Trial Court Erred when Child Support Arrearange Calculation Failed to Credit Intercepted Money from Father’s Bank Account

Case: In re the Paternity of D.M.Y., et al., M.R. v. B.Y.
Case Summary by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: Indiana Supreme Court holds that trial court erred in a child support arrearage calculation when its calculation failed to credit Father for $7,025 that was intercepted from Father’s bank account and disbursed to Mother.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
In 1999, Father’s paternity of two children was established, and he was ordered to pay support of $146/wk. In 2010, the trial court determined a support arrearage of $21,337. The trial court further released $15,000 to Mother that had been attached from Father’s bank account.

In 2011, another $7,025 was intercepted from Father’s bank account and, again, disbursed to Mother — but not until early 2012.

Father subsequently moved to determine his arrearage. At a hearing, there was an issue over a summary exhibit that purported to calculate Father’s arrearage as of December 31, 2011. Father objected that the exhibit was inaccurate because, while it was accurate as to December 31, 2011, it did not credit Father for the $7,025 that was released to Mother in early 2012. Nevertheless, after the hearing, the trial court found Father to be in arrears of $6,483 as of December 31, 2011 – technically correct, but it did not credit Father for the $7,025 released to Mother prior to the hearing.

Mother later sought to have Father held in contempt. Following another hearing, the trial court found Father’s arrearage to then be $13,055 as of the hearing, a sum which, again, did not credit Father for the $7,205 attachment. Father appealed, but the Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 memorandum decision, affirmed the trial court’s order.

After granting transfer, the Indiana Supreme Court largely adopted Judge Robb’s dissent in the Court of Appeals opinion, concluding that the arrearage was miscalculated by the trial court. The Court rejected Mother’s argument that Father’s appeal was untimely because he should have appealed the prior order that did not credit him $7,025. The Court noted that, technically speaking, that order was correct because it calculated an arrearage as of December 31, 2011, and, thus, Father had nothing to appeal after that order.

The trial court’s order was reversed, and remanded with instructions to credit Father $7,025 in its arrearage calculation.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: In re the Paternity of D.M.Y., et al., M.R. v. B.Y.

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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

Posted in Family Law Case Review0 Comments

Trial Court Within Discretion Denying Grandmother’s Petition for Visitation

Case: In re the Visitation of A.D. and B.D., Candy Miller v. Abby Dickens
Case Summary by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: Trial court was within its discretion in denying Grandmother’s petition for grandparent visitation, where Grandmother neither rebutted the presumption that Mother was a fit parent, nor did she meet her burden that grandparent visitation would be in the Children’s best interests.

NOTED: The Court of Appeals expressly declined to decide what legal standard should be applied to a modification of grandparent visitation, as opposed to establishing it in the first place.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
Mother has two young Children, born out-of-wedlock, with Father. In early 2013, Father “walked away” from Children and no longer had any contact with them. Prior to then, paternal Grandmother had periodic contact with Children, when the Father would see them. After Father stopped having contact with Children, Grandmother approached Mother informally to request contact with the Children, but Mother denied it citing concerns over prior incidents (e.g., Grandmother consuming alcohol around the children, not using a car seat on one occasion, etc.)

Grandmother subsequently filed a petition for grandparent visitation. At a subsequent hearing, the parties apparently agreed that Grandmother would have a “trial period” of supervised visitation, pending a full hearing.

At the next hearing, Grandmother put forth no evidence that Mother was unfit. On cross-examination, Grandmother also conceded she had allowed the Children to be placed in various dangerous or inadvisable situations during her trial parenting time. Following the hearing, the trial court denied Grandmother’s petition for visitation, from which Grandmother appealed.

The basis of Grandmother’s appeal was an argument that the trial court applied the wrong legal standard. Because the parties had previously reached an agreed entry for Grandmother’s visitation, Grandmother argued that the second hearing was a modification of an existing Grandparent visitation order, not an issue of whether to establish it in the first place. However, the Court of Appeals rejected that argument, agreeing with Mother that the original visitation order was a trial arrangement pending a full hearing on the matter. And, having properly addressed the McCune factors, the trial court was within its discretion to deny visitation.

In a footnote, the Court of Appeals also indicated that it was expressly reserving for a future case the issue debated by the parties as to the legal standard for a modification of grandparent visitation.

The trial court’s order denying grandparent visitation was affirmed.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: In re the Visitation of A.D. and B.D., Candy Miller v. Abby Dickens

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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

Posted in Family Law Case Review0 Comments

Trial Court Erred When Child Support Calculation Deviated from ICSG

Case: James Bogner v. Teresa Bogner
Case Summary by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: Trial court erred when its child support calculation deviated from the Indiana Child Support Guidelines calculation without supporting circumstances to do so.

HELD: Trial court erred when it modified the claiming of the child for tax purposes without analyzing the financial ramifications of doing so.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
Mother and Father divorced, with one Child, in 2007. Father was ordered to pay child support of $162/wk, and the parents were to alternate claiming Child for tax purposes.

In 2009, by agreed entry, Father’s child support was reduced to $135/wk. Then, in 2011, Father moved closer to Mother and Child, enabling Father to informally increase his parenting time. This included parenting time before and after school that obviated the need to pay for child care.

In 2013, Father petitioned to modify support. The parties stipulated to all of the inputs of the support calculation – incomes, parenting time, etc. – which resulted in a joint child support worksheet that calculated support at $59/wk. Father argued in support of this modification, but Mother opposed it on the basis of valuable tax credits apparently enjoyed by Father, and potential uninsured medical expenses to be covered by Mother.

After the hearing, the trial court essentially agreed with Mother, concluding that $59/wk was too little to cover a reasonable share of Mother’s expenses for Child. The trial court set support at $105/wk, instead of the $59/wk indicated by the parties’ joint worksheet. The trial court also changed the tax exemption, from alternating years between the parents, to Mother being able to claim every year.  Father appealed.

The Court of Appeals agreed with Father on the issue of weekly child support. The Court concluded that the trial court erroneously determined that the $59/wk shown on the joint child support worksheet would be the totality of Father’s financial contributions to raising Child. Doing so overlooks all of the expenses for Child that Father paid directly, including during Father’s fairly liberal parenting time.

On the issue of the tax exemption, the Court of Appeals referenced the Guidelines and related case law that a trial court should engage in a careful analysis before making a decision on awarding a dependency exemption. Here, since there was no evidence in the record concerning the financial implications of modifying when each parent could claim the exemption, it was error for the trial court to make a change.

The trial court’s order was reversed. On remand, the trial court was instructed to use a support amount of $59/wk per the worksheet. On the issue of the tax exemption, the trial court was instructed to engage in the analysis set forth in Child Supp. G. 9 concerning how the exemption should be allocated.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: James Bogner v. Teresa Bogner

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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

Posted in Family Law Case Review0 Comments

Trial Court Find Mothers Proposed Relocation Not in the Best Interest of Child

Case: In Re: the Marriage of Tina M. Harpenau v. Robin P. Harpenau
Case Summary by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: Trial court was within its discretion when it granted Father’s petition to modify custody based upon Mother’s proposed relocation, and when it modified child support as well. The record supported the trial court’s conclusion that Mother’s proposed relocation was not in the children’s best interests.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
Mother and Father divorced in Perry County in 2013, with two minor children. The parties agreed to joint legal custody, with Mother having primary physical custody. Shortly thereafter, Mother filed a Notice of Intent to Relocate to Scott County, so that she could move in with her boyfriend and to be closer to Mother’s place of work.  Father’s objected to the proposed relocation, citing his belief that the schools would be inferior, his own increased drive time to see the children, and a concern about criminal activity around the house into which Mother proposed moving.

After a hearing, the trial court concluded that Mother’s proposed relocation was offered in good faith and for a legitimate reason, but that it did not serve the best interests of the children. Thus, the trial court awarded Father primary physical custody and gave Mother the parenting time schedule that Father had prior to the modification. The trial court also modified child support, running its own child support calculation based upon the Decree’s income figures for the parties, and ordering Mother to pay $119/wk based upon the court’s calculation. Mother appealed.

The Court of Appeals reviewed the record and found ample evidence to support the trial court’s findings concerning the best interests of the children: there was limited information about the duration or seriousness of Mother’s relationship with the man she proposed moving in with; Father lives on a 160-acre parcel shared with other family members; and, the lack of relationships the children (or Mother) had in Scott County.  Thus, the modification and denial of Mother’s proposed relocation with the children was not an abuse of discretion.

The Court also concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it modified child support. The court used the same income figures from the worksheet that was attached to the parties’ recent 2013 Decree. Father testified at the hearing that the numbers had not changed since, and Mother failed to offer any conflicting testimony or evidence, or a child support worksheet of her own. The modification of child support was not error.

The trial court’s order was affirmed.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: In re the Marriage of Tina M. Harpenau v. Robin P. Harpenau

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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

Posted in Family Law Case Review, Highlighted Seminars0 Comments