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COA finds trial court acted within its discretion when calculating father’s actual income

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A father’s messy financial statements do not prevent a trial court from doing its own calculations and increasing his weekly child support payments, the Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled.

The appeals court rejected the father’s arguments in In Re: The Paternity of Jo.J., J.W.J. v. D.C., 29A05-1209-JP-447, and affirmed the judgment of the trial court.

On May 25, 2012, the trial court held a hearing on the mother’s request for a temporary child support order to be issued pending a final decision on her appeal of the original order which reduced the father’s support obligation.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court asked the mother and father to submit their financial statements. On June 21, 2012, the court issued a formal written order and filed a separate order changing the father’s weekly support obligation to $252.52 per week.

The father appealed. He argued the trial court lacked jurisdiction to issue a temporary support order while the mother’s appeals was still pending. Moreover, he asserted, even if the lower court could temporarily modify child support during the appeal, the specific support amount ordered was not supported by the evidence.

The appeals court found while the mother’s request for modification was premature, the trial court did not issue a final written order temporarily modifying child support until one day after the Indiana Supreme Court denied transfer.

Thus, since these orders recalculating father’s income and support obligation were not issued until after the denial of transfer, the trial court did not err in modifying the father’s child support payments prospectively.

In regard to the $252.52 weekly payments, the COA speculated the trial court arrived at that figure based on the mother’s statement that she needed at least $250 a week to meet her bills.

Pointing to Elbert v. Elbert, 579 N.E. 2d 102, 112 (Ind. Ct. App. 1991), the COA noted trial courts must consider the children’s needs and the parent’s general economic condition when determining the amount of child support.

Consequently, the COA ruled that the trial court did not err when it arrived at a figure that would allow the mother to continue living in her home and providing for the child.

 

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