COA denies relief to mother facing numerous contempt orders for unpaid medical expenses

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A mother handed several contempt orders for failing to pay her share of uninsured medical expenses for her children did not convince the Court of Appeals of Indiana that she should be granted relief from a judgment ordering her to reimburse the children’s father.

When Elizabeth McGhee and Roger Lamping divorced, the couple entered into a settlement agreement providing that they would share joint legal custody of their two children. The agreement also stated that Lamping would make a variety of payments for the children’s benefit, including paying McGhee child support and maintaining health insurance for the children.

But the children eventually began living with Lamping, prompting the trial court to grant Lamping’s petition to modify child support and end his child support payments to McGhee. However, the trial court deviated from the Child Support Guidelines by declining to impose a child support obligation on McGhee due to her financial situation.

In 2011, the trial court entered an agreed order, providing that McGhee would pay for their daughters’ medical, dental and vision insurance so long as it was reasonably available through her employer. The parents also agreed they would equally divide their daughters’ uninsured medical expenses.

Contempt issues began for McGhee in 2012, when Lamping filed a petition asserting she had not reimbursed him for the children’s 2011 uninsured medical expenses. Contempt of court orders continued periodically over the next decade, with Lamping asserting there were “thousands of dollars in outstanding and previously paid medical bills” as well as insurance coverage issues not being dealt with.

Despite years of attempts to rectify the issues, McGhee continued to accumulate contempt of court orders.

In September 2017, McGhee unsuccessfully sought to emancipate one of her children who was no longer a minor. On that issue, the trial court noted in January 2018 that McGhee was ordered to repay uninsured medical expenses, not child support.

The trial court also determined McGhee owed Lamping $19,880.61 for uninsured medical expenses and attorney fees. In April 2019, the trial court found McGhee owed Lamping for additional uninsured medical expenses and attorney fees.

When she was found in contempt for not complying with an order to pay those fees, McGhee obtained counsel and successfully sought to move the case to another venue. She later moved for relief from judgment, asking the trial court to set aside the January 2018 and April 2019 orders, to require Lamping to reimburse her for all uninsured medical expenses and attorney fees that she should not have had to pay, to sanction him for wrongful conduct, and to order him to pay her legal expenses for bringing her various motions.

The Gibson Circuit Court denied McGhee’s motions and the Court of Appeals affirmed in Elizabeth McGhee v. Roger Lamping, 21A-DR-2745.

The COA rejected McGhee’s argument that she was entitled to relief pursuant to Indiana Trial Rule 60(B)(8), finding her assertion failed for two reasons.

“First, it is readily apparent from a reading of Mother’s motion for relief from judgment that she has not raised any new issues. Rather, the essence of her motion is that based on the facts as set forth at the original hearings, the trial court’s January 2018 and April 2019 decisions were erroneous,” Judge Rudolph Pyle wrote. “These claims of error were based on matters that were known to Mother within the time to file a motion to correct error. Accordingly, Mother has made no showing of exceptional circumstances justifying extraordinary relief.

“Second, Mother’s motion for relief from judgment is fraught with allegations that Father had made false claims and that his actions had been false and wrongful,” Pyle continued. “Based on these multiple allegations, Mother’s grounds for relief more properly belong in Rule 60(B)(3) as misrepresentations or fraud allegations. Mother cannot bypass the one-year time limitation for fraud claims simply by arguing that Rule 60(B) applies.”

In a footnote, the appellate court noted that its review of the evidence revealed the trial court also did not err in determining that the prior trial court’s January 2018 and April 2019 orders were not void.

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