ILNews

Indiana order doesn't modify Florida order

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The Indiana Supreme Court affirmed that a Vanderburgh Superior Court's order requiring a father to pay less than the full amount of a Florida support obligation, which allowed him to avoid incarceration, didn't impermissibly modify the foreign judgment.

In Suzanne Herbert Hamilton v. Richard Wayne Hamilton, No. 82S01-0904-CV-149, Suzanne Hamilton appealed the trial court's decision and affirmation by the Indiana Court of Appeals regarding the Vanderburgh Superior Court's order finding her ex-husband Richard Hamilton not to be in contempt because he met the conditions imposed by an earlier order from the Indiana court. Richard had relocated to Evansville following their divorce and was found in contempt by a Florida court for not fulfilling his child support obligations. Suzanne registered the Florida support judgment and contempt order in Indiana.

The Vanderburgh court found Richard to be in contempt but stayed his jail sentence upon his meeting certain conditions. The trial court later ruled he wasn't in contempt of the Indiana orders and explained that under the Federal Consumer Credit Protection Act, he already had the maximum amount of income withheld.

Using the Full Faith and Credit for Child Support Orders Act and the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, the Supreme Court upheld the decision that the trial court's orders were enforcement mechanisms, not modifications of the original Florida support order.

The trial court gave full faith and credit to the Florida order and didn't alter the amount, scope, or duration of Richard's nearly $1,500 a month obligation, wrote Justice Theodore Boehm. The arrearages also continued to accrue in accordance with the Florida order.

The trial court's orders are consistent with the UIFSA and the requirements of the Federal Constitution, he continued.

"We are obligated to give the Florida order the same effect it would receive in a Florida court. But we are directed to no principle of Florida law that mandates imprisonment for contempt for violation of a support order, or precludes orders that attempt to maximize compliance in light of realistic prospects of payment," he wrote.

The Supreme Court concluded it would be erroneous for the trial court to base its support-related contempt finding on the garnishment limitations imposed under the FCCPA. The record is sufficient to support the trial court's findings; however, the high court isn't sure if the findings were on the basis of the trial court's ruling or whether the trial court felt constrained by the FCCPA in reaching its decision, wrote Justice Boehm.

"Most of the trial court's order that is the basis of this appeal deals with the FCCPA, as opposed to the evidence and conditions at issue in the case. To the extent the trial court's ruling was based on the FCCPA garnishment limitations, it was predicated on an erroneous view of the law. We therefore remand to the trial court to render a contempt determination without reference or deference to the FCCPA," the justice wrote.

The Supreme Court also affirmed the denial of Richard's request for appellate attorney fees because the appeal isn't frivolous or vindictive.

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  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

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