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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. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  2. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

  3. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  4. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  5. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

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