Protection order properly dismissed after transfer, COA affirms

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(IL file photo)

A magistrate judge did not err in dismissing a protection order previously granted by a different court, the Court of Appeals of Indiana has affirmed.

The case of C.M. v. J.M., 22A-PO-1743, began in May 2022, when mother C.M. filed a petition for a protection order against her ex-husband, J.M., on behalf of their child. The White Circuit Court granted the petition, but J.M. filed an objection to the venue, arguing the Howard Circuit Court had jurisdiction because it had entered the parties’ divorce decree.

The White Circuit Court agreed and transferred the case to the Howard Circuit Court, where J.M. moved to terminate the protection order. A magistrate judge presided over a subsequent hearing and ultimately dismissed the protection order, resumed J.M.’s parenting time and ordered C.M. to pay $2,730 in attorney fees.

The trial court entered a written order five days later, giving J.M. primary custody of the child over the summer.

The Court of Appeals affirmed that ruling.

On appeal, C.M. first argued the magistrate judge didn’t have jurisdiction over the hearing because “[t]here is no written court order, CCS entry, nor other evidence that the Magistrate was appointed Judge Pro Tempore as required by law. Magistrate (Cheyenne) Shep[he]rd just appeared in the courtroom and announced that she was hearing the case.”

C.M. cited Indiana Trial Rules 79(I)(2)(a) and 63(E), but the COA determined that argument “misses the mark.”

“As Father points out, in the trial court’s June 10 order setting the June 23 hearing, the court stated that the hearing would be ‘in the Howard Magistrate Court,’” Judge Paul Mathias wrote Friday. “And Mother did not object to the magistrate presiding over the hearing at any time before or, more significantly, during the hearing. Father contends that Mother has waived this issue for our review, and we agree.”

C.M. also challenged the trial court’s written order, arguing, “(T)he court lost all jurisdiction to enter orders after dismissal of the case as case law clearly holds that the case is no longer pending for any purpose and that the dismissal disposed of the PO case in its entirety.” She cited Fair Share Org. v. Kroger Co., 132 Ind. App. 160, 170, 176 N.E.2d 205 (1961), but the COA said that case was “inapplicable.”

“Moreover, here, the trial court expressly stated in open court that it dismissed the ex parte order of protection; that Father’s parenting time was to resume; and that Mother was to pay $2,730.00 in attorney’s fees to Father’s counsel,” Mathias added. “Those orders were merely reduced to writing after the hearing. Mother has not shown any error, let alone reversible error, on this issue.”

Finally, the appellate court rejected C.M.’s argument that the magistrate judge “had no jurisdiction to enforce, modify, or adjudicate any of the issues of custody or parenting time which were pending before Judge (Douglas) Tate as special judge of the Howard Circuit Court in the dissolution action.” She had cited State ex rel. Meade v. Marshall Superior Court II, 644 N.E.2d 87 (Ind. 1994).

“Here, Mother, filed her petition for order of protection in the wrong court,” Mathias wrote. “It was subsequently transferred to the trial court, which is the same court with jurisdiction over the parties’ dissolution, including custody and parenting time matters.

“Mother’s argument here is without merit,” he concluded.

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