from the Lake Circuit Court The Honorable Marissa J.
McDermott, Judge The Honorable Lisa A. Berdine, Magistrate
Trial Court Cause No. 45C01-0912-DR-990
Attorney for Appellant Michael D. Sears Jacquelyn S. Pillar
Crist, Sears, & Zic, LLP Munster, Indiana
Attorney for Appellee Daniel J. Zlatic Rubino, Ruman, Crosmer
& Polen Dyer, Indiana
ArcelorMittal USA LLC Pension Plan
("ArcelorMittal") appeals the trial court's
denial of its motion for relief from judgment, which had
sought to set aside a May 23, 2014, order granting Jackie L.
Hickey's ("Wife") motion for relief from the
judgment that had declared void the trial court's earlier
order dissolving Wife's marriage to Michael Hickey
("Husband"). ArcelorMittal submits multiple issues
for our review, one of which we find dispositive: whether the
trial court erred when it denied ArcelorMittal's motion
for relief from judgment because Wife invited any error upon
which the trial court premised its earlier order granting
Wife's motion for relief from the dissolution order. We
reverse and remand.
and Procedural History
The pertinent facts were set forth in an earlier
interlocutory appeal in this matter:
Husband and Wife were married in 1980. During the marriage,
Husband worked at Inland Steel and earned a
pension which is administered by [ArcelorMittal].
On December 9, 2009, Husband filed a petition in the trial
court seeking to dissolve his marriage with Wife. The trial
court entered a provisional order on February 17, 2010. The
parties appeared in court on April 3, 2012, for what was
intended to be a final hearing. Husband appeared with
counsel, and Wife appeared pro se. The parties still
did not agree on the distribution of the marital property,
nor had the value of Husband's pension been determined.
Instead of continuing the hearing, the trial court chose to
bifurcate the proceedings and issued an order that same day
dissolving the marriage and setting a hearing on the
distribution of marital assets to be held on May 30, 2012.
On May 30, however, the parties informed the trial court that
the value of the pension had still not been determined and
that the parties' vehicles had not been sold.
Accordingly, the trial court ordered the parties to appear
for a status hearing on July 10, 2012. At this hearing, the
parties informed the trial court that the pension valuation
had been completed but that their vehicles had not yet been
sold. At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court
entered an order stating that Wife "shall be named
Alternative Payee" of Husband's pension. It also
ordered that Wife be awarded 33.5% of the monthly pension
benefits that would otherwise go to Husband. Lastly, the
court ordered Husband's counsel to file a qualified
domestic relations order ("QDRO") regarding the
pension within sixty days.
On August 31, 2012, before the QDRO was prepared or filed,
Husband died. On October 29, 2012, counsel made an appearance
on behalf of Wife. On April 11, 2013, Wife filed a motion to
substitute the Estate of Michael J. Hickey ("the
Estate") as a party to the action, which the trial court
granted. On April 16, 2013, Wife filed a motion to set aside
the previously entered decree of dissolution.
On December 17, 2013, the trial court held a hearing on
Wife's motion to set aside, at which Wife and the Estate
appeared by counsel. The trial court entered an order on May
23, 2014, granting Wife's motion and providing in
1. The Decree of Dissolution entered in this matter on April
16, 2012, is void and is set aside Nunc Pro Tunc to April 16,
2. The order is void. Indiana Code 31-15-2-14 requires that
when a divorce proceeding is bifurcated that the parties sign
a written waiver of final hearing and a statement explaining
what items are agreed upon and which items are still in
dispute. No such written agreement was filed in this matter.
The statute which allows for a bifurcated hearing in a
dissolution is in degradation [sic] of the common law and
must be strictly construed.
3. As such Jackie Cummins is now the widow of Michael Hickey
and is entitled to the marital residence, the 199[sic]
Winnebago Motor Home, the 1978 Chevrolet Corvette, the 1996
Chevrolet S-10 truck, the 1976 Honda Custom Chopper, and the
2001 PT Cruiser is Wife's as the jointly titled owner and
4. As this Court required an estate to be opened for Michael
Hickey, and Attorney David Masse agreed, without receiving a
retainer, to do so, this completes this matter. David Masse
requests attorney fees in the amount of $2, 000.00 and the
Court now orders that Jackie Cummins pay Mr. Masse's fee
in the amount of $2, 000.00.
FOUND and RECOMMENDED this 23 day of May, 2014, and entered
NUNC PRO TUNC to April 16, 2012.
The Estate did ...