Court of Appeals: Grandfather Cannot File Paternity Action

When S.A.M. was born, M.M. (“Father”) signed a paternity affidavit and became S.A.M.’s legal father. Over time, suspicion arose that another man, B.H., was S.A.M.’s biological father. However, B.H. died before paternity tests were conducted. Thereafter, B.H.’s father, M.H., filed a paternity action to
determine whether S.A.M. was the biological child of B.H. During that proceeding, Father entered into a mediation agreement (“Mediation
Agreement”) with M.H. Father later asked the trial court to declare that Agreement void ab initio, but the trial court denied his motion. Father now appeals that denial, raising the following restated issues:
(1) Whether the trial court erred when it concluded M.H. had standing as S.A.M.’s next friend to file a petition to establish B.H.’s paternity of S.A.M.;
(2) Whether the trial court abused its discretion in denying Father’s request to declare void the Mediation Agreement;
(3) Whether the trial court abused its discretion in denying Father’s request for attorney fees.

We reverse and remand.

Read the whole opinion.

Randall Parr is an Indianapolis family law attorney.  Contact him today.

Trial Court Must Make Proper Findings to Support Termination of Parental Rights

A.O. (“Mother”) and H.W. (“Father”) (collectively “the Parents”) appeal the order of the Bartholomew Superior Court terminating their parental rights to their minor child R.W. Concluding that the trial court’s order is insufficiently specific as to the basis of the trial court’s decision to terminate the Parents’ parental rights, we remand for the entry of proper findings and conclusions that
support the trial court’s termination decision.

Facts and Procedural History

R.W. was born in October 2014 to Mother and Father. In April 2015, the Indiana Department of Child Services (“DCS”) received a report that Mother and Father were homeless and using illicit drugs. Mother, who was living in a homeless shelter at the time, admitted to using marijuana and methamphetamine. As a result, DCS removed R.W. from the Parents’ care and, on April 9, 2015, filed a petition alleging that R.W. was a child in need of services (“CHINS”). A detention hearing was held that same day, and the trial court approved placement of R.W. with Mother’s aunt (“Aunt”). The Parents denied the allegations in the CHINS petition, and the trial court set the matter for a fact-finding hearing. However, at the May 26, 2015 fact-finding hearing, the Parents admitted to the allegations, and the trial court adjudicated R.W. to be a CHINS.

Randall Parr is an Indianapolis attorney who handles CHINS and juvenile criminal defense matters.  Contact him today.

Find the entire opinion here.

Court Lacks Authority to Make Divorced Mother Co-owner of 529 Accounts

While David Miller (“Father”) and Joy Brown (“Mother”) were married, Father opened two college savings accounts in his name, designating the couple’s two sons as the beneficiaries. After the couple divorced, Father continued making contributions to those two accounts, and Mother opened two additional accounts in her own name with the boys as the beneficiaries. The older son enrolled in college but eventually withdrew.

At issue in this case is the trial court’s order requiring Father and Mother to, among other things, combine all the savings accounts into a single, jointly owned account for the benefit of the younger son. Father appeals. He says he has no objection to paying his share of his son’s college expenses but argues that the funds in the accounts he opened are his property and that the trial court lacked authority to make Mother a co-owner. We agree with Father, reverse the order in its entirety, and remand for further proceedings.

Father and Mother married in 1986 and had two sons: Z.M., born in May 1995, and N.M., born in December 1997. During the marriage, Father opened two “529 accounts”—the tax-advantaged college savings accounts authorized by 26 U.S.C. § 529. Father designated Z.M. as the beneficiary of one of the accounts and N.M. as the beneficiary of the other.

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7th Circuit Reverses Convictions on Double Jeopardy Grounds

Before RIPPLE, ROVNER, and SYKES, Circuit Judges.

SYKES, Circuit Judge. For nearly a decade, John Gries and James McCullars were active participants in a private online chat room frequented by pedophiles sharing large volumes of child pornography. They were indicted for conspiracy to distribute child pornography, conspiracy to sexually exploit a child, and engaging in a child-exploitation enterprise. Other users of the chat room cooperated with investigators, pleaded guilty, and received sentencing consideration. The charges against Gries and McCullars proceeded to trial; several cooperators testified against them.

To convict Gries and McCullars of the enterprise offense, the government had to prove that they committed three or more crimes against children “in concert” with three or more persons. 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(g)(2). The jury found them guilty on all charges.
At sentencing the parties and the judge overlooked an important point: The conspiracy counts are lesser-included offenses of the enterprise count. Instead of merging those convictions with the enterprise conviction and imposing sentence on the greater offense alone, the judge imposed concurrent sentences on all three convictions. That error violates the Double Jeopardy Clause. Rutledge v. United States, 517 U.S. 292, 307 (1996).

We reverse and remand with instructions to vacate the sentences on the conspiracy counts and enter new judgments accordingly . . . .

Read the whole opinion.

Randall Parr is a criminal defense attorney in Indianapolis and has practiced since 1981.

Probation For Drug Convictions Revoked

Parke v. State
We affirm.
Facts and Procedural History
In July 2011, Parke pleaded guilty to Class B felony burglary, Class D felony theft, Class C felony forgery, and two counts of Class D felony fraud, pursuant to a plea agreement that capped her executed sentence at ten years and required her “to be evaluated for the Madison County Drug Court [(“Drug Court”)] program.” Appellant’s App. Vol. II at 5. The trial court sentenced Parke to an aggregate sentence of fifteen years, with six years executed on home detention and nine years suspended to probation. In November 2011, Parke was accepted into and agreed to comply with the rules of the Drug Court program. As part of that agreement, Parke acknowledged that the trial court would revisit her sentence if she did not complete the program. Id. at 54. On September 27, 2012, the Drug Court filed a request that Parke be terminated from the program, which the trial court denied. In December 2012, when Parke again failed to appear in Drug Court, the trial court administratively terminated Parke from the program, finding that her thirty-day absence from Drug Court constituted a voluntary withdrawal from the program. Id. at 10. The trial court held a sanctions hearing, and, on January 28, 2013, the trial court ordered Parke to complete her sentence with DOC. Id. at 64, 65.

No Unjust Enrichment in Jail Contract Dispute

-Defendant Dearborn County, Indiana (“the County”), for certain architectural services connected to a project to renovate and expand the Dearborn County Jail (“the Project”). The Contract provided that RQAW would complete a Pre-Design Study, which
would evaluate how to best meet the County’s then-current and future needs. In relation to the Pre-Design Study, the parties agreed that the County would pay RQAW the sum of $90,000. The Contract further indicated that any further work and the cost for such work would be determined at a later time.  RQAW completed the Pre-Design Study and the County paid RQAW the
agreed-upon $90,000.
After completion of the Pre-Design Study, the County decided to seek proposals from a number of architectural firms in connection to the design, bidding, and construction phases of the Project. Although RQAW submitted a proposal for this work, the County ultimately decided to move forward on the Project with a different architectural firm.

RQAW subsequently filed suit, alleging that the County had breached its contract with RQAW. RQAW also alleged that it was entitled to recover damages under the equitable theory of unjust enrichment. As to RQAW’s breach of contract claim, the parties filed competing motions for summary judgment. As to RQAW’s equitable claim, the County filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings. Following a hearing, the trial court granted the County’s motion for summary judgment, denied RQAW’s motion for summary judgment, and granted the County’s motion for judgment on the pleadings.

RQAW challenges these rulings on appeal. We affirm.
To read the full opinion, click here.
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Wrongful Death Proceeds Distributed Based on Wrongful Death Statute; Not Assets of Estate

Donnie Wayne Winningham, Kelly Annette Winningham, and Kristy Milburn v. The Supervised Estate of Keri L. Winningham and Interested Party of Leigh Ann Schattner

Donnie Winningham, Kelly Winningham, and Kristy Milburn (collectively, the Appellants) bring this interlocutory appeal of the trial court’s order that the proceeds from two wrongful death claims be distributed to the beneficiaries designated under the Adult Wrongful Death Act, rather than the beneficiaries designated under the intestate succession statute. We affirm and remand for further proceedings.

The Appellants are the half-siblings of Keri Winningham. On September 27, 2014, Winningham was walking in Anderson when she was struck by a vehicle driven by one person and then run over by a vehicle driven by another person; she died as a result. At the time of her death, Winningham was a twenty-six- year-old unmarried adult who did not have a will.

Lori Rumreich, Winningham’s aunt, opened a supervised estate for Winningham and was appointed personal representative. As personal representative, Rumreich brought wrongful death claims against two insurance companies. Both companies agreed to settle the claims.

In her petition to open the estate, Rumreich listed the proceeds from the wrongful death claims as assets of the probate estate subject to distribution to the intestate beneficiaries. Sometime after receiving the trial court’s authorization to distribute those proceeds through intestate succession, but before the distribution actually took place, Rumreich became aware of the possibility that the proceeds were not assets of the probate estate and should not have been included in the assets to be distributed through intestate succession. . . .

Read the full opinion here.

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Appeals Court Affirms Order Modifying Child Support Based on Emancipation and Voluntary Underemployment

L.T. (Mother) appeals the trial court’s modification of the child support order between her and E.T. (Father). She argues that the trial court committed procedural errors when it (1) conducted summary proceedings and (2) adopted Father’s proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law. She also argues that the trial court erred when it (1) considered Father’s motion to modify child
support; (2) considered her potential income; (3) treated Father as the custodial parent and ordered both parties to share the controlled expenses equally; (4) did not prorate the weekly health insurance premium paid for by Father; (5) calculated one child’s “weeks at home”; and (6) transferred control of the 529 Plans to Father. Finding no error, we affirm.


Father and Mother married on May 6, 1995. Two children were born of their marriage: H.T., born on August 9, 1997, and S.T., born on September 24, 1999. On December 6, 2002, Mother filed a petition for dissolution of marriage.  In 2004, the trial court granted the parties joint legal custody of their children and granted Mother physical custody. The trial court ordered Father to pay child support of $429 per week.

On April 26, 2006, following a motion to modify child custody filed by Father, the trial court modified child custody, granting sole legal custody to Father and ordering the parties to share equal parenting time. The trial court granted Father parenting time credit and modified his child support payments to $387 Court of Appeals of Indiana | Memorandum Decision 44A03-1703-DR-485 | August 24, 2017 Page 3 of 24 per week. In its order, the trial court noted that “both parties previously delegated their parental authority, in loco parentis” to “The Panel.” 1 Appellant’s App. Vol. II p. 92. The trial court found the following regarding the panel and guardian ad litem: . . .

For the full text of the opinion, please click the link below:

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Constitutional Right To Speedy Trial Not Violated

Facts and Procedural History
Johnson lived with his mother in a house belonging to the Anderson Housing Authority until they moved out sometime
in April or early May of 2012. On May 21, 2012, Johnson threw a brick through the kitchen window of the house.
He then lit pieces of paper on fire and threw them through the window. Two Anderson Housing Authority employees, Nathan Ballinger and Willie Beasley , were inside the house at the time. Johnson told them to “get the f*** out.” Transcript, Volume I at 235. William Hofer, another Anderson Housing Authority employee, tried to enter the house to extinguish the fire, but Johnson
blocked him. Johnson then sat in a nearby lot until the police and fire departments arrived a short time later. Ballinger, Beasley, and Hofer provided statements to the officers and Johnson was arrested at the scene. The Anderson Housing Authority spent $5,300.41 repairing the house . . .
If you have questions about a possible violation of your Constitutional rights, contact Indianapolis attorney Randall Parr immediately.

Juvenile Defendant’s True Findings Affirmed, Reversed

I. Whether the court erred in denying B.T.E.’s motion to dismiss based upon Ind. Code § 31-37-11-2; and
II. Whether the evidence is sufficient to support the juvenile court’s true findings that B.T.E. committed the delinquent acts which, if committed by an adult, would constitute attempted aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery as level 3 felonies . . .
Indianapolis juvenile defense attorney Randall Parr defends juveniles accused of crimes, in addition to defending families against Department of Child Services (DCS) and Child Protective Services (CPS) allegations, including CHINS and Termination of Parental Rights proceedings.  Speak with him immediately to protect your rights.