A mother that has prevented her son from seeing his father since 2009 and purposefully disobeyed parenting time orders and contempt orders must be sanctioned, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Friday.
Since 2002, a year after P.B. was born, father M.L.B. and mother D.L.B. have been in court either challenging, seeking enforcement of or modification of parenting time orders and contempt orders. Mother and P.B. have alleged father to have abused the boy on several occasions, but following investigations by the Indiana Department of Child Services and the local police department, no charges or actions were filed against father.
At issue in In re the Paternity of P.B., M.L.B. v. D.L.B., 03A05-1601-JP-46, is father’s appeal of the order of Bartholomew Circuit Court denying his petition to enforce previous parenting time and reunification orders and his petition to hold mother in contempt for her failure to cooperate with those orders.
In July 2015, Special Judge Jonathan Webster noted in order that P.B. hasn’t seen his father in five years, but mother and P.B. refuse to allow father to see the teen. Mother has made it clear that she will not abide by any court order that forces the teen to visit his father. Webster questioned how he could force a 6-foot, 14-year-old boy to visit his father when he didn’t want to, so he denied father’s petition.
“While we sympathize with the dilemma with which the trial court was faced, the proper solution was not to refuse to enforce its orders. Instead, the trial court should have used its authority to ensure that its orders are obeyed and not disregarded as mere suggestions. No one, especially not a parent, should be under the impression that compliance with the trial court’s parenting time order is optional,” Judge Paul Mathias wrote.
“The trial court abused its discretion in concluding that Mother was not in contempt for her admitted refusal to follow the clear mandate of the trial court’s earlier orders. If Father is to be deprived of his right to parenting time with his son, the law requires a finding that such parenting time would endanger his physical health or significantly impair his emotional development, but no such finding is in the record. We therefore reverse the trial court’s order and remand with instructions that the trial court enter a contempt sanction against Mother that will be sufficient to enforce its parenting time order.”