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Protective order reversed for lack of evidence

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A divorcing woman’s protective order against her soon-to-be ex-husband was not supported by evidence, an appeals panel ruled Thursday in reversing the trial court’s order.

The panel found evidence in the record – including the judge’s own uncertainty – didn’t meet the statutory minimum for issuing a protective order in Justin D. Maurer v. Crystal Cobb-Maurer, 02A03-1304-PO-129.

Senior Judge Frederick A. Schurger issued an ex parte protective order for Cyrstal Cobb-Maurer against Justin Maurer that was transferred to the couple’s divorce case earlier this year. Neither party testified, though their attorneys engaged in a back-and-forth exchange to which the parties agreed everything each said was true.

“The Indiana Rules of Trial Procedure and the Indiana Rules of Evidence neither explicitly allow nor prohibit this practice as a proper method of presenting evidence, but neither party objected to carrying on the hearing in this fashion. Suffice it to say, the line between evidence and argument was significantly blurred,” Chief Judge Margret Robb wrote in a footnote.

Evidence that was presented included one email from Justin to Crystal, in which he wishes her happy birthday and says he wishes to restore their marriage. It also says he disapproves of and forgives her for a relationship with another man and quotes Bible passages.

Crystal also said Justin touched her “in some sort of effort to get her to abide by his wishes to save the marriage.”

“The trial court gave only this comment on the evidence before ruling: ‘I’ve got an incident I’m bothered by the uh extent of the uh, uh harassing, uh or the email uh exchanges, I think are, reached the level of harassment,’” Robb wrote for the panel that also included Judges James Kirsch and Patricia Riley.

“These matters should be treated with the care and consideration that the gravity of their purpose demands. To that end, we believe that this case demonstrates the shortcomings — on many levels — of a hearing on such matters conducted without thorough presentation of the evidence and examination of the parties involved.

“After a review of the record, we are left with the firm conviction that there was not sufficient probative evidence presented at the hearing to support a finding that the contacts in evidence would cause a reasonable person and in fact caused Crystal to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, or threatened. Therefore, there was not sufficient evidence to support the trial court’s issuance of a protective order.”

 

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