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Judges reverse support modification for lack of jurisdiction

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s ruling that Illinois proceedings on child support were null because jurisdiction was never properly transferred, noting it found an ex parte proceeding that excluded the mother “extremely troubling.”

Judith Lombardi and Robert Van Deusen divorced when they lived in Clark County. Van Deusen was ordered to pay $45 a week in child support. He later moved to Illinois and the parties, following the requirements of a child support enforcement transmittal based on the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, had jurisdiction over child support moved to DuPage County, Ill. The Clark Superior Court signed and entered an order transferring jurisdiction. The Illinois court modified Van Deusen’s obligation to $1,000 per month and established an arrearage of $5,000.

Van Deusen later asked the Clark County court to reassume jurisdiction, arguing Illinois didn’t have jurisdiction anymore because he now lived in Pennsylvania. Lombardi objected. Magistrate William Dawkins held a hearing on the motion to reassume jurisdiction, but had a 36-minute conference in his chambers with Van Deusen’s attorney and a Clark County deputy prosecutor, who supported the father’s motion. The magistrate didn’t allow Lombardi to attend and evidence was presented that was referred to at the hearing but never actually introduced into evidence.

Magistrate Dawkins cut mother’s testimony short and entered an order granting Van Deusen’s motions. He reinstated the original child support order of $45 a week.

The Court of Appeals reversed in Judith C. Lombardi v. Robert R. Van Deusen, No. 10A01-0910-CV-491, finding the magistrate erred by basing his ruling in part on the fact that Lombardi and the child have always lived in Clark County. Her place of residency is irrelevant under the UIFSA because both parties filed written consent with the Indiana court to move jurisdiction.

Indiana relinquished jurisdiction in November 2002 and Illinois properly assumed continuing, exclusive jurisdiction before modifying the child support order, the appellate court held. The Clark County court had no authority to make a retroactive modification to the order that would modify the Illinois court’s order, wrote Chief Judge John Baker. Jurisdiction hasn’t been properly re-established in Indiana, and when that occurs, the Clark County court could only issue a prospective modification.

The judges also found Lombardi’s due process rights were violated when the magistrate held a conference in his chamber’s that excluded her.

“It would be difficult to imagine a clearer example of prohibited ex parte communications, but the story does not end there. The conference lasted for thirty-six minutes - just eleven minutes shorter than the hearing itself. Evidence was discussed and documents changed hands that were never formally made part of the record - until Mother tracked down the documents herself and requested, after the fact, that they be included,” wrote Chief Judge Baker.

They reversed the trial court’s judgment and ordered that this case be re-assigned to a judicial officer other than Magistrate Dawkins.

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  1. The child support award is many times what the custodial parent earns, and exceeds the actual costs of providing for the children's needs. My fiance and I have agreed that if we divorce, that the children will be provided for using a shared checking account like this one(http://www.mediate.com/articles/if_they_can_do_parenting_plans.cfm) to avoid the hidden alimony in Indiana's child support guidelines.

  2. Fiat justitia ruat caelum is a Latin legal phrase, meaning "Let justice be done though the heavens fall." The maxim signifies the belief that justice must be realized regardless of consequences.

  3. Indiana up holds this behavior. the state police know they got it made.

  4. Additional Points: -Civility in the profession: Treating others with respect will not only move others to respect you, it will show a shared respect for the legal system we are all sworn to protect. When attorneys engage in unnecessary personal attacks, they lose the respect and favor of judges, jurors, the person being attacked, and others witnessing or reading the communication. It's not always easy to put anger aside, but if you don't, you will lose respect, credibility, cases, clients & jobs or job opportunities. -Read Rule 22 of the Admission & Discipline Rules. Capture that spirit and apply those principles in your daily work. -Strive to represent clients in a manner that communicates the importance you place on the legal matter you're privileged to handle for them. -There are good lawyers of all ages, but no one is perfect. Older lawyers can learn valuable skills from younger lawyers who tend to be more adept with new technologies that can improve work quality and speed. Older lawyers have already tackled more legal issues and worked through more of the problems encountered when representing clients on various types of legal matters. If there's mutual respect and a willingness to learn from each other, it will help make both attorneys better lawyers. -Erosion of the public trust in lawyers wears down public confidence in the rule of law. Always keep your duty to the profession in mind. -You can learn so much by asking questions & actively listening to instructions and advice from more experienced attorneys, regardless of how many years or decades you've each practiced law. Don't miss out on that chance.

  5. Agreed on 4th Amendment call - that was just bad policing that resulted in dismissal for repeat offender. What kind of parent names their boy "Kriston"?

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