participant, Danuta (Donna) Bembenista Panich, of Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., Indianapolis, is acutely aware of these effects on the practice of employment law. Ms Panich has been an employment law practitioner for more than 35 years and serves as chair of Ogletree Deakins’ Record Retention and E-Discovery Practice Group. I appreciate her sharing with Law Tips readers background on the “smoking guns” she encounters and the prudent advise she offers employers:

Clearly, the advent of computers and the intemet was technology change of proportions not experienced by anyone who graduated from law school after 1995. But I want to focus here on more recent, incremental changes in technology that have substantively altered employment law, as well as materially affected its practice:

  1. The virtual office
  2. Mobile communications devices
  3. Electronic communication and messaging systems
  4. Social media
  5. Big data (aka centralized databases).

Individually or in combination these advances in technology have affected employment law in at least the six ways discussed here.

I. “Off The Clock” And “Refusal To Accommodate” Claims Are Proliferating.

The virtual office has greatly expanded the ability to work from home and outside regular hours. There are positive effects flowing from the flexibility this creates: flex-time makes employees happier and makes it easier to balance work and family needs. But blurring the lines between workplace and home and on-duty/off-duty time also creates employment issues. The ability to work remotely opens the door to more accommodation claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The requirement to work specific hours from the confines of an office is harder to justify in today’s virtual environment. Similarly, that environment makes it far more difficult to argue against flexibility when requested by a pregnant employee, thus increasing the likelihood of Title VII liability. Prudent employers should carefully consider whether such accommodations are workable, rather than assuming they are not.

Because working from home/outside regular hours is difficult to supervise/control, the virtual office, particularly when coupled with mobile communications devices, can result in some challenging off the clock claims under state and federal wage and hour laws. If an employee checks email, or looks at a work order from a car or home, is that time compensable? And if it is compensable, does it prematurely start or extend the continuous workday?

Employers should be very deliberate in establishing and enforcing policies in order to avoid liability for unintended work time. This is particularly true since date and time stamping of all computer-related activities has provided a ready means of measuring time outside the confines of a time-clock. This ability makes proof of lost time far easier and more accurate. It concurrently increases the burden on the employer who must locate, reserve, and produce the data. In combination, these factors enhance the plaintiff employee’s chance to turn his claim into a class or collective action while also improving his or her settlement posture.

II. The Number Of “Smoking Guns” Have Increased Because We Have Changed The Formality And Frequency With Which We Communicate In Written Form.

People treat email, text messages, tweets and other electronic communications as the equivalent of oral communications. They blurt out whatever comes to mind, pay little attention to whom they direct their communications, and fail to proofread.

Electronic communication has also become a substitute for oral communication. People used to “tell” off-colored jokes to a small well-defined group. Now they broadcast them in written form, for endless redistribution. The result? The number of EEO and retaliation cases continues to grow. Nor is there any diminution in the percentage of cases found meritorious. Given the fact that 50 years of operation under equal opportunity laws must have resulted in less, not more, overt discrimination, one can only conclude that the proliferation of smoking guns has contributed to the seemingly inverse results. Employers should redouble efforts to sensitize employees to these dangers, and might wish to consider new rules on appropriate use of electronic communications.

Poor communication hygiene has also dramatically changed litigation practice. The plaintiff focuses on all forms of electronic communication as the richest potential source of helpful evidence – even if there is no true smoking gun, it is a rare case that does not include problematic or at least embarrassing electronic communications. Defense counsel’s witness preparation takes on a whole new dimension of scouring the record for any potentially harmful remark, and ensuring that the witness is cognizant of, and prepared to explain, all his/her linguistic faux pas. (Plaintiffs preparation should be similarly rigorous.)

III. Metadata and Big Data Create Unprecedented Transparency

Metadata – information about information – sometimes makes guilt or innocence irrefutable. For example, in a retaliation claim, the create date of a document in which the plaintiff’s termination from employment is discussed and agreed upon may prove beyond doubt that the decision was made before a protective activity occurred.

Conversely, metadata reflecting deletion of files, access to files, sending files, or the date of certain communications may prove the violation of a non-compete agreement or the theft of trade secrets.

Big data allows an employer to track every moment of an employee’s workday and every activity of the employee. Performance and productivity can be measured with astonishing precision both in and out of the office. The positive effects in the employment environment are that neither employees nor employers can avoid accountability and subjectivity and selective memory are removed from the decisional process. The negative impacts are greater job stress, less interdependence, trust, and loyalty. From the practitioner’s perspective, the results are more claims, more hard evidence, but less institutional knowledge and client loyalty.

Let’s take a break at this point in Donna Panich’s discussion of issues presented to employment law practitioners by technological change. But stay tuned! In next week’s Law Tips she talks about the alterations in such areas as asymmetrical discovery and the tracking of cross-country incidents.

Meanwhile, if you are interested in a comprehensive Employment Law CLE, check out the On Demand Seminar or Video Replay Seminar of 54 Practical Issues, Tips and Traps for Employment Lawyers by Clicking Here.

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About our Law Tips faculty participant:
Danuta (Donna) Bembenista Panich, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., Indianapolis, has a varied practice dealing with all aspects of labor and employment law. However, since 1995, she has focused primarily on defending employers – including many of the nation’s largest companies – in class actions, multi-plaintiff and collective actions, pattern and practice claims, and other “bet the company” matters such as investigations of catastrophic industrial accidents. Ms. Panich has dealt extensively with electronic discovery and litigation preparedness. Since she joined Ogletree Deakins in 2007, she established, and has since served, as chair of Ogletree Deakins’ Record Retention and E-Discovery Practice Group.

About our Law Tips blogger:
Nancy Hurley has long-standing connections with Indiana lawyers. She was formerly a member of the ISBA and IBF staffs for over 30 years. Nancy’s latest lifestyle venture is with ICLEF. We are utilizing her exceptional writing and interviewing skills while exploring how her Indiana-lawyer background fits with ICLEF’s needs. When she isn’t ferreting out new topics for Law Tips, her work can be found in our Speaker Spotlight blogs, postings on the ICLEF Facebook and Twitter pages, and other places her legal experience lends itself.

Thank you for reading Law Tips. You may subscribe to this weekly blog through the RSS link at the top of this page.  Also, you are encouraged to comment below or email Nancy. She welcomes your input as she continues to sift through the treasure trove of knowledge of our CLE faculty to share with you.

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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Amateur Life Coach Discusses Employee Morale

Amateur Life Coach Discusses Employee Morale

James J. Bell, ICLEF's Amateur Life Coach

Originally posted May 2014

The Amateur Life Coach (also known as attorney James J. Bell of Bingham Greenebaum Doll) is back to dispense his unique thoughts, advice and wisdom to his real and imagined viewers…

This week our question comes from Indianapolis attorney Adam Christensen regarding whether allowing casual attire improves office morale.

Now, you can also “like” the Amateur Life Coach at Facebook!  Visit his facebook account today and catch up on his day-to-day activities.

More from James Bell on professional liability and legal ethics issues can be found in his “3 Things to Know” column appearing regularly in the Indiana Lawyer. Visit www.theindianalawyer.com.

Questions for the Amateur Life Coach?  Email them to iclef@iclef.org or @JamesJBell on Twitter.

Written and performed by James J. Bell. Produced by the Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum.
This video is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for professional advice.

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James focuses his practice in the areas of criminal defense; attorney discipline defense and health care law. As a Marion County Public Defender, he represented clients in numerous jury and bench trials. James also represents clients in juvenile delinquency, appeals and post-conviction proceedings. James is a frequent ICLEF speaker on ethics, trial practice and criminal procedure. James just completed his first semester as an adjunct professor at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law where he teaches a course on professional responsibility. To date, no student has yet stood on their desk and shouted “Oh captain, my captain!” Follow James on Twitter @jamesjbell

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

 

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Family Law Case Review: Grandparents Visitation Order Reversed

Case: In re: The Grandparent Visitation of C.S.N.: Brooke Neuhoff v. Scott A. Ubelhor and Angela S. Ubelhor
by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

[Full disclosure: I participated in the representation of the Appellant in this appeal.]

HELD: Trial court erred when it issued a visitation order in favor of Grandparents.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
Mother became pregnant in high school. Weeks before her delivery, Father committed suicide. In 2010, paternity was established by way of an agreed entry between Mother and the paternal Grandparents. Child was born on June 17, 2010.

Mother eventually returned to high school, and graduated with a 3.9/4.0 GPA. She later enrolled at the University of Southern Indiana to study accounting, while working part time in the accounting department of a large local company.

Following Father’s death and Child’s birth, Mother maintained a close relationship with Grandparents. Mother included Grandparents at Child’s birth, baptism, birthday parties, holidays, and other family events. Mother also took Child to Grandparents’ home nearly every Sunday. While Mother would sometimes leave Child with Grandparents for several hours, Mother did not allow any overnights.

In February 2013, Grandparents filed a petition for grandparent visitation, in part because they were seeking overnights and in part because of a stated concern that Mother might reduce or eliminate their access to Child. Initially, Mother continued her Sunday visits to Grandparents’ house after the petition was filed.

Within weeks, Mother began to notice behavior issues with Child after he spent time with Grandparents (e.g., potty training accidents, crying, etc.). After one visit, Mother noticed unexplained bruises on Child’s back. Mother elected to discontinue Child’s visits with Grandparents.

Following an evidentiary hearing, the trial court issued a grandparent visitation order. The order provided for a six-week phase-in that would reach a final visitation schedule of every other Sunday from 10 A.M. to 6 P.M.. No overnights were provided for in the order. Mother appealed.

The Court of Appeals reviewed Troxel and similar Indiana cases dealing with the constitutional aspect of grandparent visitation orders, as well as the resulting four “McCune factors” that must be considered by a trial court prior to ordering grandparent visitation. Applying the McCune factors to the record, the Court of Appeals concluded that Mother’s decision to restrict visitation was not unreasonable, and that the trial court’s finding to the contrary was unsupported. The Court of Appeals also concluded that the trial court gave no weight to the McCune factor that Mother had been providing for some visitation and, thus, the grandparent visitation order was not necessary for Grandparents to have any time with Child; there is an important difference between a parent who limits grandparents’ opportunities to visit with a child, and those who deny it entirely.

The trial court’s grandparent visitation order was reversed.

Chief Judge Vaidik dissented with a separate opinion. She believed that the circumstances surrounding Mother’s decision to stop the visits with Grandparents were such that it was within the trial court’s discretion to conclude that Mother had acted unreasonably because the evidence did not establish a clear nexus between Child’s behavioral issues and bruises with any wrongdoing by the Grandparents.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: In re: The Grandparent Visitation of C.S.N.: Brooke Neuhoff v. Scott A. Ubelhor and Angela S. Ubelhor

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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

Posted in Family Law Case Review, News0 Comments