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COA reminds ex-spouse that turnips cannot bleed

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Calling her interpretation of Indiana law incorrect, the Court of Appeals rejected a woman’s argument against the decrease in her spousal support and reminded her that “one cannot bleed a turnip.”   

The COA affirmed the trial court’s reduction in the amount of spousal maintenance in Christine Banks v. Timothy R. Banks, 45A03-1203-DR-96.

At the time Christine and Timothy Banks divorced in September 2000, the trial court determined that Christine was physically incapacitated and ordered Timothy to pay $500 per month to her as maintenance.

Timothy Banks filed a motion to modify and reduce his maintenance obligation in June 2011 because he was suffering from Crohn’s disease and unable to work. The trial court reduced his obligation to $40 per week or about $173.33 per month.

Christine Banks appealed, contending that under Indiana law, an award of incapacity spousal maintenance cannot be modified or reduced unless the incapacitated spouse’s health has improved. She stated there was no evidence that her health had improved since the time of the divorce.

The court noted this position is incorrect. Citing In re Trust Created Under Last Will and Testament of Mitchell, 875 N.E.2d 433, 435 (Ind. Ct. App. 2003), and Lowes v. Lowes, 650 N.E.2d 1171 (Ind. Ct. App. 1995), Judge Michael Barnes wrote the court has held that when determining whether there has been a substantial change in circumstances justifying modification of a spousal maintenance award, a trial court should consider the factors underlying the original award. These factors include the financial resources of the party seeking to continue maintenance and the ability of the spouse paying maintenance to meet his or her own needs.

“…where the obligor spouse’s reduction in income or deterioration in financial condition is the result of factors beyond his or her control, he or she should not be forced to continue paying maintenance at the level based on a higher income or better financial condition,” Barnes wrote. “One cannot bleed a turnip.”


 

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