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Trial court erred in denying dad custody vs. contemptuous mom

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The Indiana Court of Appeals bluntly reversed denial of a father’s petition for primary custody of his children, finding their mother undermined him and deprived him of court-ordered visitation.

In In re the Marriage of: Christopher Neal Maddux v. Suzanne Marie Maddux, 49A02-1409-DR-618, the court noted a record in which mother made multiple unsubstantiated abuse allegations, refused to turn the children over for visitation, and ultimately was found in contempt and ordered to pay some of her ex-husband’s legal fees.

 Marion Superior Court denied father’s petition for custody modification, finding father had not proved that a change in custody was in the best interests of the children.

“After entering finding after finding illustrating Mother’s audacious and successful attempts to alienate Father from the Children, the trial court concluded that such conduct ‘does not warrant a change of custody,’” Judge Terry Crone wrote for the panel.

“Simply put, time is running out. These children, ages one and three at the time of the divorce, are now eleven and thirteen. They not only have been deprived of their relationship with Father but also have been relentlessly subjected to Mother’s jaded opinions of him and her egregious and unsubstantiated accusations against him. The overwhelming evidence and extensive findings of fact show a mother who has jeopardized her children’s emotional health in attempting to settle a score with their father,” Crone wrote.
 
“In ruling on Father’s petition for contempt, the trial court concluded that Mother had ‘irreparably harmed [the Children’s] emotional wellbeing.’ ... However, in assessing the Children’s best interests, the court inexplicably concluded the opposite. The findings support the trial court’s conclusion of Mother’s irreparable harm to the Children; they do not support the trial court’s determination concerning best interests. The trial court clearly erred in concluding that the Children’s best interests do not warrant a change in custody.”

In addition to remanding for judgment in father's favor on his petition for modification of custody, the court also ordered a new calculation of child support obligations and credit for support father overpaid.




 

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