Saturday, June 2, 2007

New third party custody case

I admit to tardiness in writing up on this case. Four day weeks are bad enough but this one was worse.

Clinton M. and Leanna Christian v. Dawn Durm (PDF format) serves well for a general primer on third-party custody but the case has two interesting features. The third-party came into the case before the divorce became final. The other interesting bit was the use of home video.

What is an intervenor? A person who intervenes. Yeah, I know that is a simplistic definition but it just meant as a start. With a divorce, there are two parties - husband/wife who are either petitioner or respondent - a third party can come into the mix. Indiana's trial rules permit this. If someone has an interest in the case - here it was the parties' child - the court may let them into the case.

This case teaches us that the intervenor can continue the case when the principals want to get out.

I have written here on how electronics are changing the practice of law. This case shows one example of these changes in how and what evidence will be collected and used by in court. Notice how the father invited a friend over to videotape the condition of the house and the parties' child. Notice that its admission into evidence merited a footnote from the Indiana Court of Appeals:

The videotape, later admitted as an exhibit at the custody hearing, revealed an apartment filled with litter, soiled clothing, debris, alcohol bottles, stagnant water in the sink, and food with maggots.
I think that exhibit made a big impression on the trial judge, don't you?.

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