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Child support abatement starts on petition date

January 1, 2008
The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a trial court order setting the date in which an incarcerated man can receive an abatement in his child support, finding the date the man filed his order was when it could be first applied. The ruling could open the door for the Indiana Supreme Court to decide when an abatement can take effect.

In In re the marriage of: Gary Becker v. Heather Becker, No. 49A04-0804-CV-205, Gary Becker appealed the trial court order modifying his child support.

Becker was convicted and sentenced in 1996 and 1997 for various crimes; he filed for divorce in September 1997. In February 1998, the trial court dissolved the marriage and set Becker's child support obligation at $110 per week.

In December 2007, Becker filed a motion for relief from the order, citing the February 2007 Indiana Supreme Court decision on Lambert v. Lambert, N.E.2d 1176 (Ind. 2007).

The trial court abated Becker's support to $25 a week based on Lambert and ruled the decision would be retroactive to the date of the Lambert decision. The abatement would last until Becker's projected earliest possible release from incarceration in August 2009.

Becker's appeal focuses on when his abatement should take effect. He argues it should be retroactive to his original decree of dissolution in 1998. The appellate court, citing Quinn v. Threlkel, 858 N.E.2d 665, 674 (Ind. Ct. App. 2006), reversed the trial court and made the effective date the day Becker filed the motion - Dec. 28, 2007. Quinn allows a trial court's discretion in modifying child support effective as to the date the petition is filed, wrote Judge Patricia Riley.

The Court of Appeals decision could lead the way to an appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court to decide the retroactivity of the Lambert decision. The Lambert decision never mentions if the decision is retroactive and whether retroactivity would begin at the original dissolution order, the date of the Lambert ruling, or the date the petitioner files a motion for modification.
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