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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  1. I commend Joe for standing up to this tyrant attorney! You ask why? Well I’m one of David Steele victims. I was in desperate need of legal help to protect my child, David saw an opportunity, and he demanded I pay him $3000. Cash. As I received motions and orders from court he did nothing! After weeks of emails asking him to address the legal issues, he responded by saying he was “on vacation “and I should be so lucky to have “my attorney” reply. Finally after lie on top of lie I asked for a full refund, which he refused. He then sent me “bills” for things he never did, such as, his appearance in the case and later claimed he withdrew. He never filed one document / motion for my case! When I finally demanded he refund my money he then turn to threats which scared my family for our lives. It seem unreal we couldn’t believe this guy. I am now over $100,000 in debt digging out of the legal mess he caused my family. Later I was finally able to hire another law office. I met Joe and we worked diligently on my case. I soon learn Joe had a passion for helping people. As anyone who has been through a legal battle it is exhausting. Joe was always more than happy to help or address an issue. Joe was knowledgeable about all my concerns at the same time he was able to reduce the stress and anxieties of my case. He would stay late and come in early, he always went the extra mile to help in any way he could. I can only imagine what Joe and his family has been through, my prayers go out to him and all the victims.

  2. Steele did more than what is listed too. He purposely sought out to ruin me, calling potential employers and then lied about me alleging all kinds of things including kidnapping. None of his allegations were true. If you are in need of an ethical and very knowledgeable family law paralegal, perhaps someone could post their contact information. Ethics cannot be purchased, either your paralegal has them or they do not.

  3. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  4. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  5. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise