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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  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