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In re The Paternity of K.H.

Court of Appeals of Indiana

December 13, 2018

In Re: The Paternity of K.H., Rebekah Harris (Mother), Appellant-Respondent,
v.
Jon Cochran (Father), Appellee-Petitioner.

          Appeal from the Kosciusko Superior Court The Honorable David C. Cates, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 43D01-1712-JP-478

          Attorney for Appellant Jarvis E. Newman, III Wigent & Newman Ligonier, Indiana Helen L. Newman Birch Kaufman, LLC Syracuse, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellee John M. Haecker Squiller & Hamilton, LLP Auburn, Indiana

          Riley, Judge.

         STATEMENT OF THE CASE

         [¶1] Appellant-Respondent/Cross-Appellee, Rebekah Harris (Mother), appeals from the trial court's paternity judgment and custody order in favor of Appellee-Petitioner/Cross-Appellant, Jon Cochran (Father). Father cross-appeals the trial court's denial of his petition to change the surname of the minor child (Child) to his own.

         [¶2] We affirm. ISSUES

         [¶3] Mother presents four issues on appeal, which we restate as:

(1) Whether the trial court properly denied Mother's motion to dismiss Father for lack of standing;
(2) Whether the trial court's paternity determination was supported by the evidence;
(3) Whether the trial court properly took judicial notice of the records from a child in need of services (CHINS) proceeding involving Child; and
(4) Whether the trial court acted within its discretion when it admitted evidence of a personality inventory taken by Mother.

         [¶4] In addition, Father presents one issue on cross-appeal, which we restate as: Whether the trial court's denial of Father's motion to change Child's surname to his own was clearly erroneous.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         [¶5] Mother gave birth to Child in September of 2014. On May 19, 2017, the State filed a petition alleging that Child was a CHINS due to the fact that Mother had been pulled over for a traffic infraction and was found to have been driving with Child and a variety of illegal drugs in the car. Mother was arrested for possession of methamphetamine, among other charges. During the pendency of the CHINS proceeding, Mother identified Father as Child's father, and Father learned for the first time of Child's existence. On October 27, 2017, Father filed a petition in Noble County to establish paternity of Child. On December 8, 2017, the paternity case was removed to Kosciusko County where, on February 8, 2018, Father filed an amended petition to establish paternity, custody, parenting time, child support, and name change, all as Child's next friend.[1] Child was ultimately placed with Father during the CHINS proceedings.

         [¶6] As part of the CHINS action, at the request of the Department of Child Services (DCS), on March 6, 2018, Mother underwent a psychological evaluation at the Bowen Center in Warsaw, Indiana. Jessicah Walker, M.A., Pre-Doctoral Intern (Walker), conducted the evaluation which was based on a clinical interview regarding Mother's medical, mental health, family, social, educational, employment, legal, and substance abuse histories. Mother also submitted to three diagnostic surveys, including the MMPI-2-RF (MMPI), which "is a widely used and accepted adult personality inventory that is frequently used as an assessment of psychological health and psychopathology." (Exhibit 2 Vol. III, p. 4). Although she cautioned that Mother's results on the MMPI may not be accurate due to over-reporting, Walker indicated in her report that the MMPI indicated that Mother had a variety of pathologies that were "generally congruent with [Mother's] report although the findings present an even more severe picture of [Mother's] emotional cognitive, and interpersonal functioning than she reported." (Exh. 2 Vol. III, p. 5). Apart from the MMPI results, Walker also concluded that, "[d]iagnostically," Mother met the criteria for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder; Severe Cannabis Use Disorder; Severe Amphetamine-Type Substance Use Disorder; Moderate Sedative, Hypnotic, or Anxiolytic Use Disorder; and Moderate Cocaine Use Disorder. (Exh. 2 Vol. III, p. 6).

         [¶7] On May 1, 2018, the trial court conducted an evidentiary hearing on Father's petition. Mother provided the following testimony:

Counsel: Ma'am, you are the mother of [Child], correct?
Mother: Correct.
Counsel: Jon Cochran is the father of [Child], correct?
Mother: Correct.
Counsel: And you named him as the father as part of the CHINS case, correct?
Mother: That is correct to the best of my knowledge he is the father.
Counsel: And you did so because you had sexual intercourse with him in a time frame that was consistent with him being the father, correct?
Mother: Correct.
Counsel: You did not name any other individuals as a potential father, correct?
Mother: That is correct.
Counsel: And you've never challenged any finding that he is the father, you've never claimed that anyone else is the father, correct?
Mother: Correct.

(Transcript Vol. II, pp. ...


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