In Re The Marriage Of Thomas Todd Reynolds, Appellant (Petitioner below),
Tricia Reynolds, Appellee (Respondent below).
from the Hamilton Superior Court, No. 29D03-0904-DR-00515 The
Honorable William J. Hughes, Judge
Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No.
Attorney for Appellant Ryan H. Cassman Cathy M. Brownson
Coots Henke & Wheeler, P.C
Attorney for Appellee Eric J. Benner Laurie D. Johnson Boje,
Benner, Becker, Markovich & Hixson, LLP
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.
and Procedural History
2010, Thomas Todd Reynolds (Father) and Tricia Reynolds
(Mother) divorced. The dissolution decree established a child
support obligation to be paid by Father and required that
upon written request from Mother, Father make certain tax
documents available for inspection. In 2013, the trial court
entered an agreed modification order wherein Father's
obligation was modified to account for Father's
fluctuating income. This modification order required that
Father pay a set weekly sum as well as make quarterly
payments based upon a percentage of his income. The order
further required that Father provide documentation of his
income and a payment calculation to Mother quarterly,
beginning in the first quarter of 2013.
March 2014, Mother served a written request for production of
documents on Father requesting tax information for Father for
the years 2011-2013. In May 2014, after receiving no response
from Father, Mother's counsel followed-up on the
discovery requests in an attempt to informally resolve the
discovery dispute. In June 2014, Mother filed her motion to
compel Father's discovery responses. The trial court
granted Mother's motion to compel, ordered Father to
respond to Mother's request for production of documents
and set a compliance hearing. During an August compliance
hearing, the court dismissed Mother's motion to compel as
moot, finding no petitions for modification or contempt
before the court.
thereafter, Mother filed a Verified Motion for Rule to Show
Cause ("Contempt Motion"), alleging Father should
be held in contempt for failing to comply with the
dissolution decree and the agreed modification order
regarding production of certain income and tax documents.
During the pendency of the Contempt Motion, Mother continued
to actively seek the requested documents. For instance, she
served another request for production on Father, again
requesting his tax documents for 2011-2013, and in October
2014, she attended a document inspection at the office of
counsel for Father in effort to obtain the requested
documents. While Father provided some of the requested
documents, he did not provide all of them or make them
available at the inspection, and thus, Mother's counsel
sent correspondence to Father's counsel outlining the
documents that had still not been produced.
November 2014, Mother filed another motion to compel. The
trial court granted Mother's motion to compel and set the
matter for a compliance hearing. Father filed a motion to set
aside the order compelling discovery and to dismiss the rule
to show cause.
December 2014, the trial court held a hearing on the
parties' outstanding motions. The parties agreed to
present argument in summary fashion. Ultimately, the court
found Father in contempt for failing to provide Mother tax
documentation from 2010 forward pursuant to the parties'
dissolution decree. As sanctions for contempt, the trial
court ordered that Father produce the requested documents
within thirty (30) days and further ordered that Father pay
$3, 000 of Mother's attorney fees. Father's
consolidated motion to correct errors, or, in the
alternative, motion for relief under Trial Rule 60(B) was
denied after a hearing. Father then appealed.
appeal, Father argued that the trial court abused its
discretion by finding him in contempt and ordering him to pay
a portion of Mother's attorney fees. Specifically, he
argued that the trial court did not issue a proper rule to
show cause, that mother's motion for rule to show cause
did not provide him with proper notice under the contempt
statutes and that he did not willfully violate the terms of
the dissolution decree or agreed modification order. Mother
responded that Father did not provide all of the tax
documents required by the dissolution decree and agreed
modification order despite her repeated requests. She further
argued that her motion sufficiently notified Father of the
accusations against him and that Father waived any argument
regarding notice because he did not raise the issue at the
Court of Appeals reversed the trial court for abuse of
discretion in a memorandum 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).
grant transfer and affirm the trial court, thereby vacating
the Court of Appeals opinion. Ind.App. Rule 58(A).
is soundly within the discretion of the trial court to
determine whether a party is in contempt, and we review the
judgment under an abuse of discretion standard."
Steele-Giri v. Steele, 51 N.E.3d 119, 124 (Ind.
2016) (quoting Witt v. Jay Petroleum, Inc., 964
N.E.2d 198, 202 (Ind. 2012)). We will reverse a trial
court's finding of contempt only if there is no evidence
or inference therefrom to support the finding."
Id. The trial court has the inherent power to
"maintain [ ] its dignity, secur[e] obedience to its
process and rules, rebuk[e] interference with the conduct of
business, and punish[ ] unseemly behavior." Id.
The Motion for the Rule to Show Cause contained sufficient
factual detail so as to excuse strict compliance and ...