ILNews

COA reverses contempt finding

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a trial court order finding a father in contempt of court for not complying with orders stemming from post-dissolution proceedings, ruling the father did comply with an order requiring he update his ex-wife with documents regarding a trust for his children's education.

In David L. Bartlemay v. Nancy Witt, f/k/a Nancy Bartlemay, No. 89A04-0802-CV-50, David Bartlemay appealed a 2007 trial court order that he was in contempt of court for violating previous orders following the dissolution of his and Nancy Witt's marriage.

The couple has four children and a trust was set up by Bartlemay's father for the children's future college expenses with Bartlemay's sister, Robbin Myers, as the trustee. Later, the trust was terminated and a limited liability company was created to provide the college funds.

The original dissolution order stated Bartlemay would provide Witt with a semi-annual accounting of the children's college funds, which a 2006 order updated stating what documents Witt should receive annually.

After Bartlemay failed to provide the required financial documents, Witt filed a motion and asked that he be held in contempt and pay her attorney's fees.

In 2007, the trial court found Bartlemay in contempt for failing to directly provide Witt with financial statements of the limited liability company twice a year, ordered him to pay $13,000 for Witt's legal fees, and sentenced him to a 10-day jail sentence, which was suspended pending his compliance with the court orders in the future.

The Court of Appeals found Witt was being hypercritical about the manner in which she receives the financial information because she has received adequate information in a proper time frame, even though Myers, not Bartlemay, sent Witt the financial statements, wrote Chief Judge John Baker.

The appellate court also wrote in a footnote that it "strongly encourage(s) David and Nancy to find a way to navigate their differences on this issue," and use intervention by the court as a last resort.

The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's finding that Bartlemay was in contempt for allegedly violating the previous orders regarding how and when he delivered the financial statements to Witt, the sentence of 10 days in jail because it doesn't give him an opportunity to purge himself of the contempt with compliance, and the finding that Bartlemay was in contempt for removing two of his daughters from school without Witt's permission so that they could testify at a March 2007 hearing.

Bartlemay violated the original dissolution order that states the children can't be removed from school without the permission of the other parent, but he did have the right to bring his daughters to testify at the trial, wrote the chief judge.

The appellate court also remanded to the trial court for a determination of how much Bartlemay should have to pay in attorney's fees. The original amount ordered by the trial court is based on its belief he intentionally gave inaccurate information while testifying before the 2001 order, but there is no evidence he intentionally misled the court.
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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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