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Thursday, May 08, 2014

Ind. Decisions - Court of Appeals issues 3 today (and 2 NFP)

For publication opinions today (3):

In Belinda Douglas v. Neil Spicer and L.S., a 7-page opinion, Judge Najam writes:

Belinda Douglas (“Mother”) and L.S. appeal the trial court’s judgment on Mother’s petition for adjudication of Neil Spicer’s (“Father”) child support arrearage. Mother and L.S. present a single issue for our review, namely, whether the trial court erred when it ordered Father to pay $6,600 in back child support. We affirm.
In Don Morris v. Biosafe Engineering, LLC , an 11-page opinion, Judge Najam writes:
Don Morris appeals the trial court’s entry of summary judgment for BioSafe Engineering, Inc. (“BioSafe”). Morris raises a single issue for our review, namely, whether the trial court erred when it entered summary judgment for BioSafe. We affirm. * * *

Morris’ exclusive theory on appeal—that the trial court erred when it entered summary judgment because he has a legitimate shareholder derivative claim against BioSafe—is not grounds to deny BioSafe’s motion for summary judgment.

In In re the Paternity of D.M.: J.W. v. C.M. , a 10-page opinion, Judge Robb writes:
The State of Indiana filed a Verified Petition for the Establishment of Paternity alleging J.W. was the father of C.M.’s stillborn child. J.W. filed a motion to dismiss alleging the State’s petition failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Following a hearing, the trial court denied J.W.’s motion and ordered the parties to submit to genetic testing. J.W. appeals the trial court’s order, raising the following issue for our review: whether the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motion to dismiss and ordering him to undergo genetic testing to establish paternity of a stillborn child when there were no custody or support issues to be determined. Concluding the State had no authority to bring this action and the trial court erred in allowing it to proceed, we reverse. * * *

On July 25, 2012, C.M., a minor, gave birth at home to a stillborn child, D.M. C.M. was unaware prior to this date that she was pregnant. C.M. alleged J.W., also a minor, was D.M.’s father. J.W. denies this allegation.
C.M. and her mother asked the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office for assistance in establishing paternity. * * *

Viability of a Paternity Action by the State

A. Title IV-D * * *

Because J.W. would owe no support to D.M. even if his paternity was established, the State has no authority under Indiana’s Child Support Program to bring this paternity action.

B. Indiana’s Paternity Statutes

Although the State has no authority under Indiana’s Child Support Program to bring an action to establish paternity of D.M., we also address its authority under Indiana’s paternity statutes. * * *

Consequently, the State has no interest to represent in an action seeking to establish paternity of that child, and therefore, the State has no authority under our statutes to bring this action to establish paternity of D.M.

This outcome does not render Indiana Code section 31-14-5-8 a nullity. Paternity can still be established for a stillborn child, just not in an action brought by the State. Indiana Code section 31-14-4-1 provides a list of persons or entities that may file a paternity action, including the mother of the child, who may do so within two years of the child’s birth. See Ind. Code § 31-14-5-3(b). Once a man is established as a child’s biological father, the issues of support, custody and parenting time for the child are to be determined. See Ind. Code § 31-14-10-1. In the case of a stillborn child, support, custody, and parenting time are not at issue. However, when paternity is established, the court “shall order the father to pay at least fifty percent (50%) of the reasonable and necessary expenses of the mother’s pregnancy and childbirth,” including the cost of prenatal care, the child’s delivery, the mother’s hospitalization, and postnatal care. Ind. Code § 31-14-17-1. Therefore, in an appropriate case, paternity of a stillborn child may be established for the purpose of recouping those costs.[3]

Conclusion. As a matter of law, the State had no authority to pursue an action to establish paternity of D.M. and the trial court therefore erred in allowing the paternity action to proceed by ordering genetic testing. The judgment of the trial court is therefore reversed.
[3] Although we understand and sympathize with C.M. and her family and their wish to legally establish paternity for purposes of closure, respect, and learning the truth, see tr. at 7-8, these are not issues that the paternity statutes are intended to remedy.

NFP civil opinions today (2):

In the Matter of: A.P. (Minor Child), Child in Need of Services and J.H. (Father) v. The Indiana Department of Child Services (NFP)

Michael Seacat v. Goodrich Corporation (NFP)

NFP criminal opinions today (0):

Posted by Marcia Oddi on May 8, 2014 12:54 PM
Posted to Ind. App.Ct. Decisions