Justia Family Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Indiana Supreme Court
Schwartz v. Heeter
Mother and Father were married in 1992 and had two children. The parties later divorced. In 2009, Mother and Father agreed to recalculate their support obligation annually using the Child Support Rules and Guidelines. However, the agreement's terms were silent about which version of the Guidelines applied. Importantly, the Guidelines were amended in 2010, and the changes significantly increased support obligations for high-income parents like Father. Father used the 2009 Guidelines when calculating his 2010 distribution clause payment, and Mother objected. The trial court interpreted the agreement as incorporating the version of the Guidelines that applied to a particular's income, and therefore, concluded that Father should have used the 2010 Guidelines for the 2010 calculation, though he correctly applied the 2009 Guidelines to his 2009 income. Both parties appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court, concluding that the agreement incorporated each year's version of the Guidelines as to that year's income. View "Schwartz v. Heeter" on Justia Law
In re Adoption of C.B.M.
Mother was the biological mother of fraternal twins. After Mother's parental rights to the twins were terminated (TPR judgment), the twins' foster parents (Adoptive Parents) petitioned to adopt them. None of the parties to the adoption notified Mother about the adoption proceedings because notice is not required to a parent whose rights have been terminated. The adoption was finalized when Mother's appeal was pending. Two months later, the TPR judgment against Mother was reversed by the court of appeals. Mother then petitioned to set aside the adoption. The trial court entered judgment against Mother. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded with instructions to vacate the adoption decree, holding that when the TPR judgment in this case was reversed, the no-consent adoption that followed became voidable under Indiana Trial Rule 60(B)(7). View "In re Adoption of C.B.M. " on Justia Law
In re Guardianship of A.J.A.
Father murdered Mother in the presence of their two small children. Father's brother and his significant other (Guardians) were granted guardianship over the children. The paternal grandmother (Grandmother) petitioned to intervene in the guardianship for purposes of seeking grandparent visitation. Guardians argued that Grandmother lacked standing to petition for visitation. The trial court disagreed and granted limited visitation for Grandmother but later declared the grandparent visitation order void and vacated for want of subject matter jurisdiction, finding that Grandmother lacked standing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Grandmother lacked standing to file a grandparent visitation petition under the Grandparent Visitation Statute because she was not the grandparent of the deceased parent, nor was she the grandparent of a dissolved marriage. View "In re Guardianship of A.J.A." on Justia Law
Perkinson v. Perkinson
Upon Father and Mother's divorce, Father and Mother agreed that Mother would assume sole financial responsibility of Child and waive enforcement of Father's child support arrearage in exchange for Father's agreement to waive his parenting time rights. The agreement also required Father to pay any support arrearage through the date of the trial court's approval of the agreement if Father sought parenting time in the future. Father subsequently sought modification of parenting time seeking to establish visitation with Child. The trial court denied Father's request. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the parties' agreement to forego parenting time in exchange for relief from child support was void against public policy; and (2) the trial court's prohibition against Father exercising any parenting time with Child was not supported by the record. Remanded. View "Perkinson v. Perkinson" on Justia Law
In re K.T.K.
The Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) petitioned to terminate Mother and Father's parental rights regarding their three children. The trial court granted the petition, concluding that DCS provided clear and convincing evidence that the conditions resulting in the children's continued placement outside of the home would not be remedied and that termination of Mother and Father's parental rights was in the best interests of the children. Mother appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) DCS showed by clear and convincing evidence that the conditions resulting in placement outside Mother's home would not be remedied; and (2) the trial court did not err in concluding that termination of Mother's parental rights was in the children's best interests. View "In re K.T.K." on Justia Law
In re Prosecutor’s Subpoena re S.H.
After Mother gave birth to an infant alone at home, Boyfriend took Mother and the infant to the hospital. Medical staff noticed puncture wounds on the infant's back and notified the authorities. An ensuing investigation resulted in the removal of the infant from Mother's care. The county prosecutor subsequently petitioned the trial court for subpoenas to compel Mother and Boyfriend to give testimony relating to the home birth of the infant. The trial court issued the subpoenas. Before Mother and Boyfriend testified, their attorney moved to quash the subpoenas pursuant to their rights against self-incrimination. The court granted the motion. The trial court then granted the prosecutor's petition for use immunity. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the prosecutor was not authorized to request a grant of use immunity; and (2) where, as here, no charges have been filed and no grand jury has been convened, a prosecutor may subpoena witnesses pursuant to Ind. Code 33-39-1-4, but if those witnesses invoke their constitutional right against self-incrimination, the prosecutor cannot petition the court to grant them use immunity and compel them to testify without first filing charges or convening a grand jury. View "In re Prosecutor's Subpoena re S.H." on Justia Law
K.J.R. v. M.A.B.
Child had contact with his paternal grandparents even after Mother married Stepfather. Later, Stepfather initiated a step-parent adoption of Child, and Mother curtailed the grandparent visits. Child's biological father (Father) contested the adoption, and Grandfather intervened in the proceedings to petition for a grandparent visitation order. The trial court granted Stepfather's adoption petition and granted Grandfather limited visitation of Child. The order also imposed no restrictions on Father's contact with Child. Mother appealed the visitation order. The Supreme Court remanded for new findings and conclusions, holding that the trial court's grandparent-visitation order was defective because it failed to (1) include findings that addressed four factors for balancing the parents' rights and the child's best interests and (2) limit the visitation award to an amount that did not substantially infringe on the parents' rights to control the upbringing of their children. View "K.J.R. v. M.A.B." on Justia Law
Sickels v. State
The State charged Defendant with three counts of felony nonsupport of a defendant child. By the time the case went to trial, all three children were adults and emancipated. The trial court found Defendant guilty as charged and ordered him to pay the children's mother, "the victim in the case," the amount of his child-support arrearage. The trial court used the term "restitution" at the sentencing hearing. The court of appeals affirmed Defendant's convictions and length of sentence but determined that the court's order for Defendant to pay restitution to the mother as "the victim" was erroneous. The Supreme Court granted transfer and summarily affirmed the court of appeals on all issues but the issue of restitution and held that the trial court was within its discretion to determine that restitution was payable to a custodial parent, despite the fact that the children were emancipated. Remanded. View "Sickels v. State" on Justia Law
Horner v. Carter
When Husband and Wife's marriage was dissolved in 2005, the trial court approved the settlement agreement reached by the parties following mediation. In 2011, Husband sought to modify the agreement. At the evidentiary hearing, the trial court excluded from evidence Husband's testimony regarding statements he claimed to have made to the mediator during mediation. The court subsequently denied Husband's request for modification of his monthly housing payment obligation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court was correct to exclude Husband's mediation statements from evidence on his petition to modify the parties' settlement agreement; and (2) the trial court correctly rejected Husband's request for modification of his monthly housing payment obligation. View "Horner v. Carter" on Justia Law
D.C. v. J.A.C.
In this case, a mother sought to relocate out-of-state with her child. The father filed a motion to modify custody and prevent the child's relocation. After an evidentiary hearing, which was conducted over two days with ten witnesses testifying, the trial court ruled in the father's favor. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court granted transfer and reiterated that in family law matters, trial courts are afforded considerable deference. The Court then affirmed, holding that the trial court's judgment was well supported by the findings, and neither the judgment nor the findings were clearly erroneous. View "D.C. v. J.A.C." on Justia Law