High court expands Lambert decision

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The Indiana Supreme Court issued two opinions today dealing with incarceration being considered as a substantial change in circumstances to justify modifying a child support order and what date a modification may take place.

In Todd Allen Clark v. Michelle D. Clark, No. 35S05-0809-CV-506, the justices used the same reasoning it employed in Lambert v. Lambert, 861 N.E.2d 1176 (Ind. 2007), to justify modification of an existing child support obligation. Todd Clark went to prison after his original child support order had been instituted; he claimed he is unable to pay the $53 a week due to his incarceration. He filed a verified petition for abatement and/or modification order requesting it reduce, revoke, or abate his child support obligation until his release in 2013.

The trial court denied his petition and the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed, holding his incarceration constituted a substantial change in circumstances that could justify a modification.

Lambert only addressed whether pre-incarceration income shouldn't be imputed to an imprisoned parent when setting an initial child support order, but today's ruling extends to petitions to modify support based on the incarceration of a parent.

In Gary Becker v. Heather Becker, No. 49S04-0903-CV-113, the justices determined the effective date of modifying an existing child support order because of incarceration may not take effect on a date earlier than the date on which the petition to modify is filed.

Gary Becker petitioned for divorce in 1997 while he was incarcerated. The trial court set his weekly child support obligation at $110. In 2002, he filed a petition to modify because he received only $16 a month in prison. The trial court denied his request.

Becker invoked Lambert to request another modification of his child support obligation in 2007. The trial court reduced it to $25 a week effective the date of the Lambert decision; Becker appealed, arguing it should have been reduced retroactively to the date of the divorce.

The Supreme Court ruled the modification of a support obligation may only relate back to the date the petition to modify was filed and not an earlier date.

"We now hold that Lambert and Clark do not apply retroactively to modify child support orders already final, but only relate to petitions to modify child support granted after Lambert was decided. A trial court only has the discretion to make a modification of child support due to incarceration effective as of a date no earlier than the date of the petition to modify," wrote Justice Frank Sullivan.

The high court vacated the trial court's abatement of Becker's obligation to the extent that it was ordered retroactive to the date of Lambert and remanded for further proceedings.


  • child support
    in lambert v. lambert did this man have a job pryor to incaration? was he up to date on his child support oblagation?oy

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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.