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Justices reverse custody modification but order status quo to continue, for now

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The laws in place to protect children caught in the middle of a custody battle were ignored by a St. Joseph Superior Court, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled Tuesday, pointing to a change in custody despite a lack of a proper evidentiary hearing.

Jason Wilson had physical custody of his two children with ex-wife Kelly Myers for six years until she filed a motion seeking physical custody of both children. The family was ordered to participate in family counseling. Myers later alleged Wilson was trying to sabotage the counseling process, so the court received permission from the parents to communicate with the counselor directly. The counseling service director found out Wilson secretly recorded the sessions and informed the court.

Judge Margot Reagan announced at the beginning of the hearing her intent to rule on Myers’ motion to modify custody and told Wilson she “didn’t want to have another in-camera” with the children and didn’t “understand why we would need an evidentiary hearing.” No witnesses were sworn during the hearing or evidence received. Reagan awarded custody to Myers, with Wilson receiving parenting time. This resulted in the children having to relocate to Michigan.

“In short, what we are now faced with on appeal is an order directing one parent to hand over two children to another parent with no mention or hint that doing so is in accordance with the Indiana Code. And the only support for this order is the transcript of what seems to be little more than an unorganized shouting match labeled as an ‘evidentiary hearing.’ To issue such an order was therefore an abuse of discretion,” Justice Steven David wrote in Jason Wilson v. Kelly (Wilson) Myers, 71S03-1305-DR-399.

“Tempers clearly ran hot for all involved in this case, as can easily happen in family law cases with disputed custody concerns,” he continued. “In such cases, we encourage trial courts to utilize the formal procedures embodied in the Indiana Trial Rules to maintain a level of control and decorum that keeps the litigation process from turning into a mud-slinging argument and preserves the rights of all involved.”

The modification is vacated and a proper evidentiary hearing and inquiry into in-camera interviews are ordered. But since the two children have already been pulled from their Indiana school system and are attending school in Michigan, this status quo should continue until further order of the court as to minimize further disruption.
 

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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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