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In re Paternity of B.J.N.

Court of Appeals of Indiana

October 22, 2014

IN RE THE PATERNITY OF B.J.N., by Next Friend, E.M., Appellant-Petitioner,
K.N., Appellee-Respondent, and ON CONSOLIDATED APPEAL, IN RE THE GUARDIANSHIP OF B.J.N., E.M., Appellant-Respondent,
P.C., Appellee-Petitioner

CONSOLIDATED APPEAL FROM THE DECATUR CIRCUIT COURT AND HENDRICKS CIRCUIT COURT. The Honorable Carol J. Orbison, Senior Judge, Hendricks Circuit Court. The Honorable Timothy B. Day, Judge, Decatur Circuit Court. Cause Nos. 32C01-1310-JP-97 and 16C01-1304-GU-18.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: DEBORAH M. AGARD, DANIEL W. KIEHL, Law Office of Deborah M. Agard, Indianapolis, Indiana.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES: JENNIFER ANNE STURGES, Rolfes Garvey Walker & Robbins, Greensburg, Indiana; ANDREA L. CIOBANU, ALEX BEEMAN, Ciobanu Law, P.C., Indianapolis, Indiana.

BAKER, Judge. KIRSCH, J., and ROBB, J., concur.

Page 766


BAKER, Judge

This consolidated appeal arises out of two orders issued by the Decatur County Circuit Court (Decatur Court) on April 16, 2013, and November 8, 2013, respectively, and one order issued by the Hendricks County Circuit Court (Hendricks Court) on February 4, 2014. E.M. (Father) raises three issues: (1) whether the Decatur Court erred when it denied his motion to vacate guardianship for lack of jurisdiction; (2) whether the Decatur Court abused its discretion when it issued an order restricting Father's parenting time without finding tat Father posed a risk of harm to his child; and (3) whether the Hendricks Court erred when it dismissed his action and ordered payment of attorney fees. Finding that the Decatur Court had jurisdiction to enter its guardianship order and did not abuse its discretion in ordering restricted parenting time, we affirm the judgment of the Decatur Court. Finding that the Hendricks Court did not err in dismissing Father's action, but that it erred in awarding attorney fees, we affirm in part and reverse in part the judgment of the Hendricks Court.

Page 767


B.N. was born to K.N. (Mother) in January 2009. B.N. remained in Mother's custody until March 2010, when she was made a ward of the State of Illinois and placed in foster care. In September 2010, Father, who had been incarcerated, was released and began visiting with B.N. Father filed a paternity action, and in February 2011, was adjudicated to be B.N.'s father by the Kankakee County Circuit Court (Kankakee Court) in Kankakee, Illinois.

On March 29, 2013, Mother brought B.N. to Greensburg, in Decatur County, Indiana, where B.N. was to live with P.C. (Guardian). Guardian is a friend of Father. Father lived in Hendricks County at the time and wanted B.N. to move in with Guardian so that he could be closer to B.N. On April 16, 2013, Guardian, after consulting with Mother and Father and receiving their consent, filed a petition in the Decatur Court requesting that the court appoint her as B.N.'s guardian. The Decatur Court granted this petition the same day.

Over six months later, on October 23, 2013, Father filed a petition with the Hendricks Court to register the order of the Kankakee Court recognizing his paternity. The next day, Father filed a motion in the Decatur Court to vacate the guardianship order issued by the Decatur Court, alleging that the Decatur Court lacked jurisdiction when it awarded custody to Guardian on April 16, 2013. On November 8, 2013, following a hearing, the Decatur Court issued an order restricting Father's parenting time and ordering that such parenting time be supervised. On December 11, 2013, Father filed a Verified Petition to Modify Custody, Parenting Time, and Support in the Hendricks Court. On January 2, 2014, Guardian filed a motion to dismiss Father's petition.

On January, 8, 2014, the Decatur Court denied Father's motion to vacate for lack of jurisdiction, and on February 4, 2014, the Hendricks Court granted Guardian's motion to dismiss. Father filed a notice of appeal for each of these orders on February 6, 2014, and March 6, 2014, respectively. These appeals are now consolidated in the instant action.


I. Decatur Court's Jurisdiction

Father appeals the Decatur Court's denial of his motion to vacate the guardianship, arguing that the Decatur Court lacked jurisdiction to grant Guardian custody of B.N. Father appears to argue that, because he later registered his paternity order with the Hendricks Court, that court had exclusive jurisdiction with regard to the " paternity action," in which Father attempts to include both the prior Decatur Court guardianship action and the subsequent Hendricks Court paternity action. Therefore, Father argues, the Decatur Court lacked jurisdiction to determine who would receive custody of B.N. at the time it issued its guardianship order.

The question of a court's jurisdiction is a question of law and we afford no deference to the trial court's conclusion. In re B.C.,9 N.E.3d 745, 751 (Ind.Ct.App. 2014). There are three types of jurisdiction: (1) personal jurisdiction, (2) subject matter jurisdiction, and (3) jurisdiction over the particular case. Kondamuri v. Kondamuri, 799 N.E.2d 1153, 1156 (Ind.Ct.App. 2003). Father does not argue that the Decatur Court ...

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