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Trial Court within Its Discretion to Modify Custody to Father After Mother’s Alcohol-Related Crimes

Ellenburg v. Kropp (September 17, 2021) (Child Custody Case)

By Michael R. Kohlhaas, Cross Glazier Reed Burroughs

HELD: Trial court acted within its discretion when it modified custody to sole legal and primary physical custody to Father following Mother’s alcohol-related criminal incidents. FACTS & PROCEDURAL HISTORY: Mother and Father shared joint legal custody of their two children, ages 14 and 11, with Mother providing the primary residence for the children, subject to Father’s “IPTG+” parenting time schedule. In 2020, Mother was involved in separate alcohol-related criminal incidents (public intoxication and DUI), following which Father filed a petition for modification of custody, parenting time, and child support. Father alleged Mother’s alcohol issues to be a substantial change in circumstances. Following a hearing, the trial court granted sole legal custody and primary physical custody of the children to Father. Mother appealed. The Court of Appeals was unpersuaded by Mother’s primary argument, which was that her legal problems did not constitute a substantial change because none of them directly affected the children. Mother did not contest any of the trial court’s findings, which summarized Mother’s alcohol-related legal problems, but also that made findings as to Mother’s cohabitation with a repeat criminal offender, and Father’s comparatively stable home life with his current wife. The Court also rejected Mother’s argument that the somewhat vague request in Father’s original petition to modify—asking that the trial court “make a modification of current custody”—was insufficient to place the issue of legal custody, as opposed to physical custody, before the trial court. The trial court’s order was affirmed. _______________________________________________________

James A. Reed and Michael R. Kohlhaas represent clients in a wide spectrum of relationship transition and wealth planning matters, including premarital agreements, estate planning, cohabitation, separation, divorce (especially involving high net worth individuals and/or complex asset issues), custody, parenting arrangements, adoption, and domestic partnerships. Cross Glazier Reed Burroughs, PC, is the premiere boutique family law firm in the state of Indiana. Visit the firm’s website at

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