Pennington v. Pennington: The Importance of Showing Up to Divorce Court

Indiana divorce attorneys know that the whole process of separation and divorce is emotionally draining. Some days, it can seem a lot easier to just to check out – and not show up to court. court.jpg

Pennington v. Pennington illustrates why this is not a good idea in an Highland divorce case.

This was a situation out of Georgia – and divorce laws vary a great deal from state to state – but the basic principles of this case are still relevant.

The couple were divorced pursuant to a final judgment, which was granted after the wife failed to show up to court for a final hearing regarding child custody. The wife appealed the custody order that was ultimately handed down, but the higher court upheld the original decision, finding no error.

In this case, the couple had been married for 13 years. After that time, the wife filed for divorce, saying that the union was irretrievably broken. The husband also filed for a divorce.

A status conference on the case was held in November of 2010, in which the court indicated it would hold a jury trial sometime the following month. It also underscored to both sides that the Friday prior to the Monday of jury selection for the trial, there would be a final hearing to determine child custody. This is standard practice in Georgia. The day after that status conference, notice was mailed to both sides that the jury trial would be held on December 13. There was also a notice sent to both parties that the final child custody hearing would be held December 10.

On December 9, the husband and wife met outside of court to discuss the custody agreement. However, the wife reportedly refused to sign it.

The following morning – the day of the hearing – the husband reportedly discovered a note on his car windshield that was apparently signed by the wife that said something to the effect that she wanted to agree to the settlement.

However, she chose not to go to court that morning. She didn’t call the court to tell them she wouldn’t be there. And the court couldn’t accept the handwritten note as proof that she had signed off on the agreed settlement.

Without her in the courtroom that day, the judge said he had no choice to but to disregard her pleadings from the docket, which meant he then entered a judgment in favor of the husband, awarding him sole custody of the children.

Now, this would be a crushing blow to anyone. But it didn’t have to happen.

The wife tried to argue subsequently that the court was trying to punish her for not showing up by taking her children and her property. While this may certainly seem like a harsh move, it was not outside the bounds of the law, as the appellate court later decided.

Specifically, the wife was in a vulnerable place and failed to cooperate with the system. Having a qualified divorce attorney at every step of the proceeding is critical to ensuring your interests – and those of your children – are protected.

It is also equally important to make sure that you show up for every court date which you are compelled to attend.

Highland Family Law Attorney Burton A. Padove handles divorce matters throughout northern Indiana, including Gary, Hammond and Calumet City. Call Toll Free 877-446-5294.

Additional Resources:
Pennington v. Pennington, Justia Docket

More Blog Entries:
Highland Child Support Attorneys Handle Modification Orders after New Age 19 Cutoff, April 10, 2012, Indiana Divorce Lawyer Blog