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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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  1. Access to the court (judiciary branch of government) is the REAL problem, NOT necessarily lack of access to an attorney. Unfortunately, I've lived in a legal and financial hell for the past six years due to a divorce (where I was, supposedly, represented by an attorney) in which I was defrauded of settlement and the other party (and helpers) enriched through the fraud. When I attempted to introduce evidence and testify (pro se) in a foreclosure/eviction, I was silenced (apparently on procedural grounds, as research I've done since indicates). I was thrown out of a residence which was to be sold, by a judge who refused to allow me to speak in (the supposedly "informal") small claims court where the eviction proceeding (by ex-brother-in-law) was held. Six years and I can't even get back on solid or stable ground ... having bank account seized twice, unlawfully ... and now, for the past year, being dragged into court - again, contrary to law and appellate decisions - by former attorney, who is trying to force payment from exempt funds. Friday will mark fifth appearance. Hopefully, I'll be allowed to speak. The situation I find myself in shouldn't even be possible, much less dragging out with no end in sight, for years. I've done nothing wrong, but am watching a lot of wrong being accomplished under court jurisdiction; only because I was married to someone who wanted and was granted a divorce (but was not willing to assume the responsibilities that come with granting the divorce). In fact, the recalcitrant party was enriched by well over $100k, although it was necessarily split with other actors. Pro bono help? It's a nice dream ... but that's all it is, for too many. Meanwhile, injustice marches on.

  2. Both sites mentioned in the article appear to be nonfunctional to date (March 28, 2017). http://indianalegalanswers.org/ returns a message stating the "server is taking too long to respond" and http://www.abafreelegalasnswers.org/ "can't find the server". Although this does not surprise me, it is disheartening to know that access to the judicial branch of government remains out of reach for too many citizens (for procedural rather than meritorious reasons) of Indiana. Any updates regarding this story?

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