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Mother’s argument crushed by precedent

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The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld precedent in finding a mother who made sporadic child support payments over several years did fail to provide assistance for one entire year as outlined in state statute.

The mother of M.S. appealed the trial court’s order granting the young girl’s stepmother power to adopt her. In part, the mother argued the trial court erred when it aggregated her missed child support payments so that the total amount was the equivalent of 52 weeks. She asserted under I.C. 31-19-9-8, the term “year” means a calendar year rather than a year’s worth of arrearages.

Rejecting the mother’s argument, the Court of Appeals affirmed in the trial court’s ruling in In the Matter of the Adoption of M.S.; C.L.S. v. A.L.S., 20A03-1306-AD-217.

In reaching its conclusion, the Court of Appeals cited two other cases that addressed the same issue. The Court of Appeals first pointed to its own decision in In re Adoption of J.T.A., 988 N.E. 2d 1250, 1255 (Ind. Ct. App. 2013) which held any year in which a parent fails to pay child support meets the requirements in the state statute. Next, the COA cited the Indiana Supreme Court’s ruling in In re Adoption of Infants Reynard, 215 N.E.2d 413, 416 (Ind. 1969) which concluded strictly interpreting the statute as to mean one calendar year would make the law ineffective and inoperable.

“Likewise, we find that construing INDIANA CODE 31-19-9-8 here to hold that there must be a complete refusal or failure to pay any sum of money for one year before the filing of a petition could lead to absurd consequences,” Judge Rudolph Pyle wrote for the court. “Therefore, we instead follow the Supreme Court’s more operable interpretation.”



 

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