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Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court affirms trial court in dissolution of marriage dispute

In In re the Marriage of: Thomas Todd Reynolds v. Tricia Reynolds, an 11-page, 4-1 opinion, Justice David writes:

At issue is whether the trial court abused its discretion when it found Father in contempt for failing to provide Mother certain income documentation as required by the parties’ dissolution decree and agreed order of modification. We hold that it did not. Specifically, we hold that: 1) Mother’s motion for rule to show cause was specific enough to excuse strict compliance with the contempt statute and protect Father’s due process rights; 2) Father waived his objections to the evidentiary findings of the trial court when he agreed to a summary proceeding with no objection; and 3) under the facts and circumstances of this case, the trial court was not required to give Father an opportunity to purge himself of contempt. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court. * * *

The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court for abuse of discretion in a memorandum [NFP] decision for two reasons: 1) the trial court did not strictly comply with the rule to show cause statute; and 2) the trial court failed to give Father a way to purge himself of contempt. Reynolds v. Reynolds, 2016 WL 612763 at *6 (Ind. Ct. App. 2016).

We now grant transfer and affirm the trial court, thereby vacating the Court of Appeals opinion. Ind. App. Rule 58(A). * * *

In light of the standard of review and because: 1) Father received sufficient notice of the specific factual allegations underlying the contempt proceeding; 2) Father did not object to a summary proceeding and the evidence was sufficient to support the trial court’s findings; and 3) the trial court was not required to offer Father an opportunity to purge his contempt under these circumstances, we hold that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding Father in contempt for not producing certain tax documents pursuant to the parties’ dissolution decree and the agreed order of modification. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court.

Rush, C.J., Rucker and Massa, J.J., concur.
Slaughter, J., dissents with separate opinion. [that begins, at p. 10]
I respectfully dissent from the Court’s decision to reinstate the indirect contempt against Father. A key procedural protection within the governing contempt statute applies here. See Ind. Code § 34-47-3-5. Specifically, Father was entitled “to be served with a rule of the court” that “clearly and distinctly set forth the facts that are alleged to constitute the contempt”. Id. §§ 34-47- 3-5(a), 5(b)(1). Given the trial court’s acknowledged failure to issue a rule to show cause in accordance with this statutory prerequisite, I would reverse its contempt order. * * *

There can be no mistaking the legislative mandate here. The statute’s opening words command that the procedural requirements recited in this chapter apply “[i]n all cases” of indirect contempt. I.C. § 34-47-3-5(a). The statute’s plain meaning required the trial court to issue a rule to show cause detailing the factual basis for Father’s alleged contempt. Because the court failed to do so, its contempt order should not stand. I respectfully dissent from our decision excusing the trial court’s noncompliance and reinstating Father’s contempt.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 6, 2016 04:48 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions