ILNews

Hearing didn't consider all statutory factors

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In a modification of physical custody case, the Indiana Court of Appeals remanded for further proceedings because the trial court was required to hear evidence on and consider all of the factors listed in Indiana Code Section 31-17-2.2-1(b).

In the case In the Matter of the Paternity of J.J., a child born out of wedlock by next friend, Garnet S. v. Wess A.J., No. 08A02-0903-JV-280, mother Garnet S. appealed the trial court modification of physical custody of daughter J.J. to father Wess A.J. after Garnet announced she was moving out of state with her husband.

Garnet had physical custody of J.J. and worked two jobs; Wess didn't pay the court-ordered child support, but he often watched J.J. while Garnet worked and provided clothes, diapers, and other necessities for his daughter. Wess didn't have a job and made money doing odd jobs. The trial court found Wess had parenting time for more than half the year in 2007 and 2008, and because he had been the de facto custodial parent it would be the same as a change of custody. It also found J.J. had a close relationship with her siblings, grandparents, and other relatives and moving to Georgia would have a significant impact upon those relationships.

The trial court modified custody by awarding joint custody to the parents, with Wess having primary physical custody and mother having parenting time.

The Court of Appeals determined the trial court abused its discretion when it considered Wess a "de facto custodian" because there's no evidence he financially supported his daughter, wrote Judge Paul Mathias. The trial court may have been commenting on the relationship of Wess with his daughter, but the court should consider the specific circumstances surrounding that relationship. Wess was J.J.'s primary caregiver largely because he wasn't employed or paying child support and Garnet had to work multiple jobs to support their daughter. She was complying with the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines by offering him first refusal to provide child care while working, wrote Judge Mathias.

"Mother should not be penalized for doing what she was obligated to do, especially when Father was not fulfilling all of his obligations. In short, the trial court should consider not only the existing relationship between Father and J.J. but also the circumstances giving rise to that relationship," he wrote.

Because the record in the instant case doesn't show the parties or trial court fully considered or took into account the requisite statutory factors listed in I.C. Section 31-17-2.2-1(b), the case was remanded with instructions to conduct another hearing on Wess' motion to modify custody and to hear evidence on each of the statutory factors. Absent any exigent circumstances, the court shall order the parties to maintain the status quo pending the outcome of a new hearing.

The appellate court also encouraged parties facing issues involving the custody of children to have an attorney help them with litigation. The parents in this case proceeded pro se during the custody hearing.

"Because the court's order has such a profound effect on the lives of the parties and their children, we cannot emphasize enough the importance of presenting sufficient evidence and developing an adequate record," wrote the judge.

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  1. OK, now do something about this preverted anacronism

  2. William Hartley prosecutor of Wabash county constantly violates people rights. Withholds statement's, is bias towards certain people. His actions have ruined lives and families. In this county you question him or go out of town for a lawyer,he finds a way to make things worse for you. Unfair,biased and crooked.

  3. why is the State trying to play GOD? Automatic sealing of a record is immoral. People should have the right to decide how to handle a record. the state is playing GOD. I have searched for decades, then you want me to pay someone a huge price to contact my son. THIS is extortion and gestapo control. OPEN THE RECORDS NOW. OPEN THE RECORDS NOW. OPEN THE RECORDS NOW.

  4. I haven't made some of the best choices in the last two years I have been to marion county jail 1 and two on three different occasions each time of release dates I've spent 48 to 72 hours after date of release losing a job being denied my freedom after ordered please help

  5. Out here in Kansas, where I now work as a government attorney, we are nearing the end of a process that could have relevance in this matter: "Senate Bill 45 would allow any adult otherwise able to possess a handgun under state and federal laws to carry that gun concealed as a matter of course without a permit. This move, commonly called constitutional carry, would elevate the state to the same club that Vermont, Arizona, Alaska and Wyoming have joined in the past generation." More reading here: http://www.guns.com/2015/03/18/kansas-house-panel-goes-all-in-on-constitutional-carry-measure/ Time to man up, Hoosiers. (And I do not mean that in a sexist way.)

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