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Justices reverse custody modification but order status quo to continue, for now

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The laws in place to protect children caught in the middle of a custody battle were ignored by a St. Joseph Superior Court, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled Tuesday, pointing to a change in custody despite a lack of a proper evidentiary hearing.

Jason Wilson had physical custody of his two children with ex-wife Kelly Myers for six years until she filed a motion seeking physical custody of both children. The family was ordered to participate in family counseling. Myers later alleged Wilson was trying to sabotage the counseling process, so the court received permission from the parents to communicate with the counselor directly. The counseling service director found out Wilson secretly recorded the sessions and informed the court.

Judge Margot Reagan announced at the beginning of the hearing her intent to rule on Myers’ motion to modify custody and told Wilson she “didn’t want to have another in-camera” with the children and didn’t “understand why we would need an evidentiary hearing.” No witnesses were sworn during the hearing or evidence received. Reagan awarded custody to Myers, with Wilson receiving parenting time. This resulted in the children having to relocate to Michigan.

“In short, what we are now faced with on appeal is an order directing one parent to hand over two children to another parent with no mention or hint that doing so is in accordance with the Indiana Code. And the only support for this order is the transcript of what seems to be little more than an unorganized shouting match labeled as an ‘evidentiary hearing.’ To issue such an order was therefore an abuse of discretion,” Justice Steven David wrote in Jason Wilson v. Kelly (Wilson) Myers, 71S03-1305-DR-399.

“Tempers clearly ran hot for all involved in this case, as can easily happen in family law cases with disputed custody concerns,” he continued. “In such cases, we encourage trial courts to utilize the formal procedures embodied in the Indiana Trial Rules to maintain a level of control and decorum that keeps the litigation process from turning into a mud-slinging argument and preserves the rights of all involved.”

The modification is vacated and a proper evidentiary hearing and inquiry into in-camera interviews are ordered. But since the two children have already been pulled from their Indiana school system and are attending school in Michigan, this status quo should continue until further order of the court as to minimize further disruption.
 

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  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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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