COA upholds parenting time, division of assets in divorce case

IL file photo

A father challenging a parenting time order and the division of marital assets has failed to convince the Court of Appeals of Indiana to overturn the final order in his divorce case.

The appellate court also declined the mother’s request for appellate attorney fees.

The case involves Craig and Karen Randolph, who were married in October 2003. Their daughter, E.R., was born in January 2006.

The Randolphs purchased a home together, and Craig had a 401(k) account valued at $85,000 at the time of their marriage. He stopped making contributions to the account shortly before they married.

The parties separated in February 2021, and Craig filed a petition for dissolution of marriage. When he filed the petition, his 401(k) was valued at $248,854.72.

In April 2021, the Allen Superior Court entered provisional orders that provided, in part, for joint legal custody of E.R. Karen was given primary physical custody while Craig was given parenting time including one weekday overnight per week.

Disagreements over parenting time between Craig and E.R. led to the parties participating in therapy.

The therapist supported E.R.’s request for parenting time consisting of a Saturday overnight every other weekend and a midweek evening visit without an overnight. A guardian ad litem met with family members and also supported E.R.’s parenting time request.

At a final hearing in April 2022, the trial court awarded the parties joint legal custody of E.R., with Karen having primary physical custody.

The trial court granted Craig parenting time on alternate weekends, starting on Saturday at noon and concluding Sunday at 6 p.m. He was also granted time midweek for four hours, alternate holidays and extended parenting time pursuant to the provisions of the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines.

As for the marital estate, the entirety of Craig’s 401(k) was included. Karen was awarded 60% of the estate.

Craig appealed, arguing that the trial court improperly restricted his parenting time, abused its discretion by including his premarital retirement account in the marital estate and  awarding his ex-wife 60% of that estate.

The appellate court rejected each of his arguments, with Judge Elizabeth Tavitas writing for the court.

Tavitas began by noting that the trial court explained in writing why its parenting time schedule deviated from the state’s parenting time guidelines.

“E.R.’s relationship with Father was significantly strained at that time. E.R. proposed the parenting time schedule awarded by the trial court, and the GAL and therapist agreed that the proposed schedule was in E.R.’s best interest. Under these circumstances, we cannot say that the parenting time award was unreasonable,” Tavitas wrote.

As for the 401(k), the COA noted all assets and liabilities of both parties must be included in the marital estate.

And as for the division of the estate, the appellate court noted that both parties requested an unequal division, with Craig requesting 70% and Karen 60%.

Further, the trial court used several factors to award Karen 60% of the estate, Tavitas wrote, including the increase in value of Craig’s 401(k) during the marriage, his higher income earnings and future income earning potential, and the fact that both parties contributed to the acquisition of property.

“We will not substitute our judgment for that of the trial court; the trial court’s division of marital property was just and reasonable and supported by a rational basis,” Tavitas wrote.

Finally, the COA determined Karen was not entitled to appellate attorney fees, noting she made no argument that Craig’s appeal was frivolous or in bad faith.

Judges Nancy Vaidik and Peter Foley concurred.

The case is Craig Randolph v. Karen A. Randolph, 22A-DC-1972.

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