Author: Julie Glade

What Happens When Older Couples Divorce?

It’s a startling trend – a sharp jump in the number of “gray” divorces, that is, divorces among couples age 50 and older. Could your own marriage be in trouble? Could your savings and retirement accounts be at risk? If you are involved in a “gray” divorce, what should you know, and what must you do? Keep reading, and you’ll learn what every married person in Indiana needs to know.

It is not easy to divorce a partner of thirty or more years, but if that is your decision – or your spouse’s decision – before you take any action, consult an experienced Lake County divorce attorney. You will get honest and sound legal advice specific to your own circumstances. A good divorce lawyer will explain all of your options and protect your rights and interests throughout an Indiana divorce proceeding.

Gray divorces are different in several ways. When younger couples divorce, they still have one or two decades to pursue a career and build retirement funds. But when couples who divorce are in their 50s and 60s, their careers are winding down – or they’re over – and some people at that age are already living on Social Security payments and/or the retirement benefits they earned when they were younger.

WHAT ELSE MAKES “GRAY” DIVORCE SO CHALLENGING?

The financial aspects of a divorce can present considerable challenges for divorcing couples who are at or near retirement age. An experienced Lake County divorce attorney will consider a client’s retirement accounts, Social Security benefits, and health insurance costs, and will fight aggressively to protect that client’s rights, assets, and interests throughout an Indiana divorce proceeding.

Another difference between gray divorces and younger divorces is the role of the children. Child custody and child support, of course, are rarely part of a gray divorce. Instead, adult children sometimes try to place themselves in the middle of a divorce proceeding and demand “a say” in how the divorce is settled.

If there is any suspicion that an adult child is manipulating a parent for personal gain in a divorce, competency may become an issue for the court. It’s smart if you try not to lean on your adult children during a divorce. A friend closer to your own age – with no direct emotional or financial stake in your divorce – can listen to you with more understanding and objectivity.

WHAT HAPPENS TO RETIREMENT FUNDS IN A DIVORCE?

Every divorce divides the assets and property that a couple has acquired during the marriage. Homes, other real estate holdings, vehicles, family businesses, and all varieties of personal property are divided in the divorce procedure, but some of the largest assets a couple may have after a lengthy marriage are retirement funds and benefits that one or both partners have built up throughout the marriage.

In most Indiana divorces, pensions and retirement accounts are evenly divided, but the full value of a retirement plan or a pension is not always marital property – and thus is not always subject to division. Only the retirement funds acquired during the marriage are subject to division. An experienced Indiana divorce lawyer can see to it that the retirement funds that are rightfully yours are protected and remain yours in a divorce.

Even if you and your spouse carefully planned for the future while you were married, after a divorce, it is usually best to create a new estate plan “from scratch.” You will need to make some adjustments if you no longer want your ex to be named in your will or named as a beneficiary of any accounts or insurance policies. You should also update any and all medical care and trust documents appropriately.

WHAT ABOUT THE NON-LEGAL SIDE OF DIVORCE – THE EMOTIONAL SIDE?

If you’re over fifty, and you are divorcing, your attorney will handle the legal and financial side of the divorce, but you also must consider the emotional side. Here too, a gray divorce differs from a younger divorce.

These are some recommendations that have helped others through the transition in their 50s and 60s:

Stand up for yourself. Your finances and your plans for the future are your business and no one else’s, so do not cave in to pressure or intimidation from your ex, or even from your children.

Make new friends. Join clubs and organizations. Volunteer. Take the time to enjoy some recreational pursuits.

Why not start dating again? Even if there’s no “chemistry,” you’re still making friends, and you’re old enough to know that you can never have too many of those.

Forgive yourself. We have all made mistakes earlier in our lives, but what matters is moving forward in a positive and constructive way.

According to researchers at Bowling Green State University, the divorce rate for those age fifty and above doubled in the United States from 1990 to 2010. The “gray” divorce rate right now is about fifteen percent. In a world that views marriage quite differently from the way the world viewed it fifty years ago, some people in their 50s and 60s now want to explore more of life and the world and more of their own interests.

HOW CAN A DIVORCE LAWYER HELP WITH YOUR GRAY DIVORCE?

If you are divorcing at any age, understanding what to expect can eliminate confusion and allow you to concentrate on the issues. Before you enter a courtroom, be prepared. Have your attorney answer all of your questions. Read as much of the paperwork associated with the case as you can. You’ll have more confidence, and you’ll be able to give your divorce attorney more help as the case proceeds.

Telling the truth is imperative. Any exaggeration, misrepresentation, or deception will damage your case and your credibility in the courtroom. Prior to an Indiana divorce proceeding, the partners must complete a number of documents verifying their assets, incomes, properties, and expenses. Even if it’s painful, you must fill out these forms accurately and honestly. Your divorce lawyer will help.

Of course, every divorce is difficult, and like so much in life, when you’re older, it’s a little more difficult. If you are over fifty and you are divorcing in Indiana, you must have the advice and services of an experienced Lake County divorce attorney – someone who will fight vigorously on your behalf while guiding you through the divorce process.

Filing For Child Support In The State Of Indiana

If you are a parent considering or anticipating a divorce in Indiana, or if you were never married to your child’s other parent, will you be able to receive child support? What steps must you take? And if you are ordered to pay child support, how much will it be? Every family and every divorce is different, but keep reading, and you’ll learn the basics about receiving or paying child support in the state of Indiana.

When a divorce is finalized, or if the parents of a child or children were never married, both parents are equally obligated to support their child financially. If parents can voluntarily agree upon an amount the non-custodial parent will pay in child support to the custodial parent, an Indiana judge will usually sign off on that arrangement. Such voluntary agreements, unfortunately, are rare.

In fact, child support disputes are common both during and after a divorce as well as between parents who never married. In the state of Indiana, if you have been awarded custody of your child or children in a divorce, or if you were never married to your child’s other parent, what must you do to receive child support payments? How can you be sure that you’ll get what you need, when you need it?

TO RECEIVE CHILD SUPPORT, WHAT’S THE FIRST STEP?

To receive child support payments in Indiana, you must get a court order. If you were not married to the other parent, you will first have to establish paternity (if you have not already done so). In most cases, an experienced Lake County family law attorney can help you establish paternity and/or obtain a court order for child support. Don’t hesitate to get the legal help you need.

If you are a parent and you are divorcing or anticipating divorce, a child support order is usually part of the final divorce decree, so you will need to have an experienced Lake County divorce lawyer represent you and protect your rights from the very beginning of the divorce process. How much can you expect to receive? If you’re the non-custodial parent, what can you expect to pay?

HOW DO COURTS DETERMINE THE RIGHT CHILD SUPPORT FIGURE?

Indiana courts use standard child support guidelines to calculate a fair and appropriate child support amount. The assets, debts, and incomes of both parents are taken into account, along with expenses like health insurance and child care. The amount of time that the non-custodial parent spends with the child is also considered.

The state’s child support guidelines consider a parent’s gross weekly income as well as any in-kind income such as free meals or housing, the use of a company car, and other income that reduces a parent’s expenses. The court may also take “potential” income into account when a parent has no income but is able to earn an income.

Finally, the court may adjust the standard calculated child support amount if it believes a different amount is warranted in any individual situation. In any legal matter before an Indiana court that involves a child, that court will make its decision based on what it believes is the best interests of the child.

Only a few non-custodial parents in this state are exempted from paying child support. Indiana courts do not generally require child support payments from a parent who has been diagnosed with a mental incapacity, a parent who is serving time in a jail or prison, or a parent who is already caring for another child when that other child is disabled.

HOW ARE CHILD SUPPORT ORDERS ENFORCED?

When a parent in Indiana fails to make court-ordered child support payments, interest can be charged at 1.5 percent per month. If you are a custodial parent and you are not receiving the child support payments that you need, a Lake County family law attorney can ask the court to enforce the child support order on your behalf. In Indiana, child support enforcement may include:

– reporting the debt to a credit agency to impact negatively the parent’s credit score
– seizure of state or federal tax refunds, insurance settlements, or lottery winnings
– revoking or denying the parent’s passport
– placing a lien on the parent’s personal vehicle
– suspension of state-issued licenses including driver’s licenses, professional licenses, and fishing or hunting licenses

CAN A CHILD SUPPORT ORDER BE CHANGED?

Everyone’s circumstances eventually change over time. You – or your child’s other parent – may relocate, change jobs, be convicted of a crime, or become sick or disabled. After a divorce, many parents marry a new partner and have another child. When your situation changes, or when the other parent’s situation changes, the child support order may also need to change.

A Lake County family law attorney can help you obtain a child support order modification from the court – or if necessary, help you contest a modification request that your child’s other parent has made. If you are behind on child support payments because you’ve been unemployed, injured, or disabled, you can’t just stop making payments.

Instead, you must have the child support order modified. A Lake County family law attorney can help. Child support orders usually do not change – unless a parent requests a modification – until the child turns 19. Non-custodial parents in Indiana typically pay child support until a child turns 19, gets married, dies, starts active military duty, or is no longer under the care of a parent, foster parent, guardian, or state agency.

WHAT’S DIFFERENT WHEN THERE’S MORE THAN ONE CHILD?

When more than one child is covered by a child support order, it is vital for the parents to realize that in Indiana, a support order is not automatically modified because one child has turned age 19. At that time, a non-custodial parent will need to request a child support order modification to determine a recalculated payment figure for the remaining children.

Nothing is more important than your child. In the state of Indiana, if you are not receiving the court-ordered child support payments you need in a timely manner, if you are having trouble making those payments in a timely manner, or if you need to have your current child support order modified by the court, have an experienced Lake County family law attorney explain your rights and options and then work on your behalf.

Spousal Maintenance In Indiana

In any divorce proceeding, the most likely matters of dispute between the divorcing spouses will be child custody and child support (if the divorcing spouses are parents), the division of joint marital property and assets, and the question of alimony payments.

Spousal maintenance – commonly called “alimony” – may be awarded in an Indiana divorce, but only in the narrowest kinds of circumstances. In fact, strictly legally speaking, there is no “alimony” in the state of Indiana, but in specific divorces and in particular situations, one ex-spouse may be ordered by an Indiana court to make spousal maintenance payments to the other ex.

What kinds of divorce cases and narrow circumstances can generate a spousal maintenance order from an Indiana court? There’s no single answer to that question. Every divorce is different and every couple’s circumstances are different. If you are divorcing in this state, our experienced Lake County family law attorneys can review your case and determine if a request for spousal maintenance might be a consideration in your divorce proceeding.

IN WHAT SITUATIONS MAY SPOUSAL MAINTENANCE BE GRANTED?

An experienced Indiana divorce attorney can advocate aggressively on your behalf for – or against – a request for spousal maintenance payments. Your attorney can protect you from receiving too little in spousal maintenance or from paying too much. Generally speaking, in the state of Indiana, spousal maintenance payments will only be ordered by the court in a divorce proceeding:

Generally speaking, in the state of Indiana, spousal maintenance payments will only be ordered by the court in a divorce proceeding:

If an ex-spouse is partially or wholly unable to support himself or herself because of a mental or physical incapacity, the other ex may be ordered to make spousal maintenance payments “indefinitely,” that is, for the duration of the condition of incapacity.

If an ex-spouse must remain unemployed because he or she has legal custody of a child who requires full-time care due to a physical or mental incapacity, a judge may compel the other ex to pay spousal maintenance until those circumstances change.

If one ex-spouse lacks temporarily the ability, capacity, or resources to support himself or herself adequately, the other ex may be ordered by the court to pay “rehabilitative maintenance” for as long as three years.

Under Indiana law, rehabilitative maintenance payments are limited to a maximum duration of three years, but in the other two types of cases, payments are to be made until additional action is taken by the court. Indiana courts look at a number of factors when a spousal maintenance request is under consideration: the spouses’ educations, work experiences and skills,

Indiana courts look at a number of factors when a spousal maintenance request is under consideration: the spouses’ educations, work experiences and skills, earning abilities, and the amount of time each spouse was employed – or not employed while raising children. The projected cost of an ex-spouse’s vocational training or other vocational or educational needs may also be a consideration for the court.

HOW ARE SPOUSAL MAINTENANCE PAYMENT AMOUNTS DETERMINED?

Indiana divorce law establishes no precise guidelines or formulas regarding an appropriate figure for spousal maintenance payments. While some states are now relying on complicated formulas and even customized computer software to determine appropriate alimony or maintenance payment amounts, lawmakers in our own state have given the courts – meaning the judges – a great deal of latitude in handling spousal maintenance requests. Indiana judges must bring their own discretion and personal experience to every maintenance request determination.

Divorce is always difficult. In Gary, Hammond, and anywhere else in or near Lake County, before you make a final choice for divorce – or before you take any other legal action regarding your marriage, your family, or your children – arrange to have a frank discussion regarding your rights, options, and expectations with an experienced Lake County divorce attorney.

You will particularly need an attorney’s advice and services if you are:

– requesting a spousal maintenance order
– disputing a request for spousal maintenance
– requesting a modification to a current spousal maintenance order
– disputing a request for a modification to a current spousal maintenance order

A spousal maintenance order issued at the time of a divorce is never the final word on the matter. When the conditions and circumstances inevitably change in your own life or your ex-spouse’s life, the court may hear a request by either ex-spouse to amend the order for spousal maintenance.

The other ex-spouse may challenge that request or may file his or her own request for a different modification of the maintenance order. In either case, it’s imperative to have an experienced Lake County divorce attorney – a family law lawyer you trust – advocating on your behalf.

If divorcing spouses can agree regarding a spousal maintenance arrangement, they can save both time and money, but divorcing spouses must understand that Indiana courts will strictly enforce the terms of even a voluntary agreement. Regarding a voluntary spousal maintenance agreement, Indiana courts will assume that both sides came to the agreement freely and that both sides fully understand the agreement’s terms and conditions. In some Indiana divorces, a prenuptial or postnuptial contract may dictate the terms of a spousal maintenance arrangement.

WHAT ARE THE COURT’S PRIORITIES IN THESE CASES?

A “lump sum” spousal maintenance payment is one option that should almost always be considered by both parties. However, the voluntary nature of a spousal maintenance agreement does not prohibit either ex-spouse from requesting a modification order from the court.

Indiana courts maintain two priorities when considering a spousal maintenance request or a maintenance modification request. The overriding priority for the court – when divorcing or divorced spouses are parents – is the best interests of the child or children.

Secondly, the courts try to ensure that both divorcing spouses are treated fairly. However, that fair treatment doesn’t always happen in every divorce proceeding, and that’s why anyone who is seeking or anticipating a divorce in this state will require experienced, high-quality legal counsel. For many who are divorcing, anxieties about children, finances, and the future may be nearly overwhelming. Having the right attorney handle your divorce may relieve some of that apprehension.

Divorce, maintenance, and custody laws are particularly complex in this state, and almost every divorce has its own unique complications. Thus, whether you’re anxious about a divorce or confident and expectant, you’ll need an experienced Indiana divorce lawyer on your side, someone who handles divorces routinely, a skilled legal advocate who will protect your rights and your long-term interests while bringing your divorce to its best possible resolution.

Are There Personal Injury Caps In Indiana?

Under Indiana law, when someone acts carelessly, and as a result, someone else is injured, the victimized person is entitled to compensation and may pursue a personal injury lawsuit to obtain that compensation. If you are injured, for example, by a negligent motorist, a careless doctor, a defective consumer product, or the negligence of a property owner, you can seek compensation for the medical bills, the days lost from work, and all related costs and damages.

However, to obtain the compensation you are entitled to, in the Merrillville area and in northern Indiana, you’ll need the help of an experienced Lake County personal injury attorney. In most Indiana injury cases, the personal injury process is straightforward. The injury victim – the “plaintiff” – must demonstrate that the “defendant” behaved negligently and thus is liable for any injury or injuries to the plaintiff. If the plaintiff can prove his or her case, the defendant agrees to or is ordered by the court to reimburse the plaintiff for the injuries and damages.

In most cases, personal injury law is not about “punishing” defendants. Rather, the purpose – to the extent that’s realistically possible – is to return the plaintiff and his or her life and health to “normal” after suffering a personal injury. In a successful personal injury claim, the amount received by the plaintiff is considered reimbursement or compensation. Only in the rarest personal injury cases are “punitive” damages – aimed at punishing a defendant’s negligence – awarded to victims.

WHAT IS TYPICALLY INCLUDED IN A PERSONAL INJURY AWARD?

A personal injury settlement or verdict almost always includes complete payment for all of a plaintiff’s injury-related medical costs. If medical care must be continued into the future, the projected cost of that future care is included, and if the victim remains unable to return to work – whether permanently or temporarily – compensation is included for the victim’s lost “earning capacity” or lost future wages. Emotional suffering and pain are also sometimes compensated.

When injuries are permanently disabling, and particularly if the victim is a young person who will struggle for decades, the final amount of damages in a personal injury case may be quite sizable. Some states, therefore, have established damage “caps,” limits on the amount that a personal injury plaintiff may obtain. Indiana caps compensation for medical malpractice claims and for some wrongful death claims.

WHAT IS THE DEFINITION OF MEDICAL MALPRACTICE IN INDIANA?

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, the three leading causes of death here in the United States are heart disease, cancer – and medical malpractice. Medical malpractice is defined in law as a violation of the “reasonable standard of care” provided by most doctors, but it’s sometimes difficult for an injured person to know if he or she is a medical malpractice victim. Every malpractice case is unique, and every allegation must be thoroughly examined from the medical and legal perspectives.

Medical malpractice, however, constitutes much more than surgical errors like removing the wrong organ or limb. It can include misdiagnosis or the failure to diagnose a medical condition, prescribing the wrong medicine, or any act of carelessness by a healthcare professional that harms or injures a patient. If your health has declined because treatment was delayed due to a misdiagnosis, you may be a victim of medical malpractice.

The state of Indiana has established a damage cap for medical malpractice awards, but not for any other type of personal injury award. Since July 2017, the medical malpractice award cap in Indiana is $1.65 million. An Indiana victim of medical malpractice cannot obtain a greater amount of compensation. It doesn’t matter what the injuries and medical care actually cost in the long run.

The $1.65 million damage cap is the most a medical malpractice victim can receive for all medical bills, all income and earning capacity losses, and all pain, suffering, and emotional damages. The first $400,000 of damages is paid by the defendant (the healthcare provider), and the Indiana Patient’s Compensation Fund covers any amount above $400,000. Indiana’s medical malpractice damage cap will increase in 2019 to $1.8 million, and the first $500,000 is to be covered by the defendant.

ARE THERE CAPS FOR OTHER TYPES OF PERSONAL INJURIES IN INDIANA?

Indiana caps damage awards in some but not all cases of wrongful death. There is no cap on damages awarded to families for the wrongful death of a person under the age of 20 or a person between the age 20 and age 23 who was enrolled as a student. However, if a wrongful death victim is age 23 or older and has no dependents, that individual’s estate cannot receive over $300,000 in damages with a wrongful death claim in Indiana. No cap is imposed on wrongful death claims when those claims are filed by a surviving, dependent spouse or on behalf of a surviving minor child.

WHAT IF THE STATE OF INDIANA CAUSED SOMEONE’S INJURY?

Damages are capped at $700,000 in this state for a single individual injured at a local, county, or state government facility if the governmental entity or one or more of its employees were negligent. The liability of an Indiana state or local governmental entity is capped at $5 million for any one accident with more than one victim, so some victims may not be able to obtain even the $700,000 sum. When a stage collapse injured more than a hundred persons in 2011 at the Indiana State Fair, the state’s lawmakers authorized an additional $6 million to enhance compensation for those victims.

The reason states establish damage caps is to protect insurers, businesses, and the state itself. Damage caps, however, are not always “unfair.” They can also keep medical and insurance costs down for everyone. For example, if a doctor injures a youthful and otherwise healthy patient through an act of medical malpractice, and the jurors decide that the patient should be awarded $10 million for a lifetime of care, the insurance company has to make up for that $10 million – by charging you more for healthcare coverage.

Indiana lawmakers have changed the damage caps for medical malpractice and wrongful death cases a number of times, and they are certain to make more changes in the future. Thus, anyone who is injured by an act of negligence in Merrillville, Gary, or any other nearby area should consult immediately with an experienced Lake County personal injury attorney regarding the possibility of filing a personal injury lawsuit.

How Does Alimony Work in the State of Indiana?

Alimony, as everyone knows, is the regular payment that an ex-spouse makes to the other ex-spouse after a divorce. Alimony has recently become quite controversial. Some say that alimony should be permanent when a marriage has endured for many years.

Others would abolish alimony entirely. Under the law in Indiana, there really is no such thing as “alimony,” but in particular divorces and under specific circumstances, an ex-spouse may be awarded “spousal maintenance” payments by the court as part of an Indiana divorce.

If you are divorcing in Indiana, an experienced Lake County family law attorney can explain if and how spousal maintenance might be a factor in your own divorce case – along with handling any or all of the other aspects of your divorce. A good divorce attorney can see to it that ex-spouses receive what they should receive or that ex-spouses are not ordered to pay more than they should pay.

Spousal maintenance is awarded in an Indiana divorce for these three reasons:

If the court determines that an ex-spouse is partly or completely unable to be self-supportive due to a physical or mental incapacity, the court may order the other ex-spouse to make spousal maintenance payments for the period of the incapacity.

If one ex-spouse has custody of a child whose mental or physical incapacity requires that ex-spouse to be unemployed, the court may order the other ex-spouse to make temporary spousal maintenance payments until there is a change of circumstances.

If an Indiana court determines that an ex-spouse temporarily lacks sufficient resources to provide for his or her own needs, the court may order the other ex-spouse to make “rehabilitative maintenance” payments for up to three years when the court decides that such payments are necessary and appropriate.

HOW IS A SPOUSAL MAINTENANCE DETERMINATION MADE IN INDIANA?

In any particular divorce, when determining if spousal maintenance payments should be awarded, in precisely what amount, and for exactly what length of time, a court in the state of Indiana will consider a wide variety of factors including the spouses’ educational backgrounds, training, job skills, work experience, earnings capacities, and the length of time either spouse has worked in or been away from the job market.

If one spouse interrupted a career or an education to assume homemaking or child-rearing duties during the marriage, the court will consider that interruption. The court will also take into account the cost and the length of time that may be necessary for an ex-spouse’s further education or vocational training. And when the divorcing spouses are also parents, an Indiana court will always make the “best interests” of the children the most important consideration in any divorce proceeding.

Indiana lawmakers have granted wide discretion to the state’s judges in matters related to spousal maintenance. Unlike some states where lawmakers have imposed guidelines and formulas on the courts, in Indiana, there are no statutory guidelines that determine how much spousal maintenance should be awarded in any particular divorce. Indiana judges, therefore, must use their own experience and discretion in determining spousal maintenance awards.

FOR HOW LONG IS SPOUSAL MAINTENANCE PAID IN INDIANA?

When a judge in Indiana orders rehabilitative maintenance payments for an ex-spouse to obtain education or job training and then employment, the limit is three years. However, if an ex-spouse is physically or mentally incapacitated or is caring for a child who is physically or mentally incapacitated, the maintenance payments may continue indefinitely until the court takes further action.

When circumstances do change, either spouse may petition the court to modify the spousal maintenance order. If you are paying or receiving spousal maintenance in Indiana, and circumstances have changed in your life – or your child’s or ex-spouse’s life – so that the original spousal maintenance order is no longer workable or reasonable, have a Lake County family law attorney petition the court on your behalf for a modification of the original court order.

Although it’s a routine legal procedure – everyone’s circumstances change over time – it’s possible that your ex may dispute the need for a modification, and you must remember that any ruling the court makes in cases involving a child will always place the best interests of the child first. But whether you need to request a modification of the original spousal support order, or you are contesting a modification requested by your ex, you’ll need the advice and services of an experienced Indiana family law attorney.

CAN EXES MAKE THEIR OWN SPOUSAL MAINTENANCE ARRANGEMENT?

When divorcing spouses can reach their own agreements regarding spousal maintenance, child custody, child support, and the division of marital debts and assets, that couple will save themselves considerable time, money, and aggravation.

When ex-spouses agree on spousal maintenance, there is no need to provide evidence to the court about educations or incomes because an Indiana judge will hold both ex-spouses to the terms of their agreement and will presume that both ex-spouses understand the agreement and its ramifications.

However, when ex-spouses agree on spousal maintenance and the court “signs off” on that agreement, it does not prevent either spouse from seeking a modification of the agreement when circumstances change in the future.

The key concern regarding any spousal maintenance order is that it’s fair to both ex-spouses, and if they are parents, fair to their children as well. If you are divorcing in Indiana, the right divorce attorney will make sure that the spousal maintenance arrangement treats you fairly and justly.

If you (or your divorce attorney) expect that you will be ordered by the court to make spousal maintenance payments, the possibility of making a lump sum payment as opposed to payments over time should be considered before any hearings are scheduled or any agreements are reached. Divorce is never easy. Emotions often run high. For many people, concerns about finances, children, and the future can be almost overwhelming.

Moreover, divorce and child custody statutes are exceedingly complicated in Indiana, so you’re going to need someone who routinely handles divorce cases and someone who will advocate aggressively on your behalf. Before you enter into any divorce proceeding in this state, it is imperative to discuss your situation and your legal rights and options with an experienced Lake County family law attorney.

What Are Amended Birth Certificates?

All fifty states have established their own adoption laws and procedures. Those laws and procedures can vary significantly from one state to another. In the state of Indiana, those who are seeking to adopt a child will want to work with an adoption attorney who routinely deals with Indiana’s adoption laws and policies.

Adoption, to be precise, is the legal process where an adult individual or couple officially and legally assume the full parenting responsibilities for a child, and the child’s biological or legal parent or parents are permanently relieved of those responsibilities.

If you are seeking to adopt, you must understand that adoption is permanent. Both single individuals and married couples may adopt in Indiana, including same-sex couples. Individuals or couples in Indiana who are interested in adoption – as well as expectant mothers with their own questions about adoption – should seek legal advice directly from an experienced Lake County adoption attorney.

When a child is born in Indiana, an original birth certificate is issued. The birth certificate includes the date of birth, the time of birth, the names of the parent or parents, and sometimes additional information such as the name of the hospital where the child was born. Birth parents are given – or need to request – this original document. An “amended” birth certificate is the new birth certificate that is issued for an adopted child when an adoption is finalized. Amended birth certificates may also be issued for other reasons.

WHAT DATA IS INCLUDED ON AN AMENDED BIRTH CERTIFICATE?

An amended birth certificate can include any or all of the information on the original birth certificate, but it replaces the birth parents’ names with the names of the adoptive parents – as if they are the biological parents – and the child’s name at birth is replaced with the child’s new name if the child’s name is being changed.

The amended birth certificate is given to the adoptive parents. It is the document that adoptees will use throughout their lives to enroll in schools and to obtain drivers’ licenses, passports, and other documents. Indiana’s amended birth certificates look like the originals and do not indicate that the child has been adopted.

In Indiana, for international adoptions as well for adoptions of children born in the U.S., the parents should file the adoption papers in their local jurisdiction with the help of an adoption lawyer. The paperwork will be handled by a local court which will issue a certificate of adoption.

When the adoption is final and the certificate of adoption is issued, it will be forwarded by the court to the Indiana State Department of Health, where the certificate of adoption will be used to create an amended Indiana birth certificate.

WHAT DOES SENATE BILL 91 PROVIDE?

Information about the biological parents will be removed from the amended birth certificate, and new information regarding the adoptive parents will officially replace the original records. In 2016, Governor Mike Pence signed Senate Bill 91 into law, making Indiana the fourteenth state to give most adult adoptees access to their original birth certificate and adoption records. That law will become effective on July 1, 2018.

The current law already gives adults who were adopted in Indiana after 1994 complete access to their adoption and birth records, but those who were adopted in the state between 1941 and 1993 (Indiana’s “closed records” era) have until now been compelled to pursue a costly and burdensome process if they want to obtain their original birth certificate and adoption file information.

Indiana issues both short-form and long-form birth certificates. The short-form version is an 8.5 by 5.5-inch document that provides only the name of the child, the name of the parent or parents, the gender of the child, and the date and place of birth. The long-form version is a much more detailed birth record. In the past, the state of Indiana did not indicate the child’s gender on the short-form birth certificate, but that is no longer the case.

Adoption can be one of the most special events in a family’s life, but a successful adoption requires careful consideration of every detail at every stage of the process, which means that prospective adoptive parents should have the advice and services of an experienced Lake County adoption attorney.

Whether you are adopting a child born in the U.S. or another country, or if you want to adopt a stepchild or a child who is a relative, an Indiana adoption lawyer can address your questions and concerns, protect your family’s legal rights, guide you through the legal process, and make certain that you are pleased with the conditions and terms of the adoption.

ARE THERE OTHER REASONS FOR AMENDING BIRTH CERTIFICATES?

Adoption, of course, is not the only reason why someone may want or need to obtain an amended birth certificate in Indiana. You can change the gender on your birth certificate – or any other information on the birth certificate – by requesting and obtaining a court order with the assistance of an Indiana family law attorney.

To change the gender on your birth certificate, you must:

  • present papers that document your sex-change surgery to a court in the county where you now reside
  • request and obtain a court order that instructs the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) to change the gender designation on your birth certificate
  • send a copy of the order to the ISDH with an $18.00 fee and a copy of a photo ID with your current address

To request and obtain a legal name change in Indiana, you must submit a petition to the court with the help of an Indiana family law attorney, and you must place a notice in a newspaper for at least three weeks and at least thirty days before the hearing on your petition.

Inmates currently confined by the Indiana Department of Corrections cannot have their names changed while in custody. If you have a felony conviction in the last ten years, there will be additional requirements before your name can be changed legally and your birth certificate can be amended.

Adoptions in Indiana require a number of legal steps. In almost all Indiana adoptions, adoptive parents must file a petition for adoption, obtain consents from the biological parents if possible, participate in an extensive “home study,” and more.

To make it even more complicated, the procedures may vary from one case to another depending on the details of the adoption, so for any Indiana individual or couple seeking to adopt, the advice and services of an experienced Indiana family law attorney are essential.

An Overview of Temporary Guardianship In Indiana

When a minor child’s parent lives with and has legal responsibility over that child, the legal term is “custody,” but when anyone else has custody and legal responsibility over a child, the law calls it “guardianship.”

A guardian is someone other than a child’s parent who has legal custody of a child, the right to make all decisions regarding the child, and legal responsibility for the child. A temporary guardianship in the state of Indiana, however, makes someone a child’s guardian only for a specific reason and only for a specific length of time.

Temporary guardianship of a child in Indiana should not be confused with “testamentary” guardianship – these are two entirely different situations. A testamentary guardian is the person named in a parent’s will to be a child’s guardian if the parent or parents become deceased. A temporary guardian may be named either by the child’s parent or parents or by a court.

Temporary guardianship of a child may be established for several reasons in the state of Indiana:

Substitution: A temporary guardian’s appointment is appropriate if a parent will be unavailable to act as a parent for a short period of time. A temporary guardian’s appointment is appropriate for situations like a long hospital stay, for example, or a brief period of incarceration.

Incapacitation: A temporary guardian’s appointment is appropriate if a parent temporarily cannot care adequately for a child due to physical, mental, emotional, or economic incapacitation.

Emergency: A temporary guardian’s appointment is appropriate in emergency situations when a parent does not have the time required to name a long-term or permanent guardian. Most Indiana family lawyers understand that emergencies arise and are available to help on short notice.

HOW LONG DOES A TEMPORARY GUARDIANSHIP LAST IN INDIANA?

Temporary guardianship ends in Indiana when the reason the temporary guardianship was established ends – for example, at the end of a hospital stay or a period of incarceration. In many cases, temporary guardianships will be established by a court order, especially if the circumstances are urgent and the child or children need a guardian at once. The temporary guardian may then take responsibility for the child or children until a more long-term or permanent arrangement can be established.

How does a parent in Indiana go about arranging for a temporary guardianship? First, that parent should determine if establishing a temporary guardianship is genuinely necessary. Discussing your circumstances with an experienced family law attorney may be helpful.

If a parent shares custody with the child’s other parent, a temporary guardianship with another adult may not be needed. If a temporary guardian is genuinely needed, you must select as your child’s temporary guardian an adult whom you trust. A temporary guardian should probably be a friend of yours that your children already know well, someone they have already spent substantial time with.

WHAT SHOULD A PARENT DISCUSS WITH A TEMPORARY GUARDIAN?

Of course, when it comes to children, you can never assume anything. Directly ask the person you would like to name as a temporary guardian if he or she is available, willing, and up to the task of temporary guardianship.

If a person agrees to become your child’s or children’s temporary guardian, be sure to inform him or her regarding any medical concerns such as allergies. Make sure that both of you understand and agree on things like sleeping arrangements, the use of over-the-counter medications, and how to contact you if necessary in an emergency.

If you need a temporary guardian for your child or children for an extremely short amount of time – let’s say that you expect to be in the hospital for only three or four days – you can probably avoid having to name a temporary guardian.

You can simply let your child or children – especially older children – stay with and be supervised by someone you trust during your hospitalization. Even then, however, you should make absolutely certain that your friend can act as your child’s health care representative.

To name a friend as your child’s health care representative, you will need to complete a document or form – several are available online for downloading – that authorizes your friend to obtain necessary medical care for your child or children. The document should also include your own name, the children’s names and dates of birth, and your friend’s name.

You must sign the document, and another adult also must sign it as a witness. If possible, you should have the document notarized by an Indiana notary public. The document will then allow your friend to obtain any necessary medical care for your child or children.

You do not necessarily need to become the temporary guardian of a child who is not your own but who is residing temporarily in your home – for instance, if your own child’s friend is staying with your family for a few days or weeks. But if a child who is not your own is living in your home for any length of time, if you do not have temporary guardianship, it is imperative to have a health care document for the child.

WHAT IS AN INDIANA COURT’S TOP PRIORITY?

Whenever an Indiana legal proceeding involves a child, the court always makes the child’s best interests the leading priority. If you are asking an Indiana court to name a temporary guardian for your child or children, you should be able to show the court that naming a temporary guardian will benefit the child’s best interests.

You’ll certainly need the help that a Lake County family law attorney can provide. And everyone involved should understand fully that the temporary guardian of a child assumes all parental responsibilities and supervises the child’s education, housing, food, clothing, and medical care for the duration of the temporary guardianship.

All guardianship arrangements and agreements in Indiana typically require the assistance and guidance of a qualified family law attorney. If you need to name a temporary guardian for your own child or children in Indiana, obtain the assistance of an experienced Lake County family law attorney.

Even the simple naming of a temporary guardian may require some extensive legal paperwork. A good family law attorney can explain how the guardianship laws apply to your particular circumstances and resolve any mistakes or misunderstandings that may arise during the legal process.

Custodial Rights And The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines

Although Indiana family law safeguards the specific legal rights of both custodial and non-custodial parents in child custody disputes, and this state’s family law judges work conscientiously to protect those rights, the overriding and primary concern that guides the Indiana judges who hear child custody disputes is always going to be the best interests of the child.

If you are a non-custodial parent in the state of Indiana, even though you don’t live with your child, you have a legal right – with rare and precise exceptions – to spend time with your child. Provided there that is no evidence that you are an abusive or negligent parent, you have the right to parenting time under the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines, which are designed to ensure that children spend a healthy amount of time with both parents.

However, Indiana judges are not obligated to adhere to the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines when there is evidence of domestic violence, substance abuse, or other conditions that might place a child at risk. If the court determines that visitations may risk a child’s health or safety in any way, the court will probably order that those visitations must be supervised. The court may also order counseling or parenting classes, and unsupervised visits will not be allowed until the judge believes that the child is no longer at risk.

Sometimes, of course, problems arise regarding visitations. Kids may not always want to be with the non-custodial parent, or perhaps the custodial parent doesn’t want the visitations and tries to obstruct visits. Still, all parties must adhere to the court’s order regarding visitation. Either parent who wants the visitation order changed may seek a modification of the order by filing a motion with the help of an experienced Lake County child support lawyer.

HOW MUCH AUTHORITY DOES A CUSTODIAL PARENT HAVE?

In Indiana law, physical custody refers to the parent that the child will physically reside with. In some cases, parents may share physical custody, or one parent will have “primary” physical custody and the other has visitation rights and “parenting time.” The parent who makes the major decisions for the child – educational, religious, and healthcare decisions – has “legal” custody, although parents may share joint legal custody, or one parent may have exclusive legal custody.

How much authority a custodial parent has will depend on several factors. For example, if a custodial parent wants to relocate out-of-state with the child or children, the first thing that parent should do is review the court’s custody order, which may or may not address the issue. An Indiana judge can order a custodial parent not remove a child from the court’s jurisdiction. An Indiana judge can also decide that a parent may retain custody only if that parent remains in Indiana.

UNDER WHAT CONDITIONS MAY A CUSTODIAL PARENT RELOCATE?

If relocation is not addressed in the custody order, a custodial parent who wants to move out-of-state (or more than one hundred miles from the current county of residence) with the child or children must file a “notice of intent to move” with the court and must have a copy sent to the non-custodial parent by registered or certified mail at least ninety days prior to the intended date for relocation. If the non-custodial parent has no objection to the relocation and does not file a counter-motion to oppose the move, the custodial parent is then free to move with the child or children.

However, if the non-custodial parent wants to block the move, he or she must file a counter-motion, and the court will schedule a hearing. Both sides will be allowed to state their cases and to offer evidence and testimony. The custodial parent must prove that the move is being made for a legitimate reason and not simply to get away from the non-custodial parent. If a judge agrees, the relocation may proceed.

If, however, a judge determines that the move is not in the child’s or children’s best interests, he or she will not agree to the relocation, and the child or children will remain in Indiana. In any dispute over child support, child custody, or visitation in this state, a court will consider the following factors (and any other pertinent factors) to determine what is in the child’s best interests:

  • any evidence of domestic violence by either parent
  • the physical and mental health of the child or children and both parents
  • the child’s age and gender
  • the parents’ wishes, and particularly if the child is age 14 or older, the child’s wishes
  • the child’s relationships and interactions with parents, siblings, and any others who may significantly impact the child’s best interests
  • the physical and mental health of the child or children and both parents
  • the child’s ability to adjust to his or her home, school, and community
  • any role that has been played by any de facto custodian, that is, any non-parent who has functioned in a parental role (such as a step-parent, grandparent, or aunt or uncle)

While they must ask permission to move their children out-of-state, custodial parents otherwise have a great deal of authority in Indiana. Indiana law specifies that a custodial parent may determine how a child is raised and may oversee the child’s education, healthcare, and religious training. However, in situations where the court has ordered shared or joint custody, those decisions about raising the child must be shared or joint decisions.

CAN A CUSTODIAL PARENT REFUSE TO ALLOW VISITATIONS?

In this state, if the non-custodial parent has failed to make child support payments, a custodial parent may not refuse to allow visitations. However, the custodial parent may file a contempt of court action with the help of a Lake County child support attorney. In the most egregious cases of non-payment, the court can impose jail time on a non-custodial parent for a failure to make child support payments.

If a custodial parent violates the custody order, what recourse does a non-custodial parent have? Of course, in the extreme case of a kidnapping or disappearance, you should call the police at once. In less severe circumstances, contact an experienced Indiana family law attorney.

If you believe the other parent is preparing to flee the state with your child or children, you may ask the court to require the other parent to post a bond, and you may also ask the court for an injunction and a temporary restraining order. Always, a court’s most important consideration in any custody dispute in this state will be the best interests of the child.

How To Calculate Child Support In The State Of Indiana

Exactly what does the law say in Indiana regarding child support? It’s a legal question that is far easier to ask than to answer. The following is a basic introduction to the laws and rules regarding child support in Indiana, but if you are involved in a child support dispute – or expect to be – you will need to obtain sound legal advice from an Indiana family law attorney regarding your individual situation. In any Indiana legal case involving a child, this state places that child’s best interests above all other considerations. Indiana’s children have the legal right to the financial support of both parents.

Child support is what a non-custodial parent pays to a custodial parent to help support their child or children. The state’s child support guidelines are designed to facilitate a child’s best interests, reduce the need for litigation, and reduce conflict between custodial and non-custodial parents. Child support amounts are determined using written legal rules, guidelines, and formulas that are part of the Indiana Rules of Court. In arriving at an appropriate amount for child support in any particular case, Indiana family law judges consider factors that include but are not limited to:

  • the assets, debts, and income of both parents
  • the child’s standard of living prior to the divorce or separation
  • the child’s mental, physical, healthcare, and educational requirements

HOW IS A CHILD SUPPORT AMOUNT DETERMINED IN THIS STATE?

The state’s child support guidelines consider a parent’s gross weekly income and then arrive at an adjusted weekly income. Gross income is income from all sources including salary or wages, rental incomes, royalties, dividend payments, and Social Security or veterans’ benefits. Additional income considerations include “imputed” income such as the use of a company car, free housing or meals, and other in-kind income that reduces the parent’s expenses. Judges may also consider “potential” income when the parent has no money coming in but is capable of earning it.

When an adjusted weekly income is arrived at for both parents, a “Child Support Obligation Worksheet” is used to arrive at a precise figure for the child support payments. A very few non-custodial parents pay no child support, because Indiana lawmakers and judges do not attribute any income to a parent with mental illness, a parent who is incarcerated, or a parent who cares for another child who is disabled.

The court has the discretion to differ with the calculated child support amount if the court believes that the amount is unjust in any particular case. Parents can use the online child support “calculators” to get a general idea of the amount that may be ordered, but the figures provided by online calculators may vary greatly from what the court actually determines. At any rate, an online calculator is no substitute for the legal advice that an experienced Lake County child support attorney can offer.

HOW ARE CHILD SUPPORT PAYMENTS ENFORCED IN INDIANA?

When a non-custodial parent in Indiana does not make court-ordered child support payments in a timely manner, delinquent payments must include a 1.5 percent interest fee.

Prosecutors in this state have a number of ways to pursue delinquent parents and collect overdue child support payments, including:

  • seizing the parent’s state or federal income tax returns, insurance settlements, lottery winnings, and
  • similar types of income
  • placing a lien on the parent’s personal vehicle
  • reporting a parent’s failure to pay child support to credit agencies
  • suspending any driver’s, professional, fishing, or hunting licenses the parent may have
  • having the parent’s passport revoked

WHAT OTHER EXPENSES CAN A PARENT BE ORDERED TO PAY?

The state of Indiana’s child support laws are crafted to ensure that children have their basic expenses paid for including food, shelter, clothes, and health insurance. When an Indiana family court determines that it is in a child’s best interests, a non-custodial parent may also be required to pay for educational needs, medical or dental expenses not covered by insurance, or funeral expenses should the child die. Non-custodial parents in Indiana typically pay child support until a child marries, dies, begins active military duty, turns 19 years old, or is no longer under the care of a parent, guardian, foster parent, or state agency.

Indiana courts can also require child support past the date of the child’s 19th birthday for a child with disabilities until further order of the court. At this time, Indiana family law courts can also order child support to continue until a child’s 21st birthday if a child support order was issued before July 1, 2012 and if a request for educational child support is filed before the child’s 19th birthday.

However, a court in this state can also order the termination of child support payments at any time after the child’s 18th birthday if the child has not attended an educational institution for four successive months and the child is capable of being self-supporting.

CAN CHILD SUPPORT ORDERS BE MODIFIED?

Child support matters in Indiana are seldom permanently resolved simply because a divorce has been finalized or a child support amount has been determined. When circumstances change and a child support order needs to be modified, a Lake County family law attorney can help you request and argue for that modification. Situations that might require a child support order to be modified include but are not limited to a change of jobs or the loss of a job; illness, injury, or disability; a new child with a new partner; or a move to another jurisdiction, state, or nation.

It is critically imperative for both parents to understand that a child support order for two or more children does not automatically modify itself in the state of Indiana when one child no longer requires support because he or she has become emancipated. The paying, non-custodial parent must take the active step of requesting a formal modification to decide a new payment amount for any remaining children.

Additionally, if you are obligated to make child support payments and you lose your job or otherwise become unable to make those payments, seek the counsel of an Indiana family law attorney at once. Child support orders cannot be modified without a request by one parent or the other. A parent who does not request a modification may become legally responsible for child support which that parent may no longer able to pay.

Can I Sue If My Child Gets Injured At School?

Kids do a lot more at school than sit at desks and listen to teachers. At recess time, younger children play dodgeball, kickball, and swing on the monkey bars. Older students participate in sports like football, which can be even riskier. More than fourteen million of our children suffer injuries every year in the United States. This figure is confirmed by the North Carolina Department of Insurance and is supported by a number of other research studies.

More than a quarter of these injuries to children – over 3.5 million injuries – happen on or adjacent to school properties. A separate study conducted by the Alpert Medical School at Brown University and published in the journal Pediatrics tells us that approximately 90,000 children are treated every year in emergency rooms across the country for injuries that are the result of violence at schools.

WHEN A CHILD IS INJURED AT SCHOOL, WHAT SHOULD PARENTS DO?

When a child is injured at school – and when that injury is something more serious than a skinned knee or a light bruise – it’s natural and right for parents to ask if they have any legal recourse. In some cases in Indiana, they do. The first step for the parent of an injured child is determining who is responsible and if the injury was the result of an unpreventable accident, a preventable accident caused by someone’s negligence, or an intentional act.

An intentional injury might be the result of bullying by another student or by someone employed at the school. If a student bullies and injures another child, the parents of the bully may in some cases face liability. If school authorities were aware of the bullying and did nothing to stop it, they may share that liability. If an employee of a school intentionally harms a child, the school district itself could potentially be liable for its failure to check thoroughly the backgrounds of prospective employees or its failure to provide proper supervision or training to employees.

And if your child’s injury was an accidental rather than an intentional injury, the school district may still face liability if the accident was caused by some failure or negligence on the part of the school district or the school’s employees. Schools are responsible for providing a generally and reasonably safe environment for children, and because school districts typically handle thousands of students every school day, some kind of negligence is inevitably sometimes going to happen.

WHAT IS CONSIDERED NEGLIGENCE BY A SCHOOL DISTRICT?

In general, if a student is injured because a school has failed to adhere to accepted standards of care in providing a reasonably safe environment for students, the school may be considered negligent. A school bus crash with injuries, for example, could be caused by the bus driver’s negligence, because the driver was inadequately trained, because the bus was maintained improperly or designed negligently, or because of another driver’s negligence.

Injuries on a school playground or on an athletic field could be the result of inadequate supervision, defective playground or athletic equipment, or poor maintenance of that equipment. A school district might also be liable for food poisoning if food is improperly stored or prepared. Injuries linked to natural or man-made disasters could be the result of inadequate planning by school authorities or a failure to carry out emergency procedures in a proper and timely manner. These, of course, are only a few examples of the many ways a child can be injured at a school.

If the school where a student is injured is a private school in Indiana, parents should seek legal advice from an experienced Lake County personal injury attorney. If parents can prove that their child was injured intentionally or as a result of negligence at a private school, those parents are entitled to complete reimbursement for the child’s medical expenses and all related damages. However, if the school where a student is injured is an Indiana public school, the legal situation is somewhat more complicated.

WHY ARE PUBLIC SCHOOLS IMMUNE FROM SOME KINDS OF LAWSUITS?

A public school district is a governmental entity, and governmental entities usually have legal immunity from negligence lawsuits. In many cases, schools and their employees cannot be held liable for a student’s injuries, even when the negligence is undeniable. A school district’s immunity from negligence lawsuits may seem unfair, especially when a child has been harmed, but think of it this way. Without legal immunity, athletic programs, chemistry labs, and shop class would be too risky for the schools to offer.

And if a child is injured at school, immunity applies only to the school district and school district employees. Indiana public schools are not immune to personal injury lawsuits that are the result of the negligence of a school’s volunteers, contractors, and any other non-employees. Indiana public schools, in fact, have a legal obligation to offer reasonable protection to their students from any negligent actions that may be committed on a school’s premises by non-employees.

Moreover, the legal immunity enjoyed by governmental agencies and entities, including Indiana school districts, is limited in this state. The law in Indiana specifically addresses negligence claims against public employees and governmental entities, and Indiana law, in fact, specifies the types of incidents where immunity can be waived and parents may proceed with a personal injury claim. Product liability claims can be filed against the manufacturers of defective or dangerous playground and athletic equipment, lab equipment, school buses, and bus parts.

Under Indiana law, the total liability of governmental entities and employees for any single negligence claim cannot exceed $700,000 for a personal injury or $5 million for a wrongful death. Indiana school districts have an ethical and legal obligation to maintain classrooms, hallways, playgrounds, athletic fields, and school buses for safety, and to check comprehensively and completely the backgrounds of teachers and other prospective employees before hiring.

If a child is injured intentionally or through an act of negligence at a public school in Indiana, parents should immediately seek the counsel of an experienced Lake County personal injury attorney to determine whether or not immunity applies or if liability can be assigned to a party other than the school district. Indiana’s children are precious, and they deserve to be our most important priority.