Sherry L. Barrand, Appellant-Petitioner,
Gary W. Martin, Appellee-Respondent
from the Allen Superior Court The Honorable Daniel G. Heath,
Senior Judge Trial Court Cause No. 02D07-1607-JP-554
Attorney for Appellant Nicholas J. Hursh Shambaugh, Kast,
Beck & Williams, LLP Fort Wayne, Indiana
Attorney for Appellee Heidi K. Koeneman Beckman Lawson, LLP
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Sherry Barrand (Mother) filed a petition to establish child
support from Gary Martin (Father) for their child, M.S.M.
(Child). The trial court ordered Father to pay an amount to
which the parties had purportedly agreed. Father filed a
motion to correct errors because the amount he was ordered to
pay did not account for the Social Security retirement (SSR)
benefits Child was already receiving based on Father's
retirement. The trial court granted Father's motion in
part, reducing the amount of Father's child support
obligation. Mother now appeals, arguing that the trial court
erred by disregarding the parties' purported agreement
and by ordering an incorrect effective date for the child
support obligation. Finding no error, we affirm.
Mother and Father were in a relationship but not
married when Child was born in 2004. Mother was
granted sole legal custody of Child. Father acknowledged
paternity and signed a paternity affidavit. Shortly after
Child's birth, Father established an approximately $100
weekly allotment to be taken from his paycheck to provide for
Mother and Child; two years later, he increased the weekly
amount to approximately $150. In the ten years following
Child's birth, in addition to the weekly allotments,
Father paid for many things for Mother and Child, including
food, clothes, furniture, a new dryer, roofing for
Mother's home, a used car for Mother, health insurance
for Mother, medical care for Mother when she had cancer, and
Child's daycare costs.
In 2014, Mother and Father separated. That same year, Father
retired and began receiving SSR benefits. Mother then began
receiving SSR spousal and dependent child benefits.
Initially, she received $1, 151 per month; the amount later
increased to $1, 173 per month.
On July 11, 2016, Mother filed a petition to establish child
support. She then withdrew her petition without explanation.
On July 5, 2017, Mother filed another petition to establish
child support. On January 19, 2018, an initial child support
hearing took place. During the hearing, the parties
stipulated to a child support obligation from Father of $180
a week effective January 1, 2018; the parties signed a child
support obligation worksheet to that effect. The trial court
did not ask the parties to affirm their agreement on the
record, and the parties did not sign an agreement.
Also during the hearing, Mother's counsel stated that
"[t]here's also information for the Court to
consider with respect to payments during the period of time -
from the date of birth on forward, as well as Social Security
retirement benefits that were paid." Appellant's
App. Vol. II p. 11. Father's counsel stated, "so the
Court is aware, my client does have Social Security benefits
that are going to the child, at this point in time, over and
above what we've agreed." Id. at 15-16.
Toward the end of the hearing, the trial court asked,
"So then we've got a stipulation as to support going
forward; is that right?" Id. at 16.
Father's counsel replied, "From January 1st of 2018
going forward, your Honor, yes." Id.
The trial court took at face value Father's counsel's
statement about support going forward, and on February 14,
2018, the trial court issued an order requiring Father to pay
child support of $180 per week, effective January 1, 2018, to
be collected by the State. The order did not refer to the SSR
benefits. On March 5, 2018, Father filed a motion to correct
errors, which stated, in relevant part:
1. In response to an Order of the Court issued on February
14, 2018, the Respondent and Petitioner stipulated to
receiving $180 a week in child support effective January 1,
2. The intent of the parties further agreed that they would
continue receiving a Social Security derivative payment being
direct deposited to the Petitioner's bank account in the
amount of $1173.00 a month which exceeds the Respondent's
support obligation. The Respondent has made regular payments
into a joint bank account for [Child] since January 2005.
App. Vol. II p. 27. The motion did not explicitly identify an
error in the trial court's order.
On May 25, 2018, a hearing on Father's motion to correct
errors took place. Father contested the weekly child support
obligation of $180 in addition to the SSR benefits Child was
receiving because those benefits already exceeded the amount
of Father's child support obligation. Mother argued that
the parties intended for Father's weekly child support
obligation to be in addition to and separate from the SSR
On June 26, 2018, the trial court issued a new order,
granting Father's motion in part and denying his motion
in part. The trial court concluded that the parties'
purported agreement was vague and ambiguous and may have been
contrary to Indiana law regarding SSR benefits; the trial
court then concluded that it had erred in its February 14,
2018, order by not considering the SSR benefits when ordering
Father to pay child support of $180 per week. The trial court
found, in relevant part, as follows:
A. Findings of Fact
1. At the prior hearing held on January 19, 2018, the
parties, by counsel, acknowledged to the Court, in relevant
part, that they had reached agreement regarding Mr.
Martin's child support obligation.
2. The parties purportedly agreed that Mr. Martin's child
support obligation would be $180.00 per week (consistent with
Exhibit A - the parties' Child Support Obligation
Worksheet) effective January 1, 2018, forward.
3. When discussing the application of social security
benefits to Mr. Martin's child support obligation,
[Mother's counsel] posited, "there's also
information for the Court to consider with respect to
payments during the period of time - from date of birth
forward, as well as Social Security retirement
[Court's emphasis added] benefits that were paid.
4. In addition, [Father's counsel] advised "so the
Court is aware, my client does have social security benefits
that are going to the child at this point in time, over and
above what we've agreed."
6. Accordingly, the issues of arrearage support prior to
January 1, 2018, . . . remained in dispute.
7. The Order of the Court entered on February 14, 2018 for
the hearing held on January 19, 2018, did not address or
mention Mr. Martin's social security benefits received by
8. Neither the parties (at the January 19, 2018, hearing) nor
the Court (in its February 14, 2018, Order) explained why
current child support would begin on January 1, 2018, rather
that [sic] the date of filing of Ms. Barrand's pleadings.
10. Thereafter, consistent with the Court's Order entered
on February 14, 2018, the State of Indiana administratively
issued an Income Withholding Order for $180.00 withheld by
Mr. Martin's contract employer without consideration of