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COA awards custody to father, orders assets redivided

October 28, 2016

After a couple’s contentious battle in court over custody of their children and possession of their home, the Indiana Court of Appeals decided Friday their marital estate had not been correctly divided. However, the appellate court affirmed the decision to award custody of the children to their father.

In January 2013, Jennifer Quinn, who was married with three children, left her family and moved into an apartment, leasing it in the name of her husband, Daniel Quinn, without his knowledge. When she tried to return to the family home two weeks later, he would not let her in, so Jennifer Quinn subsequently took out a protective order against her husband, which forced him to vacate the home.

Daniel Quinn filed for divorce shortly thereafter. The preliminary divorce agreement awarded Jennifer Quinn with physical custody of their children and the exclusive possession of the house, as well as the responsibility to pay the first mortgage, while Daniel Quinn would pay the second mortgage.

A few months later, Daniel Quinn filed a petition for custody of his youngest daughter, M.Q., and a modification of his child support. Jennifer Quinn subsequently filed two contempt motions, alleging that her estranged husband had not paid the proper child support. The two never reached an agreement, and M.Q. voluntarily moved in with her father after her 18th birthday.

During the divorce hearing in Marion Superior Court, witnesses testified that Daniel Quinn had been the children’s primary caretaker, and the father himself testified that he was especially close with his son, D.Q. Daniel Quinn requested custody of D.Q., 13, at the hearing and also asked for the protective order against him to be dismissed.

When the court issued the dissolution decree in August 2015, it awarded Daniel Quinn with sole physical custody of M.Q. and D.Q., ordered Jennifer Quinn to pay $69.48 a week in child support, ordered that the family house be sold and awarded 53 percent of the net marital estate to Daniel Quinn and 47 percent to his ex-wife.

Jennifer Quinn appealed, arguing that her ex-husband should not have received custody of D.Q., that the child support payment was not correctly calculated and that the property she shared with Daniel Quinn was not properly distributed.

The Indiana Court of Appeals disagreed with Jennifer Quinn’s custody and child support claims in a Friday opinion, writing that the evidence showed that Daniel Quinn had historically been his son’s caretaker and that the two had developed a very close relationship, even when Jennifer Quinn tried to keep them apart.

Further, the appellate court wrote that Jennifer Quinn’s argument that her ex-husband’s overtime pay should have been considered in the child support calculation was incorrect because Daniel Quinn’s overtime was not guaranteed.

However, the Court of Appeals agreed with Jennifer Quinn that the trial court had failed to include all of the couple’s property in the marital pot, including part of Daniel Quinn’s pension, the family home and the first mortgage. Thus, the court reversed the distribution of the estate and remanded the case with instructions to the trial court to include all property and recalculate the division of the estate.

The case is Jennifer R. Quinn v. Daniel P. Quinn, 49A02-1509-DR-1321.
 

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