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Man didn’t prove ex-wife misappropriated child support payments

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Sidestepping a question of first impression in a child support case, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the modification of child support due to insufficient evidence. The father in this case believed his ex-wife was using child support money to fund her veterinary practice.

James Krampen sought to modify his $3,000 per week child support payment for his four children, alleging Carrie Krampen used child support funds to establish and subsidized her veterinarian clinic. He sought an accounting under I.C. 31-16-9-6 and establishment of a constructive trust. In his deposition, James Krampen said his children were properly housed, clothed and fed by his wife and he didn’t believe she overspent in those areas.

His attorney submitted Carrie Krampen’s 2011 income tax return that showed an adjusted gross income of negative $72,148 and checks from her bank account that purport to show his child support paid for the business. The trial court ruled in favor of the father, reduced his child support payments and ordered Carrie Krampen to provide an accounting of future child support expenditures.

In Carrie A. Krampen v. James J. Krampen, 45A05-1212-DR-628, the COA cited Kovenock v. Mallus, 660 N.E.2d 638, 640 (Ind. Ct. App. 1996) in reversing the accounting order, in which the court held that party must be able to show evidence of impropriety that negatively impacts the child’s basic needs. The trial court should not have relied on Carrie Krampen’s tax filing, and she introduced bank statements showing large deposits into her account in addition to the money received from her ex-husband. The trial court erred in finding she misappropriated funds.

The judges also disagreed with James Krampen’s claim that opening the veterinarian practice and using child support funds to do so constitutes a substantial and continuing change warranting a reduction in support he pays.

“ … the question of whether misuse of funds by the custodial parent creates a substantial and continuing change is an issue of first impression not addressed by our court. Yet, we need not address it,” Judge Rudolph Pyle III wrote. “Having just found that there was insufficient evidence to support a finding that child support had been misappropriated, the trial court’s modification of child support on that basis was also inappropriate.”  

The trial court must enter a new support order consistent with this opinion. Judge James Kirsch dissented without opinion.
 

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