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Mom's contempt judgment affirmed in educational support dispute

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The Indiana Court of Appeals on Tuesday affirmed a trial court’s finding that a mother was in contempt for violating a court order on educational support for her college-age daughter and that she pay a recalculated proportion of those costs and the father’s attorney fees.

In Julie Winslow v. Larry D. Fifer, 84A04-1109-DR-518, the appeals court praised the couple’s daughters – J.F., 21, and A.F., 19 – as academically gifted students who through scholarships to Indiana public universities cut their cost of tuition and fees to less than $2,000 per year that the parents must pay.

“Nevertheless, Mother, who took A.F. to Harry Potter’s World at Universal Studios in Florida for a week to celebrate her SAT scores, refused to comply with a court order requiring her to reimburse Father $1500 for her oldest daughter’s college tuition for the 2010-2011 academic year. Mother refused to do so because she did not know where her oldest daughter was living and apparently did not pick up the phone to contact Father or their daughter to ask. Had she done so, Mother would have learned that Father required J.F. to live at home because of a prior court order,” Judge John Baker wrote in a unanimous opinion.

The judges noted that the trial court advised Winslow that there were several sanctions available to it and that it was electing to require her to pay Fifer’s attorney fees.

Baker’s opinion concluded with a scolding tone.

“Mother and Father have been blessed with two daughters who excel academically. Indeed, both have received scholarships such that their college expenses are minimal. Nevertheless, although Mother has the financial means, she has chosen litigation over paying her proportionate share of these minimal expenses or even communicating with her children and Father. No one wins in such situations, and we strongly recommend that Mother consider this in the future.”

 

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