In Re: The Matter of the Paternity of S.R.W., By Next Friend, Michele Renee Bessette, a/k/a Michele Renee Wright Bessette, a/k/a Michele Renee Wright, Appellant-Petitioner,
Bradley Turflinger, Appellee-Respondent.
from the Allen Superior Court Trial Court Cause No.
02D07-0102-JP-87 The Honorable Daniel G. Pappas, Special
Attorneys for Appellant Benjamin D. Ice William A. Ramsey
Barrett McNagny, LLP Fort Wayne, Indiana
Attorney for Appellee Christopher Bandemer Fort Wayne,
Michele Renee Bessette ("Mother") appeals the trial
court's denial of her motion for change of judge in this
parenting time dispute with Bradley Turflinger
("Father"). We affirm.
Mother raises one issue, which we restate as whether the
trial court properly denied her motion for change of judge
pursuant to Indiana Trial Rule 76(C)(3). Father
cross-appeals, arguing that Mother's appeal should be
dismissed as an improper interlocutory appeal.
Mother and Father are the parents of S.R.W., who was born in
January 2001. S.R.W. lives with Mother in Indiana, and Father
lives in Minnesota. Mother and Father have joint legal and
physical custody, with Father exercising parenting time
according to the distance-based guidelines. The parties have
had numerous significant disagreements and contempt
proceedings over custody, parenting time, and support. In
March 2014, the trial court found Mother in contempt and
sentenced her to "sixty (60) days in the Allen County
Confinement Facility, suspended on the condition that she
abide by the Orders of the Court as set forth herein, and all
other prior Orders of the Court that do not conflict with
this Order." Appellant's App. Vol. II p. 49.
In 2015, Father filed additional contempt proceedings against
Mother. The trial court found Mother in contempt twice. In
December 2016, the trial court held a hearing on sanctions
for the contempts. The trial court ordered Mother to serve
thirty days of her previously suspended sentence, ordered her
to serve two thirty-day sentences for her new contempt
findings, and suspended the new thirty-day sentences upon the
condition that she strictly comply with the trial court's
parenting time order and upon the condition that she pay $5,
000 in attorney fees to Father's counsel within ninety
days. Mother was then taken into custody to serve the first
thirty-day previously-suspended sentence.
Mother appealed, and we affirmed in part, vacated in part,
and remanded to the trial court. On appeal, Mother challenged
the trial court's imposition of thirty days of
incarceration and the two new suspended sentences. Mother did
not challenge the condition that she pay $5, 000 in attorney
fees to Father's attorney. We held that the thirty-day
incarceration was "punitive" and vacated that
portion of the order. In re Paternity of S.R.W., No.
02A05-1701-JP-144, slip op. at 14 (Ind.Ct.App. Sept. 29,
2017). We affirmed the imposition of the two thirty-day
suspended sentences, but instructed the trial court to
"revise its order, striking the modifiers
'strict' and 'strictly' and conditioning
execution of Mother's suspended sentences only upon
willful non-compliance with its orders." Id. at
After remand to the trial court, Father filed a motion for an
injunction to prevent Mother from changing S.R.W.'s
schooling for the 2017/2018 school year, a verified petition
for rule to show cause, a motion to modify support, and a
motion for proceedings supplemental. A January 2017 motion to
reinstate Mother's jail sentence also remained pending.
Mother filed a motion to change judge pursuant to Indiana
Trial Rule 76(C)(3). The trial court issued the following
order addressing Father's January 2017 motion to
reinstate Mother's jail sentence and Mother's motion
for a change of judge:
1. "In a paternity action, Ind. Trial R. 76(B) allows a
party to make one change-of-judge request before entry of a
final decree and one change-of-judge request in connection
with a petition to modify that decree." In Re
V.A., 10 N.E.3d 61, 64 (Ind.Ct.App. 2014). Neither
[Mother] nor [Father] timely requested a change of judge
prior to the entry of the final decree in this paternity case
entered on April 20, 2001. Accordingly, both parties waived
their first opportunity for a change of judge.
2. Subsequently, [Mother] timely requested a change of judge
on October 28, 2013, and Special Judge Daniel G. Pappas was
appointed by the Clerk as a special judge in this cause on
December 5, 2013. Accordingly, [Mother] exercised her second
opportunity for a change of judge and is not entitled to . .
. another change of judge for prospective pleadings ...