Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Case Law Development: Use of Body Attachment Unconstitutional in Actions to Enforce Past Due Child Support if No Continuing Support Obligation Exists.
The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a trial court's order of body attachment in a child support enforcement action. The case involved a father who was five years in arrears in child support and had resisted prior court efforts to compel his payments. Indiana statutes provide that a court may use body attachment pursuant to its contempt power in order to compel payment of child support. However the Indiana Supreme Court had held that, when a child was emancipated, there was no justification for using this tool merely to enforce an arrearage and to do so would violate the state constitution's prohibitions of imprisonment for debt. Here, the child in question had been adopted by stepfather, thus cutting off Father's future child support obligations. Thus, the court holds that, here too, the justification for using body attachment as a contempt tool to enforce the obligation to pay past due child support would be unconstitutional. The court did not appear to be suggesting that body attachment would be unconstitutional in all cases of child support enforcement, but only in those instances in which there is no longer a continuing duty of support and the enforcement action is for past due amounts only.
Foley v. Mannor, 2006 Ind. App. LEXIS 468 (March 17, 2006)
Opinion on the web (last visited March 21, 2006 bgf)