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Mom not in contempt over middle name change

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A trial court erred in finding a mother in contempt for not changing the middle name of her child, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today. The appellate court remanded the case for consideration of whether the name change would be in the best interest of the child.

In Amy M. Swadner v. John W. Swadner II, No. 32A01-0801-CV-1, Amy Swadner appealed several issues following the dissolution of her marriage to John Swadner, including the trial court order for her to change the middle name of their son, E.S.S. to "Wakefield," a family name of the father, and finding her in contempt for failing to do so. A guardian ad litem appointed to the Swadner case issued preliminary recommendations for E.G.S., and E.S.S. E.S.S. was not born at the time of the dissolution. The recommendations included joint legal custody of the children, parenting time, and using Wakefield as E.S.S.'s middle name. John filed a petition for a contempt citation when Amy didn't give E.S.S. the middle name as recommended by the GAL.

The trial court found her in contempt, ordered her to change their son's middle name, and to pay $600 for John's attorney fees. There haven't been previous cases from Indiana addressing disputes of the first or middle name of a child, wrote Judge Paul Mathias, so the court looked to Indiana statute regarding name changes of a minor child and caselaw on petitions to change a child's last name. The appellate court determined that trial courts are required to consider the best interests of the child when deciding a petition to change a first or middle name. There was no finding to show whether the trial court considered the child's best interests when it held Amy in contempt, he wrote. In addition, Amy wasn't bound by the GAL's recommendation concerning the name change, so she can't be found in contempt for failing to change the middle name, Judge Mathias wrote. Even though the parents agreed to adopt the GAL's preliminary recommendations, they reserved the right to argue against any of them at a final hearing.

The Court of Appeals also addressed other issues raised by Amy on appeal: joint custody and parenting time, work-related child-care costs, her petition to relocate, and the division of the marital estate. The appellate court affirmed the adoption of the GAL's parenting time recommendations, the award of joint legal custody, the portion of child care expenses each party had to pay, and the denial of Amy's petition to relocate with the children to Fort Wayne. The trial court failed to consider the total equity in the marital residence and the full amount of John's 401(k) when it divided the marital assets. The Court of Appeals remanded with instructions to either recalculate the parties' marital estate following the statutory presumption of equal division or set forth its rationale for deviating from that presumption.

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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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