When a court issues a child support order, the amount of support is based on the circumstances of the parents at that time. If one or both parents experience a substantial change in circumstances down the road, the court can agree to modify the child support order accordingly. When this happens, the recipient parent has the opportunity to appear in court and oppose the modification. However, what happens when the recipient parent has no idea that a hearing ever took place?
Members of our legal team, Sophia J. Arshad and Vasilia M. Pangere, recently represented a mother in a case before the Court of Appeals of Indiana. The Court of Appeals found that the trial court violated the mother’s right to due process by refusing to set aside a support modification order, and, therefore, found in favor of our client. The following is a brief overview of the issues at hand in our case and the Court’s ruling.
Our client divorced her children’s father in Indiana, receiving a child support order for her three children, and then moved to Ohio. When a child support payor lives in a different state than the recipient, the matter falls under the purview of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA). This law sets out guidelines for the payment, enforcement, and modification of interstate child support. Under this law, a child support division prosecutor in Indiana obtained court approval to forward child support payments through an Ohio division to the mother.
A few years after the initial support order, the State filed a petition for the court to modify the father’s child support obligations due to a significant change of circumstances. A hearing was scheduled, though the mother received no notice of the petition or the hearing. For this reason, she did not appear in court to oppose the modification.
The trial court ordered the father’s child support to be lowered significantly, and also ordered our client to pay support to the father for one of their children who now lives with the father in Indiana. The court did not take into consideration any details of the mother’s child-related expenses or financial situation since she was not there to provide such information.
Two years later, the mother tried to enforce child support payments from the father and learned of the modification and order against her. She requested that the trial court set aside the order since she was not properly served and notified. The trial court denied her request.
Our legal team then prepared and filed an appeal with the Court of Appeals of Indiana, asserting that the trial court’s denial was in error and in violation of our client’s due process rights. After hearing testimony from the State that no notice was provided directly to our client, the Court of Appeals found the trial court had no jurisdiction to issue an order without proper service on all parties. We successfully got the matter reversed and remanded for additional proceedings.
Our family law attorneys are ready to do what it takes to protect our clients’ rights, including bringing complex appeals before the court. Contact us to learn more about our legal services and how we might assist in your case.
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