Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Indiana
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court in this marital dissolution case, holding that a trial court need not follow a rigid, technical formula in dividing the marital estate so long as the court expressly considers all marital property and offers sufficient justification to rebut the presumptive equal division.In its final decree, the trial court granted Wife's request for spousal maintenance and awarded Wife fifty-five percent of the "net marital estate." On appeal, both Husband and Wife disputed the trial court's award of spousal maintenance and the distribution of the marital estate. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there was no error in the trial court's award of spousal maintenance; and (2) there was no error in the court's division of marital property. View "Roetter v. Roetter" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court finding that Husband had breached a provision of the parties' settlement agreement entered into during their dissolution of marriage action, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding that Husband had breached the warranty clause of the agreement.During dissolution proceedings, Wife and Husband signed a settlement agreement under which each party retained all stock accounts in their respective names and Husband received all jointly held stock accounts. The agreement contained a warranty stating that the parties would truly reveal to each other their assets and debts. Wife subsequently filed a motion for relief from judgment, alleging that the agreement should not be enforced due to the omission of a stock account from a balance sheet used in determining the division of assets. The trial court awarded Wife half of the value of the account, concluding that fraud, constructive fraud, mutual mistake, or misrepresentation had occurred. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Wife's evidence was inadmissible to avoid the agreement, and the trial court incorrectly determined that fraud, constructive fraud, mutual mistake, or misrepresentation had occurred; but (2) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding that Husband had breached the warranty clause of the agreement. View "Berg v. Berg" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the trial court finding that Mother's consent was not required for the adoption of her child, holding that sufficient evidence supported the trial court's determinations.The trial court granted Stepmother's petition for stepparent adoption of Child, finding that Mother's consent was unnecessary because she had failed to pay child support for more than one year, failed significantly to communicate with Child for more than one year, and had abandoned Child. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the evidence supported the court's findings that Mother for one year failed significantly to communicate with Child and support Child when able to do so. View "J.P. v. V.B." on Justia Law

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In this termination of parental rights case, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the trial court to admit drug reports, holding that the trial court properly found that the reports did not fit the records of a regularly conducted activity exception pursuant to Ind. R. Evid. 803(6).The Indiana Department of Child Services filed a petition to terminate Parents' parental rights to their four children. During the termination hearing and over Parents' objections, the trial court admitted drug test results for both parents. The court terminated the parents' parental rights. Parents appealed, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion in admitting their drug test results. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the drug test results were properly admitted as records of a regularly conducted activity and that any error in their admission was harmless. The Supreme Court granted transfer and affirmed, holding (1) the drug test records here fell under the records of a regularly conducted business activity; and (2) the trial court did not err in admitting the drug records. View "A.B. v. Indiana Department of Child Services" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the determination of the trial court finding Mother in contempt of court and ordering that Father have sole legal and physical custody of the parties' infant child, holding that the court abused its discretion by conflating Mother's contempt of court with the best interest of the child.Father filed a petition for rule to show cause alleging that Mother had violated a previous order by relocating the parties' child from Indiana. The trial court granted full relief to Father, finding Mother in contempt for relocating the child out of Indiana and for denying Father parenting time. The court then ordered that Father have sole legal and physical custody of the child. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that where Mother's alleged contempt appeared to be the catalyst for the trial court's order granting Father sole legal and physical custody, the trial court's order could not stand. View "Yanes-Mirabal v. Badasay" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court remanded this custody matter for further proceedings, holding that the trial court abused its discretion by conflating Mother's contempt of court with the best interest of the child.Father filed a petition to request DNA testing, establish paternity, physical custody, parenting time and child support. Later, the trial court found Mother in contempt for relocating the child out of Indiana and for denying Father parenting time. The court then ordered that Father should have sole legal and physical custody of the child. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the matter for additional proceedings, holding that Mother's alleged contempt was not so severe as to remove the child from her care. View "Yanes-Mirabal v. Badasay" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court terminating Parents' parental rights to their four children, holding that the trial court did not err in admitting drug test reports on the grounds that the reports properly fell under the records of a regularly conducted activity exception to the hearsay rule pursuant to Ind. R. Evid. 803(6).During the termination hearing, the trial court admitted Parents' drug test results into evidence. Parents appealed, arguing that the drug tests did not meet the regularly conducted activity exception under Ind. R. Evid. 803(6). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in admitting the records over Parents' objections. View "In re Matter of the Termination of Parent-Child Relationship of K.R." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the juvenile court finding that R.L. was a child in need of services (CHINS), holding that the Department of Child Services (DCS) should have been barred from filing a successive CHINS action after the initial CHINS petition was dismissed with prejudice.In 2017, DCS filed a petition alleging that R.S. was a CHINS. The juvenile court determined R.L. was not a CHINS and dismissed the action with prejudice. In 2018, DCS filed a subsequent petition alleging R.L. was a CHINS. Mother moved to dismiss the petition on claim preclusion grounds. The juvenile court denied the motion and found R.L. was a CHINS. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Mother's motion to dismiss should have been granted because, under the framework of Matter of Eq.W., 124 N.E.3d 1201 (Ind. 2019), the subsequent petition filed by DCS should have been barred by the doctrine of claim preclusion. View "R.L. v. Indiana Department of Child Services & Child Advocates, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals that a parent is not entitled to dismissal of a termination of parental rights petition due to the juvenile court's failure to complete a hearing within the statutorily required 180 days where the parent affirmatively waived that requirement, holding that relief is not available under these circumstances.The Indiana Department of Child Services filed petitions to terminate Mother's parental rights regarding her two children. The evidentiary hearing on the petitions was completed more than 180 days after the petitions were filed. Thereafter, the court terminated Mother's parental rights. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Mother affirmatively waived the 180-day requirement and invited the court to conduct the hearing without regard to it, Mother was precluded from later successfully invoking it as a basis for reversal. View "J.C. v. Indiana Department of Child Services" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the trial court denying Mother's motion to dismiss the petition filed by the Department of Child Services (DCS) alleging M.S. was a child in need of services (CHINS), holding that the 120-day deadline contemplated by Ind. Code 31-34-11-1(b) may be enlarged only if a party shows good cause for a continuance, and Mother showed good cause for a continuance in this case.Under section 31-34-11-1(d) a trial court must dismiss a CHINS petition if the court does not conclude a fact-finding hearing within 120 days of the State's filing of the petition. At issue int his case was whether the 120-day deadline may be enlarged under Ind. Trial Rule 53.5 if a party to the proceeding moves for a good faith continuance that results in the conclusion of fact-finding beyond the codified 120-day limit. In the instant case, Mother moved for a good faith continuance of the CHINS proceeding. The final order adjudicating M.S. a CHINS was not issued until after the 120-day deadline expired. Mother filed a motion to dismiss, which the trial court denied. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the 120-day time period may be extended for good cause, and because Mother showed good cause for a continuance, the trial court correctly denied Mother's motion to dismiss. View "In re M.S." on Justia Law