COA remands for clarification of father’s domestic violence, psych evaluation orders

A father’s erratic fit of rage at the hospital following the birth of his second child supported the Indiana Court of Appeals’ affirmation of a divorce order sought by his wife. However, that order was remanded to clarify the man’s participation in a domestic violence program and a psychological evaluation, as well as a child support recalculation.

The Indiana Department of Child Services filed a petition in July 2016 alleging both of T.R. and E.R.’s kids were children in need of services after T.R. became enraged when asked to retrieve a car seat to take his newborn home after her birth. Their mother, E.R., testified that her husband’s actions could be “very erratic and confusing” and had previously informed her doctor that T.R. “needed to be taken care of in whatever capacity” so she could focus on caring for her child.

E.R. filed for divorce while the CHINS action was pending, and the Marion Superior Court subsequently closed the CHINS case and awarded her sole legal custody of the children after finding E.R. had complied with the kids’ DCS case plan, while T.R. had not.

Later, the court found T.R. didn’t complete 26-week domestic violence course, nor had he either had or requested to have parenting time with the children for more than one year. The court had also ordered T.R.’s supervised parenting time to take place at an agency at his expense, and that he pay $232 per week in child support.

T.R. appealed, arguing the orders and child support calculation were in error in T.R. v. E.R., 19A-DC-89. The Indiana Court of Appeals rejected T.R.’s argument that visits could be supervised by his mother or brother, declining to second guess the trial court’s determination based on T.R.’s behavior and lack of compliance and parenting time. It further noted that finances were not the primary barrier between T.R. and his children.

The appellate panel also affirmed that the trial court had the authority to order T.R.’s participation in a domestic violence program, finding a wealth of evidence supporting the order.

“We note that the trial court did not give any guidance to the parties regarding how, and to whom, Father is to prove that he has completed the program,” Judge John Baker wrote for the panel. “In other words, is he to provide a certificate of completion to the trial court, the parenting time supervisor, and/or Mother?”

The appellate panel also posed that the trial court did not explicitly condition T.R.’s parenting time on his completion of a psychological evaluation and that it did not indicate how and to whom T.R. would provide proof of his completion of a psychological evaluation. It therefore remanded with instructions for the trial court to clarify those questions.

“We also observe that the trial court did not require Father to comply with any recommendations that may stem from the evaluation, and ask that on remand, it consider whether that should also be a condition of his right to exercise parenting time and clarify the order in this regard if need be,” Baker wrote.

Lastly, the COA concluded T.R. was voluntarily underemployed and that the trial court did not err in coming up with its child support amount. The appellate panel, however, noted a discrepancy with the trial court’s finding that E.R.’s weekly income was $420, instead calculating the amount to be $532. The case was remanded with instructions to clarify the order regarding E.R.’s income and re-calculate child support, if necessary.

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