ILNews

Court affirms dismissal of default judgment

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court finding that a mother had a valid excuse for not showing up to a child-support modification hearing because neither she nor her attorney received proper notice of the hearing.

In Jason D. Bunch v. Katherine R. Himm, 64A04-0705-CV-262, Bunch and Himm divorced, leaving Bunch with physical custody of their two children. Himm moved from northern Indiana to South Carolina and joined the United States Marine Corps Reserves. Their divorce decree was finalized shortly after she joined, and the court ruled she would pay $220 a week to Bunch in support while on active duty because her income would be larger and $138 while on reserve duty.

While Himm was away on active duty, and within one year of the decree, Bunch filed an unverified petition to modify the divorce decree to increase child support because Himm's income had increased. The petition was mailed to Himm at a South Carolina address she was having her mail sent to and a copy was also mailed to her attorney. The person getting Himm's mail told her she received a notice about a court date and to contact her attorney. Himm called her attorney and told him that she would not be able to appear and that he would have to go for her. The attorney replied that he did not receive a notice and there was no court date.

When the hearing date arrived, neither Himm nor her attorney showed. As a result, Bunch received a default judgment increasing the amount of child support Himm would pay. Himm did not learn of the default judgment until Bunch told her. At that point, she filed a petitioner's Trial Rule 60 motion to set aside default orders and a motion to withdraw and stay.

The trial court granted her petition because it found Himm's not showing up to the hearing as "excusable neglect" under T.R. 60. Bunch appealed the trial court's ruling.

Judge Patricia Riley wrote the default judgment against Himm should have been set aside because Bunch filed an unverified petition for modification. Also, the Indiana Supreme Court has stated that absent a substantial and continuing change in circumstances that would make a prior order unreasonable, a difference in income alone cannot support a modification of child support in the first year after a divorce decree.

The appellate court affirmed the trial court finding and remanded for further proceedings.
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  1. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  4. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

  5. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

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