ILNews

COA reverses contempt finding

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a trial court order finding a father in contempt of court for not complying with orders stemming from post-dissolution proceedings, ruling the father did comply with an order requiring he update his ex-wife with documents regarding a trust for his children's education.

In David L. Bartlemay v. Nancy Witt, f/k/a Nancy Bartlemay, No. 89A04-0802-CV-50, David Bartlemay appealed a 2007 trial court order that he was in contempt of court for violating previous orders following the dissolution of his and Nancy Witt's marriage.

The couple has four children and a trust was set up by Bartlemay's father for the children's future college expenses with Bartlemay's sister, Robbin Myers, as the trustee. Later, the trust was terminated and a limited liability company was created to provide the college funds.

The original dissolution order stated Bartlemay would provide Witt with a semi-annual accounting of the children's college funds, which a 2006 order updated stating what documents Witt should receive annually.

After Bartlemay failed to provide the required financial documents, Witt filed a motion and asked that he be held in contempt and pay her attorney's fees.

In 2007, the trial court found Bartlemay in contempt for failing to directly provide Witt with financial statements of the limited liability company twice a year, ordered him to pay $13,000 for Witt's legal fees, and sentenced him to a 10-day jail sentence, which was suspended pending his compliance with the court orders in the future.

The Court of Appeals found Witt was being hypercritical about the manner in which she receives the financial information because she has received adequate information in a proper time frame, even though Myers, not Bartlemay, sent Witt the financial statements, wrote Chief Judge John Baker.

The appellate court also wrote in a footnote that it "strongly encourage(s) David and Nancy to find a way to navigate their differences on this issue," and use intervention by the court as a last resort.

The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's finding that Bartlemay was in contempt for allegedly violating the previous orders regarding how and when he delivered the financial statements to Witt, the sentence of 10 days in jail because it doesn't give him an opportunity to purge himself of the contempt with compliance, and the finding that Bartlemay was in contempt for removing two of his daughters from school without Witt's permission so that they could testify at a March 2007 hearing.

Bartlemay violated the original dissolution order that states the children can't be removed from school without the permission of the other parent, but he did have the right to bring his daughters to testify at the trial, wrote the chief judge.

The appellate court also remanded to the trial court for a determination of how much Bartlemay should have to pay in attorney's fees. The original amount ordered by the trial court is based on its belief he intentionally gave inaccurate information while testifying before the 2001 order, but there is no evidence he intentionally misled the court.
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  1. I work with some older lawyers in the 70s, 80s, and they are sharp as tacks compared to the foggy minded, undisciplined, inexperienced, listless & aimless "youths" being churned out by the diploma mill law schools by the tens of thousands. A client is generally lucky to land a lawyer who has decided to stay in practice a long time. Young people shouldn't kid themselves. Experience is golden especially in something like law. When you start out as a new lawyer you are about as powerful as a babe in the cradle. Whereas the silver halo of age usually crowns someone who can strike like thunder.

  2. YES I WENT THROUGH THIS BEFORE IN A DIFFERENT SITUATION WITH MY YOUNGEST SON PEOPLE NEED TO LEAVE US ALONE WITH DCS IF WE ARE NOT HURTING OR NEGLECT OUR CHILDREN WHY ARE THEY EVEN CALLED OUT AND THE PEOPLE MAKING FALSE REPORTS NEED TO GO TO JAIL AND HAVE A CLASS D FELONY ON THERE RECORD TO SEE HOW IT FEELS. I WENT THREW ALOT WHEN HE WAS TAKEN WHAT ELSE DOES THESE SCHOOL WANT ME TO SERVE 25 YEARS TO LIFE ON LIES THERE TELLING OR EVEN LE SAME THING LIED TO THE COUNTY PROSECUTOR JUST SO I WOULD GET ARRESTED AND GET TIME HE THOUGHT AND IT TURNED OUT I DID WHAT I HAD TO DO NOT PROUD OF WHAT HAPPEN AND SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SEEKING MEDICAL ATTENTION FOR MY CHILD I AM DISABLED AND SICK OF GETTING TREATED BADLY HOW WOULD THEY LIKE IT IF I CALLED APS ON THEM FOR A CHANGE THEN THEY CAN COME AND ARREST THEM RIGHT OUT OF THE SCHOOL. NOW WE ARE HOMELESS AND THE CHILDREN ARE STAYING WITH A RELATIVE AND GUARDIAN AND THE SCHOOL WON'T LET THEM GO TO SCHOOL THERE BUT WANT THEM TO GO TO SCHOOL WHERE BULLYING IS ALLOWED REAL SMART THINKING ON A SCHOOL STAFF.

  3. Family court judges never fail to surprise me with their irrational thinking. First of all any man who abuses his wife is not fit to be a parent. A man who can't control his anger should not be allowed around his child unsupervised period. Just because he's never been convicted of abusing his child doesn't mean he won't and maybe he hasn't but a man that has such poor judgement and control is not fit to parent without oversight - only a moron would think otherwise. Secondly, why should the mother have to pay? He's the one who made the poor decisions to abuse and he should be the one to pay the price - monetarily and otherwise. Yes it's sad that the little girl may be deprived of her father, but really what kind of father is he - the one that abuses her mother the one that can't even step up and do what's necessary on his own instead the abused mother is to pay for him???? What is this Judge thinking? Another example of how this world rewards bad behavior and punishes those who do right. Way to go Judge - NOT.

  4. Right on. Legalize it. We can take billions away from the drug cartels and help reduce violence in central America and more unwanted illegal immigration all in one fell swoop. cut taxes on the savings from needless incarcerations. On and stop eroding our fourth amendment freedom or whatever's left of it.

  5. "...a switch from crop production to hog production "does not constitute a significant change."??? REALLY?!?! Any judge that cannot see a significant difference between a plant and an animal needs to find another line of work.

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