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COA orders a new child support order

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the denial of a father’s petition to modify child support. The judges held he didn’t waive his argument for modification because he made a prima facie showing he qualified for a modification under one subsection of the statute, even though he argued before the trial court that he qualified based on the other subsection.

In Brian Holtzleiter v. Angela Holtzleiter, No. 48A02-1006-DR-736, Brian Holtzleiter sought to modify his child support obligation a little more than a year after the original obligation was entered. In his petition he claimed an ongoing and substantial change in circumstances, subsection (1) under Indiana Code Section 31-16-8-1. The trial court denied the petition, finding the changes in circumstances don’t render the current support order unreasonable.

The Court of Appeals agreed with Brian that he met his burden under subsection (2) of that statute. That subsection requires that the petition for modification be at least 12 months after the order requesting to be modified or revoked was issued, and that the party has been ordered to pay an amount that differs by more than 20 percent from the amount that would be ordered by applying the child support guidelines.

Brian submitted a child support worksheet that proposed his child support obligation should now be $178.89 a week due to a change in job with a lower salary and a remarriage and new child to take care of. His current obligation was $317 a week for his two children from his marriage with Angela.

The judges went against their colleagues’ decision in Hay v. Hay, 730 N.E.2d 787, 794 (Ind. Ct. App. 2000), and ruled Brian preserved his argument on appeal. Hay held that a father waived his argument that his obligation should be modified pursuant to subsection 2 because he failed to make that argument to the trial court. In the instant case, the judges believed the trial court and opposing party have been provided with sufficient notice that Brian called into play subsection (2) by submitting his child support worksheet showing his current obligation is 20 percent more than the amount he would be ordered to pay by applying the guidelines.

“Given the bright-line test set forth in subsection (2), we can discern no basis for punishing someone with a support order that otherwise statutorily qualifies for modification simply because the party failed to utter the magic words. The Guidelines are not meant to be a trap for the unwary but are intended to lead the way to a fair result in a complicated area of law,” wrote Judge Terry Crone.

After examining the evidence, the judges reversed the denial of his petition to modify and ordered on remand for the trial court to adjust the child support order accordingly. They also agreed that Brian’s $15,000 relocation bonus and the fact that Angela’s child care expenses have increased due to her employment outside of the home should be considered in determining his child support obligation.
 

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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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