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Lawyers’ divorce battle divides COA on joint custody ruling

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A lengthy divorce proceeding involving two Fort Wayne attorneys that raised numerous issues on appeal was mostly affirmed Tuesday, but a dissenting judge cautioned that joint custody was not in the interest of the of the feuding parents’ daughter.

Phillip J. and Tracy L. Troyer’s divorce involved more than four days of hearings in Allen Superior Court, and the final decree contained extensive findings including joint custody of the couple’s child and equal division of marital assets. The 35-page case is Phillip J. Troyer v. Tracy L. Troyer, 02A03-1207-DR-319.

The husband appealed and wife cross-appealed, and the Court of Appeals majority ruled as follows: “(1) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in valuing and dividing the marital estate; (2) the trial court exceeded its statutory authority in retroactively increasing Husband’s child support and healthcare expenses; (3) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Husband’s petition for attorney fees; (4) the trial court did fail to rule on Husband’s request for Wife to reimburse him for her share of (the child’s) private school expenses; (5) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in awarding the parties joint legal custody of K.T.; and (6) Husband’s appeal is neither frivolous nor in bad faith, and therefore Wife is not entitled to attorney fees pursuant to Appellate Rule 66(E).”

“We reverse the trial court’s retroactive modification of Husband’s child support and healthcare expenses and remand with instructions to amend the Final Decree accordingly,” Judge Terry Crone wrote in the majority opinion joined by Judge Elaine Brown. “On remand, the trial court shall also amend the Final Decree to include an order directing Wife to reimburse Husband for her share of K.T.’s private school expenses pursuant to the Provisional Order. In all other respects, we affirm the trial court.”

Judge James Kirsch sided with the majority in all aspects except for the custody ruling. Kirsch said the court was correct in ruling that the child’s best interests would be served by parents working together in a unified manner.

“There is nothing in the record before us, however, that reveals that the trial court’s statement was supported by the evidence or was a realistic expectation. Rather, the record repeatedly demonstrates that these parents cannot currently work together in such a manner,” Kirsch wrote.

“Here, the trial court: determined, and Husband agreed, that no parenting time should be currently allocated to Husband because that would ‘endanger’ (the child’s) physical health or significantly impair her emotional development; ‘seriously considered’ ordering parents to participate in classes for ‘high conflict parents’ and in individual and joint counseling; considered therapeutic parenting time; and appointed a Parenting Coordinator to provide support, assistance, and guidance. Given these very real and very serious concerns, it was error to order joint custody,” Kirsch wrote.

“Moreover, following the dissolution, Husband filed a grievance with the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission against Wife ensuring that the adversarial nature of his relationship with the Wife will be continued,” he wrote in his two-page dissent. “I would reverse the trial court’s decision to grant parents joint legal custody.”

 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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