Incomplete contempt orders get reversed

August 31, 2015

A trial court’s multiple contempt orders against a father have been overturned after the Indiana Court of Appeals found they did not “clearly and distinctly” state the reasons for the contempt citations.

Hamilton Superior Court issued three orders of contempt against Jason Stanke. The divorced father of two was found in contempt for not returning his two children to his ex-wife after his midweek parenting time and for taking the youngsters out of state without telling his ex-wife. Also, he was found in contempt for failing to pay child support.

However, the Court of Appeals reversed with instructions to vacate the findings of contempt in Jason Stanke v. Nicole Swickard, 29A02-1412-DR-862.

The unanimous panel determined the contempt orders for Stanke not returning his children and taking them across state lines did not comply with Indiana Code 34-47-3-5(b). The order failed “to clearly and distinctly set forth the facts underlying Stanke’s contempt citations” …and failed “to even include these allegations as ones on which Stanke was being ordered to show cause.”

In addition, the Court of Appeals held the contempt order for nonpayment of child support did not meet the requirements of I.C. 31-16-12-6(c). The order did not include either the time when the trial court issued its order for support, Stanke’s history of payments or the amount of his arrearage.

The Court of Appeals concluded Stanke’s due process rights were violated and the trial court erred in finding him in contempt of court.  



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