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Father entitled to counsel at contempt hearing

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A Marion County man has made a prima facie showing that the trial court erred by denying his request for counsel at a hearing on contempt. Brian Moore’s ex-wife wanted him found in contempt for not paying the full amount of child support.

Moore is supposed to pay his ex-wife $139 per week in support for their two children. She filed a motion for rule to show cause why Moore should not be found in contempt for failing to pay less than $50 since the June 2013 order. She asked the court to order him to serve 30 days in jail and that the sentence be suspended pending his compliance.

At the hearing on the motion, Moore appeared pro se and asked that an attorney be appointed to represent him because he faced jail time. But Marion Superior Judge Robert Altice Jr. denied the request because any jail sentence would be suspended. The court found Moore in contempt, sentenced him to 30 days and suspended it until a compliance hearing was held.

“Here, there is a clear possibility that Brian is indigent. Furthermore, even though the trial court suspended the sentence and indicated it would reconsider the issue of appointing counsel prior to the compliance hearing, Brian clearly risked the possibility of losing his physical liberty as a result of the trial court’s contempt finding. Thus, if indigent, Brian was entitled to have counsel represent him at that hearing, not just at the subsequent compliance hearing,” Judge Michael Barnes wrote in  Brian S. Moore v. Kristy L. Moore, 49A04-1310-DR-499.  

The case is remanded for the court to determine if Moore is indigent and, if so, to appoint counsel to represent him at a new contempt hearing.

 

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