from the DeKalb Superior Court. The Honorable Monte L. Brown,
Judge. Cause No. 17D02-1107-DR-191.
FOR APPELLANT: Adam C. Squiller, Squiller & Harley,
FOR APPELLEE: Douglas E. Johnston, Angelica N. Fuelling,
Tourkow, Crell, Rosenblatt & Johnston, LLP, Fort Wayne,
Judge. Baker, J., and Pyle, J., concur.
Appellant-Respondent Wayne Patton (" Father" ) and
Appellee-Petitioner Jessica Patton (" Mother" )
were divorced in January of 2013. Mother was granted sole
legal and physical custody of the couple's son W.P., born
on February 9, 2007. Since 2011, Father's visitation with
W.P. has been supervised, and in 2012, Father was convicted
of child seduction for fondling the breasts of his teenage
daughter, who, incidentally, is now emancipated. In 2014,
Father moved to modify parenting time with W.P. and child
support, seeking to have the supervision requirement lifted
and his support obligation reduced to reflect the fact that
one of three children was now emancipated.
Mother requested that a psychological evaluation of Father be
performed, after which the evaluator found indications of
defensiveness and poor judgment and decision-making. The
evaluator also expressed doubts regarding Father's
psychological functioning. Following a hearing, the trial
court denied Father's motion for modification of
visitation and child support obligation. Because we conclude
that the trial court abused its discretion in refusing to
alter Father's child support obligation, we affirm in
part, reverse in part, and remand with instructions.
and Procedural History
Father was born on May 24, 1972, and, at some point, married
Mother, with whom he had three children--daughters Ja.P. and
Ju.P. and son W.P., who was born on February 9, 2007. On July
19, 2011, Mother petitioned for the dissolution of her
marriage to Father. In July of 2011, Father was granted
supervised visitation with W.P. at the Children's First
Center in Auburn. In 2012, Father was convicted of child
seduction for fondling Ja.P.'s breasts when she was
sixteen years old. Father was initially ordered to pay
$207.00 per week in child support, which was modified by
order of the trial court to $160.00 per week on March 26,
On July 3, 2014, Father petitioned for modification of
visitation and child support, seeking removal of the
supervision requirement and reduction of his support
obligation. At some point, Mother requested a psychological
evaluation for Father, which clinical and forensic
psychologist Stephen Ross, Psy.D., performed. Dr. Ross
interviewed Father and reviewed various documents regarding
Father's supervised visitation with W.P., his placement
on the Indiana Sex Offender Registry following his child
seduction conviction, and copies of excerpts from comic books
Father had given to W.P. during visitation. Dr. Ross also
performed a battery of psychological tests on Father.
On January 13, 2015, Dr. Ross issued his report. Dr. Ross
noted that Father's " defensiveness"
compromised the validity of some of the testing.
Appellant's Addendum p. 5. Dr. Ross also considered the
comics Father gave to W.P. to be inappropriate, depicting
satanic-like figures and containing references to "
'half naked pictures of Brittney Spears', and other
sexually explicit references." Appellant's Addendum
p. 6. Dr. Ross opined that he was " not so certain about
[Father's] psychological functioning" and that if
Father did, in fact, provide W.P. with the comic books in
question, " this would be an indication of poor judgment
and decision-making on his part." Appellant's
Addendum p. 6. Dr. Ross explicitly endorsed neither
unsupervised nor supervised visitation but did recommend that
Father and W.P. meet with a professional counselor in the
event the trial court ordered unsupervised visitation.
On January 14, 2015, the trial court held a hearing on
Father's motions. At the hearing, Father argued,
inter alia, that his child support obligation should
be modified because Ja.P. was emancipated, which represented
a substantial and continuing change in circumstances. Mother
argued that although Ja.P. was legally emancipated, she was
still living with Mother and was in college. On February 27,
2015, the trial court issued its order, which provided as
On January 14, 2015, Petitioner, Jessica Patton, appeared in
person and by counsel, Douglas E. Johnston, and Respondent,
Wayne Patton, appeared in person and by counsel, Adam C.
Squiller, for hearing on Respondent's Motion To Modify
Parenting Time and Support filed July 3, 2014. The State of
Indiana appeared by DeKalb County Deputy Prosecuting
Attorney, Donald P. Shively. Hearing held and evidence
Based on the record of the proceeding, the Court now FINDS,
ORDERS, ADJUDGES, AND DECREES:
1. That the parties herein were granted a Decree of
Dissolution of Marriage on the 7th day of January, 2013.
2. That pursuant to said Decree, Petitioner was granted the
sole legal and physical custody of the minor children and
Respondent was granted parenting time with [W.P.] on a
restricted and supervised basis through ...