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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. A sad end to a prolific gadfly. Indiana has suffered a great loss in the journalistic realm.

  2. Good riddance to this dangerous activist judge

  3. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

  4. I want to post this to keep this tread alive and hope more of David's former clients might come forward. In my case, this coward of a man represented me from June 2014 for a couple of months before I fired him. I knew something was wrong when he blatantly lied about what he had advised me in my contentious and unfortunate divorce trial. His impact on the proceedings cast a very long shadow and continues to impact me after a lengthy 19 month divorce. I would join a class action suit.

  5. The dispute in LB Indiana regarding lake front property rights is typical of most beach communities along our Great Lakes. Simply put, communication to non owners when visiting the lakefront would be beneficial. The Great Lakes are designated navigational waters (including shorelines). The high-water mark signifies the area one is able to navigate. This means you can walk, run, skip, etc. along the shores. You can't however loiter, camp, sunbath in front of someones property. Informational signs may be helpful to owners and visitors. Our Great Lakes are a treasure that should be enjoyed by all. PS We should all be concerned that the Long Beach, Indiana community is on septic systems.

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