COA partially reverses for father in child expenses dispute

A northern Indiana father failed to convince the Indiana Court of Appeals that child custody and support rulings in his divorce proceedings were erroneous, though the court did agree with his challenges to medical expenses and home equity findings.

In Joshua Anselm v. Ashley Anselm, 19A-DC-2728, Joshua and Ashley Anselm were married in 2014 and had two children, V.A. and G.A. When Ashley filed for divorce in 2018, a guardian ad litem recommended that she be awarded primary physical custody.

On the issue of child support, Ashley admitted two unsigned worksheets, one setting Joshua’s obligation at $217 per week and one setting it at $173. Joshua said he had no objection to the admission of the worksheets.

In the final dissolution decree, Ashley was awarded primary physical custody, while Joshua was ordered to pay $173 per week in child support and was made solely responsible for all uninsured medical costs. As for their home in Remington, the court awarded Ashley $16,500 based on $33,000 in equity.

Joshua appealed, arguing first that the dissolution court erred in granting primary physical custody to his ex-wife. The Indiana Court of Appeals disagreed on that issue, rejecting his argument that the court entered insufficient findings and abused its discretion.

“Indeed, the court found that it is in the best interests of the Children for Mother to have primary physical custody because ‘she is the primary caregiver’ and because ‘it is important that the [C]hildren have a consistent routine. Those findings consider and address what is in the best interest of the Children,” Judge Edward Najam wrote Wednesday. “And the evidence supports those findings. Indeed, the GAL testified that the Children are ‘both well adjusted to’ the schedule with Mother and that ‘it would be detrimental’ for the Children to change that schedule.”

The appellate panel also disagreed with Joshua’s argument that the trial court erred by relying on an unsigned worksheet when setting his child support obligation.

Though a worksheet is generally improper if it is not signed and verified, “here, Mother and Father stipulated to their respective incomes at the beginning of the dissolution hearing. And, Najam said, mother used those incomes when she calculated father’s child support obligation in her worksheets.

“As such,” Najam wrote, “there is no risk that Mother misrepresented either party’s income in order to increase Father’s child support obligation.” What’s more, he noted, Joshua explicitly said in court that he did not object to the admission of the unsigned worksheet.

But Joshua had better luck in his argument that he was erroneously ordered to pay both child support and all uninsured health care expenses. That order equates to a requirement that Joshua pay for uninsured expenses twice, the panel found – once with a “prepayment” in his child support obligation, and a second time with the actual, full payment when expenses are incurred.

Finding that such an order goes against the “6 percent rule” in Tigner v. Tigner, 878 N.E.2d 324, 328 (Id. Ct. App. 2007), the COA remanded for the trial court to either order Ashley to pay the first $951.60 in medical expenses, to credit father with $951.60 per year or “to explain why crediting Father with that 6% is not appropriate.”

In a footnote, however, the appellate panel rejected Joshua’s request for a credit toward his child support payment for the $200 per month he puts in his health savings account.

Finally, the panel reversed the home equity award to Ashley, finding that the amount of equity in the home was $10,367.97, not $33,000 as the trial court found. It remanded with instructions to “divide the correct amount of equity between the parties.”

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