The Indiana Supreme Court ruled that a mother was a victim of a father who failed to pay support for his three children even years after the kids were grown.
Justices overturned a Court of Appeals ruling on Friday in Felix C. Sickels v. State of Indiana, 20S03-1206-CR-308. The Court of Appeals ruled the trial court erred in holding that the custodial parent was a victim of the non-custodial parent’s nonsupport.
“We hold that the trial court was well within its discretion to find that the custodial parent was the ‘victim,’” Justice Loretta Rush wrote for the unanimous court.
Felix Sickels had been charged in 2001 with failure to support his dependent children. He had moved to Michigan and wasn’t extradited until 2010, by which time his children were emancipated adults. He was convicted in 2011, ordered to serve 10 years through community corrections and pay the mother more than $84,000 in child-support arrearage.
Rush wrote that there were sound public policy considerations for why the custodial parent should be considered a victim, not the least of which is that directing restitution to children could create concerns about enforcement of support orders.
“We do not hold that a custodial parent whose children are now emancipated is the only possible ‘victim’ under these circumstances, but that a custodial parent is entitled to a presumption that he or she has suffered an ‘injury, harm or loss’ as a direct result of the noncustodial parent’s failure to pay child support. As a result, and barring an unusual circumstance, the custodial parent will be the recipient of criminal restitution for child-support arrearage in cases where the children have been emancipated,” Rush wrote.