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Maple v. Maple

Court of Appeals of Indiana

February 28, 2017

Danielle Maple, Appellant-Respondent,
v.
Travis Maple, Appellee-Petitioner

         Appeal from the Allen Circuit Court The Honorable Thomas J. Felts, Judge The Honorable John D. Kitch, III, Magistrate Trial Court Cause No. 02C01-0908-DR-756

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Paul R. Sturm Shambaugh Kast Beck & Williams, LLP Fort Wayne, Indiana

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE Daniel J. Borgmann Helmke Beams LLP Fort Wayne, Indiana

          VAIDIK, CHIEF JUDGE.

         Case Summary

         [¶1] In order to have a child-support order modified, the parent seeking modification must prove that either there was a change in circumstances so substantial and continuing as to make the prior order unreasonable, or that at least twelve months have passed since the issuance of the prior order and that the amount of support would change by more than 20% from the prior order. Our Supreme Court has held that when a parent relies on a change in income as a basis for modification but the change in support would not be more than 20%, that parent must prove that one or more other factors "converged" with the change in income to establish the requisite "substantial and continuing" change. It is an uncommon occurrence for a parent to meet this burden.

         [¶2] In this case, Father requested that the trial court modify his child-support obligation based on changes in his and Mother's incomes and other factors. He argued that these changes "converged" to established a change in circumstances so substantial and continuing as to make the prior order unreasonable. The trial court recalculated Father's support obligation, which differed by less than 20% from the prior order. The court issued the modified child-support order, citing changed circumstances as the basis for modification. Mother appeals.

         [¶3] One of the changed circumstances relied upon by Father and the trial court is that Mother's legal duty of support for her prior-born child was set by the trial court at $66 per week instead of $121, as represented on the prior-born child's child-support worksheet. That worksheet was still in effect and was not subject to review in these proceedings. Concluding that the trial court erred when it set Mother's legal duty of support for her prior-born child at an amount lower than what was on her child-support worksheet and that Father has not otherwise proven a change in circumstances so substantial and continuing as to make the prior order unreasonable, we reverse and remand with instructions.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶4] Before her relationship with Travis Maple ("Father"), Danielle Maple ("Mother") gave birth to a child, J.W. When her relationship with J.W.'s father ended, Mother retained primary physical custody of J.W and sought a child-support order. In 2005, the trial court in that matter used a Child Support Obligation Worksheet to calculate child support, which, in part, set Mother's legal duty of support for J.W. at $121 per week[1] (Line 6 - "PARENT'S CHILD SUPPORT OBLIGATION") and J.W.'s father's child-support obligation at $86 per week ("2005 worksheet"). The court adopted the 2005 worksheet in its child-support order, which was still in effect at the time of this proceeding. The 2005 child-support worksheet reads as follows:

         (IMAGE OMITTED)

         Appellant's App. p. 48 (emphasis added).

         [¶5] Sometime after her relationship with J.W.'s father ended, Mother and Father were married. During their marriage they had two children, K.M. and A.M., who are both still minors. Mother and Father divorced in 2009. In September 2012, Mother and Father jointly petitioned the court to modify child support and custody. The court granted them joint legal custody and Mother primary physical custody ("2012 order"). The 2012 order also granted Father 122 annual overnights, including every other weekend and one additional weekend per month, as well as a midweek visit up to four hours. Father's child-support obligation was set at $245 per week. Id. at 37.

         [¶6] Approximately two years later, Mother petitioned the court for a modification of custody and parenting time and requested attorney's fees. Among other things, Mother sought sole legal custody of K.M. and A.M. Father then moved to modify child support. At the joint hearing on Mother's petition and Father's motion, the parents disagreed on the amount of parenting time Father was exercising. Mother testified that Father did not exercise his parenting time ...


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