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Judges disagree on retroactive support issue

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In a matter of first impression, a panel of Indiana Court of Appeals judges couldn't agree on whether an initial support order can be retroactive to a date preceding the filing of a petition for resolution. The judges disagreed as to whether a court has the authority to reach into an intact marriage and order a party to pay child support to the other.

In In re the marriage of Raymond Boone v. Tammy Boone, No. 45A03-0906-CV-243, the majority concluded Indiana courts don't have the authority to order a parent to pay some form of child support during a time when the parties' marriage was still intact in the eyes of the law. Judges Ezra Friedlander and Cale Bradford interpreted the silence in the Indiana Child Support guidelines prohibiting retroactive payment of child support in a case like this to mean the Indiana legislature didn't intend for retroactive child support predating the filing of a dissolution decree because the legislature had demonstrated the ability to authorize retroactive child support in other areas.

Judge Edward Najam, however, interpreted the silence to mean nothing prohibits the ordering of payment of the retroactive child support.

"Given the robust approach our legislature has taken to ensure that all children are supported adequately by their parents until the age of majority, I cannot imagine that the legislature intended for married parents to be granted a full reprieve from their child support obligations simply because they are married," he wrote.

Retroactive modification of child support is prohibited except where explicitly authorized and can relate back in a time only to the filing of the request for it, except in paternity actions, wrote Judge Friedlander. In dissolution actions, the courts get involved when the petition is filed and prior to this it has no jurisdiction to issue orders pertaining to matters involving children except in neglect or abuse cases.

But Judge Najam countered that courts routinely delve into the facts and circumstances of a marriage as they existed prior to filing for dissolution. "Intact marriage" isn't defined in the law and it means uninjured. But the Boone marriage wasn't intact as they were living apart for several years, and Raymond stopped paying non-court-ordered child support before he filed for dissolution, wrote Judge Najam.

The majority ruling won't immunize deadbeat parents, as Judge Najam supposes, wrote Judge Friedlander.

"To the contrary, our holding in no way diminishes or abrogates the common-law duty of support, nor does it diminish the means by which the State or custodial parents may compel a recalcitrant or neglectful parent to fulfill that duty," he wrote. "Rather, we merely decline to add a means of imposing a support arrearage, for that is exactly what the rule proposed and embraced by the dissent would accomplish."

The majority reversed the portion of the Boones' dissolution order that required Raymond pay child support retroactive to the date the dissolution was filed. The case was remanded with instructions to modify the support order consistent with the opinion.

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  • Response
    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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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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