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Judges disagree on applicable child support guideline

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Against the advice of their attorneys, a divorcing couple entered into a settlement agreement that included a “true up” provision for calculating child support each year. That provision is now at issue before the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Cortney Schwartz and Jodi Heeter entered into a marital settlement agreement in which the two agreed that Schwartz would pay Heeter $430 a week in child support. The agreement also contained the “true up” provision, which read: “At the conclusion of each calendar year, starting with 2009, the parties’ respective weekly child support obligation shall be adjusted and recalculated by taking the amount of their gross taxable income from their tax return(s) for that year, dividing it by 52 weeks, and using this amount at line 1 of the [Child Support Obligation Worksheet], with all other factors remaining the same for purposes of calculating the parties’ adjusted child support obligation.”

For the 2009 and 2010 years, Schwartz calculated his “true up” payment using the 2009 Child Support Guidelines and paid Heeter approximately $6,000 more a year. Heeter argued that Schwartz should have used the guideline that was applicable at the time he was paying, so for the 2010 year, he should have used the 2011 guidelines, resulting in an additional $44,000 or more.

The trial court ruled that Schwartz correctly paid for the 2009 year, but his “true up” payment for 2010 should have been based on the 2010 guidelines.

In Cortney L. Schwartz v. Jodi S. Heeter, 02A03-1109-DR-401, the Court of Appeals was divided over what guideline to use, focusing on the word “factors” in the agreement. The majority concluded that the 2009 guidelines should be used until a modification is made to the child support order, so the trial court was correct regarding the 2009 calculation, but erred on the 2010 calculation.

Judge Paul Mathias dissented on this point, finding the trial court’s determination to be the correct one. He believed the provision in the agreement meant that the other “factors” that will remain the same are the other variables that go into calculating the “true up” amount, not the child support obligation worksheet or formula itself.

The appellate court ruled that Heeter may not on remand seek rulings from the trial court on her prior motions for modification of Schwartz’s support obligation because she didn’t comply with Appellate Rule 46(A)(8), and it denied her request for appellate attorney fees.

The case was remanded for further proceedings.

 

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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