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Appellate court finds mother wasn't in contempt

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The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed with a mother that the Clark Circuit Court erred in finding her in contempt for not putting her teenage daughter on a plane to Florida to visit the teen’s father over Christmas break. The appellate court did agree with the trial court that the mom should have to pay for another flight to visit the father.

In the case of In Re: The Paternity of M.F.; N.F. v. J.T., No. 10A01-1101-JP-15, mother N.F. appealed the finding that she was in contempt of a June 2010 order that daughter M.F. was to spend seven days of winter break 2010 with her father J.T. in Florida. The parents texted and emailed possible days for M.F. to visit. Mother N.F. didn’t tell J.T. that M.F.’s school had a make-up snow day on Dec. 20, so she wouldn’t be able to fly out on Dec. 17 or 18 as initially discussed. J.T. went ahead and bought a ticket for M.F. to fly out on Dec. 18, but N.F. didn’t put their daughter on the plane.

At a Dec. 22, 2010, hearing, the trial court found the mother to be in contempt, ordered her to pay $300 in attorney fees, and purchase a round-trip ticket for M.F. to travel to Florida Dec. 27 through Jan. 2, 2011.

The Court of Appeals found N.F. presented a prima facie case that the trial court abused its discretion in finding her in contempt. N.F. pointed out that the June 2010 order didn’t specify how travel arrangements would be made for J.T.’s winter break parenting time, nor did it expressly state that the mother was responsible for buying a ticket to make sure M.F. saw her father. N.F. also presented evidence that both parties knew there was a possibility that Dec. 20 could be used as a make-up day for school and that J.T. had access to the school calendar online.

Because they reversed the contempt finding, the judges also reversed the order that N.F. pay $300 in attorney fees. But they upheld the order she buy a round-trip ticket for M.F. to visit her father during the second week of her winter break.

Judge James Kirsch dissented without opinion.
 

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