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Justices uphold modification of physical custody to father

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A majority of Indiana Supreme Court justices granted transfer today to Mariea L. Best v. Russell C. Best, No. 06S05-1102-CV-73, and affirmed a special judge’s decision to grant a father physical custody of his daughter M.B. They held the trial court made the necessary findings to support the modification.

Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard and Justices Brent Dickson and Robert Rucker upheld the trial court’s modification of physical custody of the daughter to her father, Russell Best. Russell and Mariea Best divorced in 2004 and had several disputes regarding custody, parenting time, and support since that time. Russell petitioned for a custody modification in 2008 after asserting Mariea didn’t comply with a 2007 court-approved agreement. Mariea responded with her own modification petition and Russell filed an emergency petition for contempt claiming Mariea denied him parenting time with their son. She also filed an emergency petition for temporary custody of their son. After a hearing, Mariea was found in contempt and ordered to return the son to Russell.

After a hearing by Special Judge Rebecca McClure, the court granted Russell’s petition to modify custody and awarded him sole legal and physical custody of their two children, denied Mariea’s petition for modification and contempt, and found her to be in contempt for not paying attorney fees.

The Indiana Court of Appeals rejected Mariea’s claims that the trial court erred in refusing her request to order a custody evaluation and that the trial court didn’t properly modify legal custody of M.B. The appellate court reversed the finding of contempt but affirmed the trial court’s decision to reduce to judgment the unpaid attorney fee obligation. The majority of justices summarily affirmed these decisions by the Court of Appeals and only addressed Mariea’s challenge to the modification of her daughter’s physical custody.

The majority found Judge McClure made the necessary findings that there had been a substantial change in one or more of the statutory factors in Indiana Code Section 31-17-2-21 and that the modification of physical custody was in M.B.’s best interests.

They also declined to reweigh the evidence. Mariea argued that various items of evidence supported her position.

“In summary, sufficient findings were made to support the trial court's decision to modify the physical custody of M.B. And because the mother does not establish a complete absence of evidence supporting the trial court's denial of the mother's request for full physical custody of M.B., we decline to reverse the denial. We find no error in the trial court's decision to place M.B.'s primary physical custody with the father, subject to its specifications of parenting time, which are not challenged,” wrote Justice Dickson.

Justice Frank Sullivan dissented and would deny transfer, believing the decision of the Court of Appeals was correct. Justice Steven David did not participate.

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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.

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  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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