Saturday, January 2, 2010

Indiana Case Law: Contempt

Vandenburgh v. Vandenburgh presents an unique defense or two to a contempt finding.

While reading this I kept hearing this phrase in my head: Do not try this at home, kids.

Before getting to the father's argument, explaining what father did may help - father calculated his own support worksheet and started paying the amount calculated by him. (See pages 8 - 9). This might also be father's first argument:

Father invites us to hold that a party who disregards an existing court order for
payment of child support may avoid contempt by calculating an amount he believes is more appropriate and then paying the amount he has himself calculated. Father offers no legal support for this premise, and we decline to adopt it....
Father makes a clearer argument (page 9 - 10) here:
We also find offensive Father’s suggestion throughout his argument on this issue that his contempt is the trial court’s fault. E.g., ―[Father] had no support arrearage until one was judicially created when Magistrate Johnson held the support matter under advisement for nearly one (1) year after the hearing, then made the support modification retroactive . . . .‖ (Br. of Appellant at 11-12.) See also id. at 18: ―Did the court abuse its discretion in finding [Father] in contempt when the prior judge failed to rule on the
pending petition to modify for over one (1) year when there was a clear modification of support warranted . . . .‖ (Underlining and bold type removed.)
Yeah, right. The Court of Appeals responded to this argument as follows:
The trial court did not abuse its discretion when it found Father in contempt.
Contempt occurs when there is a willful and intentional disobedience of a court order. Court orders come from judges and no one else.


stuart showalter said...

Sam-When I was charged with criminal non-support under 35-46-1-5 for not making court ordered support "payments" instead of the statutory "food, clothing shelter or medical care" I naturally told the prosecutor to go $#@! himself. He said that the charge was applicable to a support arrears. I then filed a citizens complaint with the prosecutor against the criminal judge who aided or compelled the support payment arrears but not ruling on support for over a year and then setting an arrears at $3000+. The prosecutor filed a Motion to Dismiss which was granted. I filed a Motion to Reinstate and jury demand. It was denied.

Sam Hasler said...

You should well know that there is a world of difference between what your criminal case and contempt. The judge is the only one who can issue an order. Dad screwed up big time taking on that task. That was the point of the opinion and the point of my post.

It seemed a little esoteric to write a post on what dad should have done. Even as much as it puzzled me why he would wait a whole year. He had to be pro se. I cannot imagine me or another lawyer letting his client screw himself like this. That there was a much better remedy may have also set off the Court of Appeals (as well as some really dumb arguments - see the post I have scheduled for tomorrow).

Sam Hasler said...

Actually today - been too long a working weekend!