ILNews

Court: father not responsible for late payment

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a trial court denial of a father's post-dissolution motion for rule to show cause why his ex-wife shouldn't be held in contempt, and remanded for the court to enter a new order.

In John L. Richardson v. Susan E. Hansrote, No. 72A01-0706-CV-288, Richardson appealed the trial court denial, raising three issues: whether the trial court erred when it determined he had a child-support arrearage; whether the error by the court clerk, who mistakenly applied Richardson's child support payment to another account, is attributable to Richardson; and whether the trial court erred in determining a child support obligation paid by income withholding is not paid until it's received in the clerk's office.

In the original divorce decree, Richardson was ordered to pay $168 per week to the Scott Superior Court clerk every Friday. The dissolution court also found Richardson to be in arrears, ordering him to pay $32 a week until the arrearage was paid in full; the court never mentioned how much he owed in arrears. Finally, the court allowed Richardson to claim the minor children on his taxes in odd-numbered years as long as he was current on his child-support payments. Hansrote was allowed to claim the children on her taxes in even-numbered years.

Three years later, the parties executed an agreed modification of the original decree, which lowered Richardson's payments to $142 per week, and allowed for the payments to be taken out by an income withholding order. Until the order took effect, he was required to continue to pay the clerk's office directly.

In early 2006, Hansrote told Richardson she was claming the children on her taxes for 2005 because the child-support payments were in arrears that year. Richardson discovered the clerk's office had credited two of his payments to another person's account. The clerk adjusted one payment because Richardson had a receipt, but he did not have one for the other payment. The second payment was credited to his account in February 2006.

Both parents filed their 2005 tax returns claiming the children, and the IRS ordered Richardson to file an amended return and imposed penalties against him.

In January 2007, Richardson filed a motion for rule to show cause to hold Hansrote in contempt for claiming the children on her taxes in an odd-numbered year. The court denied his motion, finding he was in arrears for $510.

The Court of Appeals found insufficient evidence to support the determination Richardson had accrued a child-support arrearage. The trial court relied on the clerk's records to show Richardson owed $510. In the original decree, Richardson was found to be in arrears, but at the hearing on Richardson's motion, both parties agreed there was no arrearage at the time of the decree.

Because the trial court never stated the amount of money owed in arrearage, it's impossible to determine how much Richardson would have owed as of Dec. 31, 2005. Relying on the clerk's record was an error by the trial court because the clerk is not responsible for calculating arrearages, just for maintaining a record of payments received, wrote Judge Edward Najam.

Also, Richardson should not be held accountable for the clerk's error in applying his payments to the wrong account. At the time he made the payments, Richardson was entitled to receive credit for them as if he had paid them directly to Hansrote.

Finally, the Court of Appeals found the trial court erred when it determined Richardson's last payment of the year through income withholding was late because it was not received by the clerk's office until Jan. 3, 2006. The last payment of 2005 was due Dec. 30; however, his employer did not send the payment by electronic funds transfer until the following week. Because New Year's Day fell on a Sunday, the office was closed Monday, Jan. 2. The appellate court determined that Richardson is not at fault for the one business day delay in the payment that was due Dec. 30, wrote Judge Najam.

The Court of Appeals remanded to the trial court to reconsider the arrearage issue and enter a new order on Richardson's motion for rule to show cause; the court should also revisit whether Hansrote was in contempt of the decree by claiming the children on her 2005 taxes.
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  1. Im very happy for you, getting ready to go down that dirt road myself, and im praying for the same outcome, because it IS sometimes in the childs best interest to have visitation with grandparents. Thanks for sharing, needed to hear some positive posts for once.

  2. Been there 4 months with 1 paycheck what can i do

  3. our hoa has not communicated any thing that takes place in their "executive meetings" not executive session. They make decisions in these meetings, do not have an agenda, do not notify association memebers and do not keep general meetings minutes. They do not communicate info of any kind to the member, except annual meeting, nobody attends or votes because they think the board is self serving. They keep a deposit fee from club house rental for inspection after someone uses it, there is no inspection I know becausee I rented it, they did not disclose to members that board memebers would be keeping this money, I know it is only 10 dollars but still it is not their money, they hire from within the board for paid positions, no advertising and no request for bids from anyone else, I atteended last annual meeting, went into executive session to elect officers in that session the president brought up the motion to give the secretary a raise of course they all agreed they hired her in, then the minutes stated that a diffeerent board member motioned to give this raise. This board is very clickish and has done things anyway they pleased for over 5 years, what recourse to members have to make changes in the boards conduct

  4. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  5. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

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