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Judges rule on custody issues

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When modifying custody, the change in circumstances required by Indiana Code doesn't need to be so decisive in nature as to make the change necessary for the child's welfare, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today.

The holding comes in In re the marriage of: Julie C. v. Andrew C., No. 49A05-0909-CV-523, in which Julie C. argued the trial court abused its discretion by making a de facto modification to joint physical custody and declining to modify joint legal custody to sole legal custody to her; by declining to find Andrew in contempt for failing to pay support; and for not awarding her attorney fees.

Julie has primary physical custody of their two children with Andrew having parenting time on certain days of the week and certain weekends. Andrew later filed a motion to modify his parenting time, seeking to spend more time with his kids. He wanted them to stay with him Monday through Wednesday because that's when his fiancee had custody of her children and they wanted the children to spend time together. Julie then filed for modification of legal custody and back child support because Andrew owed $560.

The trial court found there was a substantial change under Indiana Code Section 31-17-2-21 to warrant modifying parenting time. It awarded Andrew the time he requested and that he pay $10 a week to satisfy his arrearage. The trial court didn't find him in contempt.

The trial court ordered a de facto modification of custody to joint physical custody, the appellate court concluded. Under I.C. 31-17-2-21, a trial court can't modify a custody order unless it's in the best interest of the child and there is a substantial change in one or more of the factors a court may consider under I.C. Section 31-17-2-8. There were additional changes beyond the father's impending marriage - the oldest child wanted to spend more time with his father, and Andrew is attempting to blend his present and future family.

The Court of Appeals also rejected Julie's claim that the change in circumstances must be so decisive in nature to make the change in custody necessary for the child's welfare.

"As the decisive-in-nature language is intertwined with the requirement of unreasonableness, and unreasonableness is no longer required in light of the 1994 amendment, the change in circumstances required by Section 31-17-2-21 need not be so decisive in nature as to make a change in custody necessary for the welfare of the child," wrote Judge Nancy Vaidik.

The judges used the factors listed in I.C. Section 31-17-2-15 to determine the trial court didn't abuse its discretion by not awarding Julie sole legal custody. The trial court is in the best position to weigh the evidence and assess witness credibility, noted Judge Vaidik.

The appellate court also affirmed the decision by the trial court not to find Andrew in contempt on owed child support, affirmed the amount of child support it ordered he pay, and affirmed the decision to not award Julie attorney fees.

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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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