COA: Supreme Court was Clear, Post-Secondary Educational Expenses are Constitutional

Family Law Case Review

Case: Lisa Gill, et al. v. Jeffrey B. Gill, et al.
by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

This is a consolidated appeal of three separate challenges to Indiana’s post-secondary educational expense statute. The constitutional arguments are: (1) the statute violates Equal Protection, by placing divorced parents in a different position than married parents; and (2) the statute violates a parent’s constitutional right to determine his or her child’s upbringing and education.

The Court of Appeals quickly disposed of the matter, concluding that “the Indiana Supreme Court has clearly held that statutory authority allowing a trial court to order a divorced parent to contribute to his child’s post-secondary educational expenses is constitutional.” The Court was unpersuaded by the appellants’ argument that the passage of time warranted a closer review of precedent.

We will provide updates on transfer, if sought.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: Lisa Gill, et al. v. Jeffrey B. Gill, et al.

 

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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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Support Modifications Typically Inappropriate without Differing at Least 20% from the Prior Order

Family Law Case Review

Case: Danielle Maple v. Travis Maple
by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: Court of Appeals underscores the Indiana Supreme Court’s MacLafferty holding that, when entertaining a child support modification, it will very seldom be appropriate to modify support if the new support amount is not more than 20% different than the previously-ordered support amount.

HELD: When a trial court is establishing a child support order that includes a credit for “prior born” children, the trial court is required to use a prevailing child support worksheet from that prior born child’s case, and the amount of the credit for prior born children may not be re-litigated.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
Mother and Father married, had two children, and divorced in 2009. Mother also had one child from a prior relationship, for whom a child support order had been issued in 2005 and never modified. That 2005 worksheet established Mother’s legal duty of support for her prior-born child at $121/wk.

In the instant case, Father endeavored to modify child support for a variety of reasons, including changes of income and parenting time. However, in the course of seeking this modification, Father sought to reduce Mother’s credit for her legal duty to support a prior born child down to $66/wk. The trial court agreed and, recalculating child support, issued a new child support order which differed by only 16% from the prior order. Mother appealed.

The Court of Appeals reviewed the MacLafferty holding, which provides that the circumstances are rare in which child support should be modified without differing at least 20% from the prior order. The Court of Appeals concluded that no such extraordinary circumstances existed in this case, and the trial court’s modification of support was inappropriate.

Further, the Court of Appeals assigned error to the trial court’s recalculation of the amount of Mother’s credit for her legal duty to support her prior-born child. In effect, the Court concluded that a trial court calculating child support is bound to the child support worksheet of the other court that established support for the prior-born child, and the amount of that credit may not be re-litigated in the current court.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: Danielle Maple v. Travis Maple

 

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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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Recipient Party is Intended to Receive 100% of the Subject Account, Regardless of Value at Time of Transfer

Family Law Case Review

Case: Fazia Deen-Bacchus v. Harold M. Bacchus, Jr.
by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: When a Decree assigns a value to an investment account for purposes of calculating the marital estate, and then awards one party that account, absent express language providing otherwise, the recipient party is intended to receive 100% of the subject account, regardless of its value at the time of transfer, not the amount that the trial court assigned to the account when calculating the marital estate.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
In January, 2011, the trial court issued its property division order incident to the dissolution of the parties’ marriage. Among other property, the order gave Wife, “as her property,” three investment accounts. Elsewhere in the order, the trial court assigned values to each of the three investment accounts for purposes of calculating the overall marital estate.

Apparently, Husband was dilatory in transferring these accounts to Wife and, by the time Wife pressed the issue, the aggregate value of the three accounts had increased materially. A dispute then arose between the parties as to whether Wife was to receive the entire of each of the three accounts — including appreciation — or whether Husband owed Wife only the amount in the original values used by the trial court to value each account for divorce purposes, leaving Husband entitled to keep the rest.

After a hearing, the trial court sided with Husband, but ordered him to pay Wife a nominal amount of interest in addition. Wife appealed.

The Court of Appeals, agreeing with Wife, reversed the trial court. “[T]he order plainly and unmistakably identifies the investment accounts, not a certain value of the accounts, as Wife’s property.” Thus, Wife was entitled to receive the entirety of each of the subject accounts, including any appreciation subsequent to the property division order.

[While not addressed by the opinion, presumably the risk of loss also falls on the party awarded the account.]  

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: Fazia Deen-Bacchus v. Harold M. Bacchus, Jr.

 

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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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Question of Marital Property Regarding Husband’s Stock Options has Potentially Broader Implications

Family Law Case Review

Case: George S. Fischer v. Jennifer M. Fischer
by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: In a case with potential broader implications, the Court of Appeals holds that an award of stock options, which was unvested on the date of filing but which vested while the divorce was pending, is not “marital property” subject to division. Whether a property interest is vested on the date of filing is dispositive.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
Wife filed her petition for dissolution of marriage in October 2014. In 2015, while the divorce was still pending, stock options that Husband’s employer awarded Husband prior to the date of filing vested. At the subsequent final hearing, the trial court included the then-vested stock options in the marital estate, and ordered Husband to make a property settlement payment to Wife that was representative of Wife’s “marital share” of the stock options. Husband appealed.

The Court of Appeals emphasized the axiom of the “marital pot” closing on the date a petition for dissolution is filed. The Court acknowledged that its 1995 Hann decision left some confusion about whether stock options awarded prior to filing, but which vest while a divorce is pending, are in the marital estate. In resolution of that confusion, the Court in this case concluded that “only property that is vested in the parties on the date the petition for dissolution is filed is part of the marital pot.”

The Court of Appeals also suggested that, because these stock options were not a marital asset, they should be considered as Husband’s income for child support calculation purposes.

The trial court’s order, including that the stock options are in the marital estate, was reversed and remanded.

[This case would seem to have implications for a variety of other property interests that can vest while a divorce is pending, such as pensions, year-end employee bonuses, beneficiary trust interests, real estate remainder interests, etc. – MRK.] 

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: George S. Fischer v. Jennifer M. Fischer

 

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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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