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Appellate court affirms reinstatement of father’s license

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The Indiana Court of Appeals split Thursday over whether a father who was more than $100,000 behind in child support should be allowed to have his driving privileges reinstated.

In Denise A. Mertz a/k/a Denise A. Grimmer v. Robert G. Mertz, 64A03-1108-DR-360, Robert Mertz sought in 2010 to modify his child support obligation regarding his youngest daughter, J.M. At the time, Mertz had been found in contempt twice for not paying child support, jailed twice, and had criminal charges filed against him for not paying. His driving privileges were suspended in 2008 pursuant to Indiana Code 31-16-12-7 for not paying.

The trial court granted Mertz’s motion, citing that his income had dropped since 2005, when the last support order was entered. Imputing his income at $1,000 a week based on Mertz's employment skills and the economy, the judge ruled he was to pay $49 toward his current support and $62 to educational expenses, with the remaining amount toward his arrearages, which the judge said could be as much as $100,000. Mertz agreed to pay half of his income wages toward these amounts.

The judge also reinstated Mertz’s driver’s license because of his plan to pay back his owed support.

His ex-wife, Denise Grimmer, objected, arguing that Mertz has a history of hiding his income and his driving privileges shouldn’t be reinstated.

The appellate court has yet to look at I.C. 31-16-12-7 and -11, which deal with license suspension and reinstatement for failure to pay child support. Section 11 says the court may stay the suspension if the person pays the child support arrearage in full; or an income withholding order under I.C. 31-16-15 … is implemented and a payment plan to pay the arrearage is established.

Judges Nancy Vaidik and Edward Najam upheld the license reinstatement, pointing out the judge realized if Mertz is able to drive, he is more likely to meet his support obligations. His plan to pay one-half of his income toward his obligation was sufficient, they held.

Chief Judge Margret Robb dissented on this point, writing, “Given that the two alternatives for reinstatement are to pay in full or establish a payment plan to pay, the ‘plain, ordinary, and usual meaning’ of ‘a payment plan to pay the arrearage’ is a plan that will pay the arrearage in full, not simply pay toward or pay down the arrearage.”

Robb calculated that that statutory interest alone on $100,000 of arrearage would exceed $140 a week, and Mertz’s payment plan will barely make a dent in it.

If Mertz established a plan to pay the maximum amount allowed by law – 65 percent of his income – then she believes the trial court could have reinstated his driving privileges.

The judges unanimously upheld the decision to modify Mertz’s support obligation.

 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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