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Riggen v. Riggen

Court of Appeals of Indiana

March 3, 2017

Caleb Riggen, Appellant-Petitioner,
v.
Tammy Riggen, Appellee-Respondent.

         Appeal from the Putnam Superior Court The Honorable Charles D. Bridges, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 67D01-1309-DR-164.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Dylan A. Vigh Law Offices of Dylan A. Vigh, LLC Indianapolis, Indiana.

          BAILEY, JUDGE.

         Case Summary

         [¶1] Caleb Riggen ("Father") and Tammy Riggen ("Mother") were once married, and have one child between them ("Child"). After the marriage was dissolved, Father petitioned to modify custody of Child. The trial court initially granted Father's petition. Subsequently, the trial court granted Mother's motion to correct error, thereby denying Father's petition. Father now appeals, raising two issues, which we consolidate and restate as whether the trial court abused its discretion in granting Mother's motion to correct error.

         [¶2] We reverse and remand with instructions.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶3] In 2014, Father's and Mother's marriage was dissolved, with Mother having physical custody of Child. Father later petitioned to modify custody. The trial court held a hearing on Father's petition, during which it heard testimony from Child's guardian ad litem (the "GAL") and took judicial notice of the GAL's report. On February 16, 2016, the trial court granted Father's petition.

         [¶4] On March 2, 2016, Mother filed a motion to correct error and to stay the order. Mother alleged that the trial court erred in making its findings, and contended that there was insufficient evidence supporting the order. Mother also argued that "the GAL's report was so flawed it should carry little if any weight" (App. Vol. II at 30), and suggested that the GAL further investigate.

         [¶5] The trial court entered a stay of its order, set a hearing on Mother's motion to correct error, and requested that the GAL conduct further investigation. The GAL complied and filed a supplemental report, after which the trial court held a hearing on Mother's motion. Following the hearing, the trial court entered an order granting Mother's motion and denying Father's petition. The order did not provide a reason for granting Mother's motion.

         [¶6] This appeal ensued.

         Standard of Review

         [¶7] At the outset, we note that Mother has not filed a brief. When an appellee fails to submit a brief, we need not undertake the burden of developing an argument on the appellee's behalf. Front Row Motors, LLC v. Jones, 5 N.E.3d 753, 758 (Ind. 2014). Instead, "we will reverse the trial court's judgment if the appellant's brief presents a case of prima facie error." Trinity Homes, LLC v. Fang, 848 N.E.2d 1065, 1068 (Ind. 2006). Prima facie error in this context is defined as, "at first sight, on first appearance, or on the face of it." Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         [¶8] Father appeals from the grant of Mother's motion to correct error. We review a trial court's ruling on a motion to correct error for an abuse of discretion. Santelli v. Rahmatullah, 993 N.E.2d 167, 173 (Ind. 2013). In so doing, we afford the trial court's decision "a strong presumption of correctness." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted) (citing Walker v. Pullen, 943 N.E.2d 349, 351 (Ind. 2011)). However, by granting Mother's motion to correct error, the trial court effectively ...


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