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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. Bob Leonard killed two people named Jennifer and Dion Longworth. There were no Smiths involved.

  2. Being on this journey from the beginning has convinced me the justice system really doesn't care about the welfare of the child. The trial court judge knew the child belonged with the mother. The father having total disregard for the rules of the court. Not only did this cost the mother and child valuable time together but thousands in legal fees. When the child was with the father the mother paid her child support. When the child was finally with the right parent somehow the father got away without having to pay one penny of child support. He had to be in control. Since he withheld all information regarding the child's welfare he put her in harms way. Mother took the child to the doctor when she got sick and was totally embarrassed she knew nothing regarding the medical information especially the allergies, The mother texted the father (from the doctors office) and he replied call his attorney. To me this doesn't seem like a concerned father. Seeing the child upset when she had to go back to the father. What upset me the most was finding out the child sleeps with him. Sometimes in the nude. Maybe I don't understand all the rules of the law but I thought this was also morally wrong. A concerned parent would allow the child to finish the school year. Say goodbye to her friends. It saddens me to know the child will not have contact with the sisters, aunts, uncles and the 87 year old grandfather. He didn't allow it before. Only the mother is allowed to talk to the child. I don't think now will be any different. I hope the decision the courts made would've been the same one if this was a member of their family. Someday this child will end up in therapy if allowed to remain with the father.

  3. Ok attorney Straw ... if that be a good idea ... And I am not saying it is ... but if it were ... would that be ripe prior to her suffering an embarrassing remand from the Seventh? Seems more than a tad premature here soldier. One putting on the armor should not boast liked one taking it off.

  4. The judge thinks that she is so cute to deny jurisdiction, but without jurisdiction, she loses her immunity. She did not give me any due process hearing or any discovery, like the Middlesex case provided for that lawyer. Because she has refused to protect me and she has no immunity because she rejected jurisdiction, I am now suing her in her district.

  5. Sam Bradbury was never a resident of Lafayette he lived in rural Tippecanoe County, Thats an error.

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