ILNews

Court cites fishy documents in reversing support order

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A Marion Superior judge had no jurisdiction to enter a judgment against a father stating he owed $27,522 in support to his children’s mother, because Canadian court documents and other filings should not have been considered, the Court of Appeals ruled.

A couple married in Toronto in 1992 divorced in 2006, and the mother and children moved to Indiana in 2011. The father, who now lives in Georgia, unilaterally began paying substantially less child support, pursuant to the Indiana Child Support Guidelines.

In Joel Zivot v. Pamela London, 49A02-1207-DR-613, Pamela London sued, filing as evidence a certificate of divorce, separation agreement and handwritten minutes of settlement, and later claiming her ex-husband was in contempt. Marion Superior Judge Thomas Carroll in May entered an order and judgment on London’s verified petition for contempt. Joel Zivot was ordered to pay his ex-wife’s legal fees and 75 percent of the cost of his childern’s college education, in addition to the $27,522 judgment.

But Judge Edward Najam wrote that the court should not have acted in any manner with the documents presented as evidence. In reversing the lower court, he wrote for the panel, “We agree (with Zivot) that the trial court did not have before it a foreign support order subject to enforcement, nor could the trial court enforce child support based on written agreements between the parties where there is no evidence that such agreements had been approved by a court or incorporated into a court order.”

Najam wrote that the divorce certificate “was not signed by a judge, magistrate, or other official with authority to preside over dissolution proceedings. Rather, it was signed only by the clerk of the court in Ontario and is dated eleven months after the parties’ marriage was dissolved and ten months after the dissolution of marriage became effective. From the face of the document, we cannot conclude that the Certificate of Divorce is a judgment, decree, or order of a court. Thus, the trial court erred when it registered the Certificate of Divorce as an order from another state.

“The trial court lacked jurisdiction to enter an order enforcing Father’s child support obligations. The trial court did not have before it a child support order from another state, a prerequisite to enforcing a foreign support order … Thus, the trial court erred when it entered the Order enforcing Father’s child support obligations and ordering Father to pay attorney’s fees as a result,” Najam wrote.

 

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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