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Circuit court without jurisdiction to grant father’s child support relief

December 10, 2015

Madison Circuit Court 5 did not have jurisdiction to rule on a man’s motion for relief from a child support decision entered by Madison Circuit Court 2, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded Thursday.

Anthony Gaw was sentenced to 30 years in prison for arson in 1988. After serving his executed portion, he was released to probation, but that was revoked in August 1998. He remained incarcerated until 2009.

In 1998, his wife filed for divorce in Circuit Court 2. Gaw filed a motion to reduce his child support obligation during his incarceration in 2001, which was denied by the court. In 2014, Gaw filed a motion to set aside judgment under Indiana Trial Rule 60(B)(8) in Circuit Court 5 regarding his 2001 petition. The state was allowed to intervene, as it had already intervened in the ongoing collection process since Gaw owed more than $15,000. Circuit Court 5 granted Gaw’s request and abated the arrearage calculation for the period he was incarcerated.

The COA reversed in State of Indiana v. Anthony Gaw, 48A02-1504-PL-207. The appellate judges found that the state has standing to appeal because the order is adverse to it as a properly recognized intervenor. Gaw maintained the state lacked standing because it suffered no harm through the reduction of his arrearage.

Case law has established that actions brought under Rule 60(B)(8) must be filed in the court which issued the judgment or order, Senior Judge Randall Shepard wrote. A court that issues a dissolution decree retains exclusive and continuing responsibility for any future modifications and matters, including child support.

Shepard also noted that because Circuit Court 5 lacked authority to hear Gaw’s request, the appellate court decided not to resolve the appropriateness of its decision.

 

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