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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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  4. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

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