ILNews

Trial court erred in terminating parenting time

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the termination of a father's parenting time with his teenage daughters, finding the trial court erred because the decision wasn't supported by the record or statute.

In D.B. v. M.B.V., No. 32A01-0903-CV-110, father D.B. appealed the Hendricks Circuit Court's decision to terminate his parenting time based on the recommendation of the guardian ad litem that the father have no parenting time with his daughters.

Dr. John Ehrmann, who performed a custody evaluation and believed mother M.B.V. was trying to alienate D.B. from his children to punish him for his infidelity, testified at the hearing that he was concerned unsupervised parenting time would subject the father to the risk of false abuse reports and possible arrests. There had been a history of cross-accusations between the parents involving violence and stalking, and even the children had a history of food throwing and name calling with their father during their parenting time. D.B. once used his hand to break his daughter's windshield on her car.

The court-ordered visitation supervisor testified that although the children were initially reluctant to interact with their father, it improved over time, and she didn't believe the children were at risk.

The trial court ordered D.B. to abide by no-contact orders with regard to the mother and children, and to pay M.B.V.'s $14,000 attorney fees.

The Court of Appeals unanimously decided the trial court erred by denying the father's parenting time based on Indiana Code Section 31-17-4-2. Even though the statute uses the word "might" when talking about if parenting time endangers the child's physical health or emotional development, the appellate court has previously interpreted the statutory language to mean "would" endanger the child.

After examining previous cases when the court has either ruled to restrict parenting time or overturned a restriction, the Court of Appeals determined the record in the instant case involving the past interactions between the father and his children didn't approach the "the egregious circumstances in which we have previously found that parenting time may be terminated, such as when a parent sexually molests a child," wrote Judge L. Mark Bailey.

"Clearly, our parenting time statute does not provide for the elimination of parenting time because reunification counseling has proved unusually challenging or because teenagers do not wish to interact with a parent while accepting substantial financial benefits from that parent," he wrote.

The record does support an order for supervised parenting time, which would be appropriate given the volatile relationship between the parties, the children's ages, and Ehrmann's testimony that supervised parenting time would protect the father from unfounded accusations. The appellate court reversed the no-contact orders and ordered the trial court to only restrict his parenting time upon the entry of requisite statutory finding of endangerment. It also encouraged the trial court to order supervised visits.

The Court of Appeals upheld the $14,000 in attorney fees because the mother's fees were substantially less than the father's, his salary is significantly higher than the mother's, and the conduct of the father during the court proceedings.

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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  5. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

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