Supreme Court emancipation, support ruling draws sharp dissent

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A 3-2 Indiana Supreme Court decision in a case involving a child’s emancipation and a father’s contribution toward her education resulted in a tough dissent from two veteran justices.

In Annette (Oliver) Hirsch v. Roger Lee Oliver, 29S02-1109-DR-530, the majority ruled that father Roger Lee Oliver was not obligated to provide educational support for his daughter Courtney. Evidence in Hamilton Superior Court showed the daughter had dropped classes, and the majority of justices remanded the case for the court to determine the proper date of emancipation and accordingly calculate the amount of the father’s overpayment.

The opinion written by Justice Steven David was joined by Justice Mark Massa and Chief Justice Brent Dickson.

“We cannot conclude that the trial court abused its discretion,” David wrote in a decision that reversed a divided Court of Appeals decision that overturned the trial court’s ruling. “Although the (Court of Appeals) majority’s analysis of the evidence is intricate, we believe that the analysis is simply a reweighing of the evidence, which is not permitted under the applicable standard of review. The dissent is correct in noting the evidence supported the trial court’s decision on this issue, and we should not second-guess the trial court’s determination when it is in the best position to judge the credibility of witnesses. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s ruling on post-secondary educational expenses.”

At issue was the breadth of the definition of “enrolled” and whether a student who withdraws from courses still may be entitled to educational support past the age of emancipation. “When an adult child fails to pursue secondary or post-secondary education as defined in the statute and is also capable of supporting himself or herself, there is no reason for the parents to be legally required to support the adult child,” David wrote.

But Justice Frank Sullivan, in a dissent joined by Justice Robert Rucker, said “the Court has impermissibly rewritten and incorrectly interpreted Indiana Code section 31-16-6-6. .... The Court says that when the circumstances described in Indiana Code section 31-16-6-6(a)(3) exist, then a child is emancipated for purposes of Indiana law. This is not correct.”

“If the Legislature intended the circumstances of subsection (a)(3) to constitute emancipation, it would have either included those circumstances within subsection (a)(1) or defined “emancipation” in subsection (b) to include them.

“That having been said, I acknowledge that with the Legislature’s recent action reducing the age of emancipation from 21 to 19 effective July 1, 2012, … the consequences of the Court’s decision are likely to be insignificant.”


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  1. I commend Joe for standing up to this tyrant attorney! You ask why? Well I’m one of David Steele victims. I was in desperate need of legal help to protect my child, David saw an opportunity, and he demanded I pay him $3000. Cash. As I received motions and orders from court he did nothing! After weeks of emails asking him to address the legal issues, he responded by saying he was “on vacation “and I should be so lucky to have “my attorney” reply. Finally after lie on top of lie I asked for a full refund, which he refused. He then sent me “bills” for things he never did, such as, his appearance in the case and later claimed he withdrew. He never filed one document / motion for my case! When I finally demanded he refund my money he then turn to threats which scared my family for our lives. It seem unreal we couldn’t believe this guy. I am now over $100,000 in debt digging out of the legal mess he caused my family. Later I was finally able to hire another law office. I met Joe and we worked diligently on my case. I soon learn Joe had a passion for helping people. As anyone who has been through a legal battle it is exhausting. Joe was always more than happy to help or address an issue. Joe was knowledgeable about all my concerns at the same time he was able to reduce the stress and anxieties of my case. He would stay late and come in early, he always went the extra mile to help in any way he could. I can only imagine what Joe and his family has been through, my prayers go out to him and all the victims.

  2. Steele did more than what is listed too. He purposely sought out to ruin me, calling potential employers and then lied about me alleging all kinds of things including kidnapping. None of his allegations were true. If you are in need of an ethical and very knowledgeable family law paralegal, perhaps someone could post their contact information. Ethics cannot be purchased, either your paralegal has them or they do not.

  3. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  4. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  5. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise