Derek H. Elwood, Appellant-Respondent,
Wendy A. Parker, Appellee-Petitioner
from the LaPorte Superior Court The Honorable Michael S.
Bergerson, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 46D01-9502-DR-62
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT Bryan L. Ciyou Julie C. Dixon Darlene
R. Seymour Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. Indianapolis, Indiana
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Elizabeth A. Flynn Kurt R. Earnst
Braje, Nelson & Janes, LLP Michigan City, Indiana
Wendy Parker ("Parker") sought arrears of child
support owed by Derek Elwood ("Elwood"),
Parker's ex-husband and father of her two daughters,
since 1995. LaPorte Superior Court ordered Elwood to pay more
than $150, 000 in support arrears plus interest and
attorneys' fees. From this order, Elwood now appeals.
and Procedural Posture
Parker is a dentist in Michigan City, Indiana. Elwood is an
insurance agent in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Parker and Elwood were
married for a short time in the 1990s when they both lived in
Michigan City. During their marriage, they had two children:
J., their elder daughter, and E., their younger daughter.
Elwood and Parker divorced in 1995 soon after E. was born.
LaPorte Superior Court gave Parker custody of the two girls
and ordered Elwood to pay support in the amount of $169.62
per week. Elwood moved in with his parents, who lived in
Michigan City. He made fewer than four months' payments
totaling $2, 056.96 and then disappeared. Elwood never made
Elwood joined the military and moved to Texas for basic
training but left the military after seven months and
continued to live in Texas. He then moved to Wyoming, then to
Illinois, and finally to Wisconsin, where he settled. Elwood
started a business, remarried, and had two daughters with his
new wife. During these years, Elwood never told Parker (or
LaPorte Superior Court) where he was or where he was going,
though he did tell his parents. Elwood never contacted Parker
or their daughters at all, and has no relationship with them.
He never sought parenting time, a modification of the support
order, or any other judicial remedy. Elwood's sole
concession to his former life was to pay nominal amounts in
annual support fees when notice of these was received by his
parents in 2003, 2005, and 2007. See Ind. Code
§ 33-37-5-6 (requiring child support obligors to pay
annual support fee).
This was all fine by Parker, who never sought Elwood's
involvement in their daughters' lives, and in fact, as
the trial court found, "actively sought to avoid [his]
involvement . . . ." Appellant's App. p. 9. About a
year after the divorce, Parker petitioned to have the girls
take her last name, serving Elwood notice by publication in a
local newspaper though Elwood's last known address was at
his parents' house. The girls had no relationship with
their paternal grandparents and were not even aware who their
genetic father was until they were teenagers. In 2012, when
Parker sought a guardianship over eighteen-year-old J. for
medical reasons, Elwood's name was not listed on the
Parker's petition as a "person mostly closely
related by blood or marriage" to J. Tr. p. 58. In 2013,
Parker had E. emancipated and again served Elwood by
publication. However, in 2015, when Parker sought the instant
determination of support arrears, Parker served Elwood
personally by certified mail.
For twelve years during J.'s and E.'s minority,
Parker was in a relationship with Kelly Newcomb
("Newcomb"). Parker and Newcomb were married for
six years but then divorced. During Parker and Newcomb's
relationship, the girls thought of Newcomb as their father
and referred to him that way. Newcomb supported and cared for
the girls as a "partner" and step-father would. Tr.
p. 133. Even after Parker and Newcomb were divorced, Newcomb
carried the girls on his health insurance, and J. and E.
remain close to him, though he now lives in Florida. Newcomb
was aware of Elwood's outstanding obligations to J. and
E. and never pushed Parker to enforce them, but Newcomb never
expected or intended that his support would relieve Elwood of
On November 13, 2015, two years after E.'s emancipation
and twenty years after Parker and Elwood's divorce,
Parker filed a motion in LaPorte Superior Court to determine
Elwood's support arrears. Elwood responded and petitioned
the court to terminate or modify his support obligation.
After briefing and argument at a hearing on May 13, 2016, the
court issued findings of fact, conclusions of law, and an
order on August 3, 2016. Elwood was ordered to pay
$157, 555.46 in past due support[, $169.62 per week from the
date of the divorce to the date of E's emancipation,
minus payments already made by Elwood, ] plus interest from
[the date of filing of Parker's motion] at 11/2% per
month in the amount of $20, 434.72, plus interest accruing
from the date of this order at the statutory rate of 8% per
annum. [Elwood] should also be responsible for ...