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Text messages properly admitted in custody dispute

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The Indiana Court of Appeals held Wednesday that evidence presented during a custody modification hearing laid a sufficient foundation for the admission of text messages between the mother and father.  

Father R.B. appealed the order modifying custody visitation and support of his son B.B. with T.J. The two had joint physical and legal custody of the boy, but after R.B. intended to relocate from Kokomo to Westfield, mother T.J. sought modification based on a substantial change in circumstances. She alleged R.B. lost interest in the boy after he had another child, his use of alcohol impedes his ability to drive and care for their son, and he had cut off communication with her.

At the hearing, mother presented text messages she printed off her phone that were between her and R.B. He challenged the introduction of the text messages, which he claimed played a role in the court’s decision to modify custody. He doesn’t argue the messages weren’t exchanged between the two, but that he believed T.J. deleted certain messages in order to make her the more sympathetic figure. But R.B. never directed the court to any part he believed content was missing, nor did he try to admit evidence of deleted text messages, Judge Elaine Brown wrote in In Re The Paternity of B.B., R.B. v. T.J., 34A02-1303-JP-243.

“To the extent that he suggests that, without the purported omitted text messages, a misleading impression was created, we note that he did testify on the second day of the hearing that he believed certain text messages were not contained in the exhibit, the court heard Father’s testimony, and we cannot say that the court failed to account for such testimony,” she wrote.

“The trial court was able to listen to the testimony and evidence presented and weigh the credibility of the witnesses, including evidence regarding the parents’ communication with one another as well as evidence that Father had been recently convicted for OWI, and that Father filed a CPS report implicating Mother’s boyfriend which was unsubstantiated. The court ruled that Mother was in the best position to act as B.B.’s primary caretaker and awarded her physical custody. After review, we cannot say that the court’s findings or conclusions were clearly erroneous, and we conclude that the court did not abuse its discretion in granting Mother’s petition to modify custody.”
 

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  1. Indianapolis Bar Association President John Trimble and I are on the same page, but it is a very large page with plenty of room for others to join us. As my final Res Gestae article will express in more detail in a few days, the Great Recession hastened a fundamental and permanent sea change for the global legal service profession. Every state bar is facing the same existential questions that thrust the medical profession into national healthcare reform debates. The bench, bar, and law schools must comprehensively reconsider how we define the practice of law and what it means to access justice. If the three principals of the legal service profession do not recast the vision of their roles and responsibilities soon, the marketplace will dictate those roles and responsibilities without regard for the public interests that the legal profession professes to serve.

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