Family Law

The Differences Between Conservatorships And Guardianships

When we think of someone becoming another person’s “guardian,” we usually think of an adult who is standing in for a child’s parents. But as our population ages in Indiana and across the U.S., more families are seeking the help of a divorce lawyer to assist with guardianships for their elderly relatives and loved ones.

Adult guardianships and conservatorships are two different types of responsibility and control over the affairs of adults who are no longer able to care for their own needs or make their own financial or medical decisions.

HOW ARE GUARDIANSHIPS AND CONSERVATORSHIPS DEFINED?

We’re all going to get older – and so are the people we love – so keep reading, because it’s smart for everyone to understand:

1. the difference between adult guardianships and conservatorships in Indiana
2. how adult guardianships and conservatorships help those in Indiana who can no longer manage their affairs

Defined simply, a conservator helps an adult make financial decisions, while a guardian takes control of the adult’s healthcare decisions to ensure that the adult receives necessary medications and medical treatment.

A conservator’s role, then, is primarily financial, while an adult guardian’s role is primarily health-related.

WHAT ARE THE QUESTIONS A FAMILY WILL NEED ANSWERED?

Guardianship and conservatorship proceedings may become quite complicated in this state, but when someone in your family – especially an elderly family member – gets sick or becomes incapacitated, guardianship and conservatorship are options that you’ll need to understand.

If someone in your family needs assistance with financial and/or medical decisions, a Lake County family law attorney can explain how adult guardianships and conservatorships work and answer these key questions:

1. Does my family need adult guardianship?
2. Are there alternatives to guardianship? What are the other options?
3. How can a guardianship attorney help?

If you want to assume legal responsibility for someone you love who needs your help, an experienced family lawyer can provide the invaluable insights and the sound legal advice that you’ll need.

WHO WILL A COURT NAME AS A GUARDIAN OR AS A CONSERVATOR?

The court’s first choice is ideally an immediate family member, a spouse or a domestic partner, a parent, or an adult child. If no immediate family member is available or suitable for the task, the court will consider other relatives or friends.

If no family member or friend is available to serve as a guardian or conservator, an Indiana court may appoint an attorney who regularly handles guardianship and conservatorship matters.

WHO MAY REQUIRE AN ADULT GUARDIAN?

Adults who may require guardians are unable to make decisions, communicate their decisions, or manage their own affairs. While this usually means elderly adults, it could also mean any adult with developmental disabilities or anyone who has suffered a severe traumatic brain injury.

When a guardianship is required for an incompetent or an incapacitated adult, the adult who is given a guardian is legally referred to as a “ward.”

A relative or a close friend will need to petition the court for adult guardianship. You’ll need a family law attorney’s help. An Indiana judge may appoint a guardian when an adult is comatose, incapacitated, or has dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other psychological or mental impairments.

HOW DOES A CONSERVATOR DIFFER FROM A GUARDIAN?

A conservator is also appointed by a judge, and you will also need to petition the court for a conservatorship.

Usually, rather than dealing with medical matters, a conservator instead takes charge of an incapacitated or incompetent estate owner’s financial decisions. A conservator may manage:

1. estate investments
2. payment and collection of bills and debts
3. revenue from cash flows into the estate

A conservator may also manage or monitor a business, partnership, or trust.

HOW CAN YOU TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR OWN FUTURE?

If you eventually become incompetent or incapacitated, and if you have not made arrangements in advance, you might end up not having any say regarding who the court appoints as your guardian.

Someone that you may not want as a guardian could be appointed, and in many families, a dispute arises when a guardian or a conservator is needed.

But a guardianship dispute will not be necessary – and the wrong person will not be appointed as your guardian – if you take the right measures now.

You have a number of legal options, and you can ensure that your wishes will be carried out, but to do so, you must plan ahead.

HOW CAN A FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY HELP YOU?

When you create a durable power of attorney, advanced directives, or a living trust with an attorney’s help, you are planning for incapacity and ensuring that your wishes will be honored.

Many family lawyers in Indiana can prepare these documents for you and explain the particulars and the details.

If you already have any of these documents prepared, it cannot hurt to have a skilled family lawyer review the documents to ensure that they are enforceable and that your intentions will, in fact, be carried out.

WHAT DO GUARDIANSHIPS AND CONSERVATORSHIPS REQUIRE?

If you need to become a guardian or a conservator to someone you love here in Indiana, there are a number of legal technicalities that you will need to understand and some requirements that you will need to meet.

You will need a physician’s statement which describes the diagnosis and functional limitations of the person requiring guardianship. The court may temporarily name a guardian ad litem, who will act as an advocate for the incapacitated person during the proceedings.

The court will then conduct a guardianship hearing and make a determination based on the evidence and the merits of the claim. In most cases, this process is undisputed, routine, and relatively straightforward.

WHO CAN OFFER THE LEGAL HELP THAT YOU’LL NEED?

You must have the guidance of a reliable and reputable family lawyer who has guardianship and conservatorship experience and knows what is required in guardianship and conservatorship procedures.

Arrange at once to meet with a family law attorney if you need help:

1. becoming a guardian or conservator
2. fulfilling your duties as a guardian or conservator
3. creating a power of attorney, advanced directives, or a living trust

CAN THE SAME PERSON SERVE IN BOTH CAPACITIES?

If an Indiana court believes such action is appropriate, it can name both a conservator and a guardian for an incapacitated or incompetent adult. The same person can be someone’s guardian and conservator, but the court may also appoint two different persons to serve in the two roles.

Here in Indiana, if a guardian will be required to handle more than $24,000 annually on behalf of a ward, then a judge will usually appoint a conservator to oversee the ward’s financial affairs.

Nothing is more important than your own future and the futures of those you love. If you need legal help to establish a guardianship or conservatorship in Indiana, or if you have more questions, contact a reputable family lawyer at once – and get the answers you need.

Making Travel Arrangements With The Children Post-Divorce

When the parents of minor children divorce, it’s important for a number of reasons to establish a precise schedule for vacation and travel plans.

As divorce lawyers in Indiana, we know that holiday and vacation schedules are usually dealt with in a comprehensive parenting plan which becomes the foundation for co-parenting after a divorce.

Here are some of the questions that your own parenting plan should answer:

1. Who may the child travel with?
2. Will an ex-spouse’s new “significant other” be included in vacation or travel plans?
3. Which parent will pay for the child’s travel gear and transportation?
4. Will days be missed from school?
5. How will the parents communicate during travel and vacation times?
6. Are there any conditions or reasons (such as health reasons) that limit a child’s travel?

Answering these questions as the parenting plan is written creates certainty and stability for the child while helping the parents avoid disputes or misunderstandings in the future.

WHAT SHOULD GO INTO A SUCCESSFUL PARENTING PLAN?

When the parenting plan is written, each parent should express his or her thoughts, concerns, and preferences regarding travel and vacations and how their “co-parenting” should work.

Even when divorced parents communicate well and remain on good terms, it’s smart to look at a school calendar and create a tentative vacation and travel plan – a year at a time – so that parents and children both know what to expect.

Children and parents deserve assurance that they will have quality time with each other on a regular basis and especially during vacations and holidays.

Downloadable worksheets and even parenting software programs are available to help divorced parents easily create a travel and visitation schedule.

HOW SHOULD PARENTS DEAL WITH VACATION AND TRAVEL PLANS?

Parents should begin to create a parenting plan by clearly indicating to one another their first choices or preferences of dates or time frames for visitations and for travel with the children. Those preferences may change later, but this is the place to start.

Although these preferences may change over time, discussing them can be a good starting point for developing a practical and successful co-parenting plan.

Perhaps the first thing divorcing parents need to decide on a parenting plan is how their future parenting decisions will be made. This includes how vacation and travel dates get chosen along with all of the logistics and planning.

Parents may require written notification from each other of travel arrangements and of changes-of-plan by email or text so that there is documentation.

WHAT ARRANGEMENTS MUST BE MADE BEFORE TRAVEL WITH CHILDREN?

For any particular travel or vacation, a basic itinerary should be exchanged and should include departure dates, the method of travel (including flight numbers or other tracking information), lodging details, and a list of the scheduled activities.

Parents may choose to have the children call the non-traveling parent when the plane lands, upon arriving at the lodging location, or when returning from particular activities.

Making this type of arrangement can keep the non-traveling parent “in the loop” and ease some of the anxieties that parent may have.

WHY ARE MORE CHILDREN TRAVELING INTERNATIONALLY WITH PARENTS?

Smartphones, jet travel, and the internet have made international marriages far more common in the 21st century, so international divorces are also now common.

International travel for children after a divorce, as you might imagine, is more complicated – and typically triggers more anxiety – than travel within the U.S.

Here are some suggestions for a non-traveling parent that may help reduce the anxiety of having your child travel internationally:

1. Passports: Parenting agreements may specify which parent will keep a child’s passport or will be responsible for acquiring it.

2. Safety concerns: If there is any question at all regarding the safety of a particular international destination, check with the U.S. Department of State to see if any alerts or warnings have been issued.

3. International activities: A non-traveling parent will probably want to discuss with the traveling parent precisely what activities the children may be participating in.

WHAT IS THE TOP CONCERN WHEN A CHILD LEAVES THE COUNTRY?

Of course, the leading concern that a divorced parent may have when sending a child abroad is the fear that the other parent may not allow the child to return to the United States. It’s rare, but it’s happened.

If there is a credible threat of one parent taking the child and leaving the country, the other parent should immediately seek a restraining order or an emergency custody order.

To seek such an order in Indiana, have the help of an experienced Lake County family law attorney.

WHAT IS A “NE EXEAT” BOND?

In most of these cases, however, a surety bond called a “Ne Exeat” bond (“no leaving”) is the legal remedy. The bond is used to guarantee that the parent traveling with the children will comply with the terms of the divorce agreement.

The Ne Exeat bond is set at the estimated cost that a parent in the U.S. will incur in pursuing legal action if the other parent does not return with the child to the United States.

A judge presented with the request for the traveling parent to secure a Ne Exeat Bond will consider the testimony of both parents.

However, a judge may choose not to order a Ne Exeat Bond if the traveling parent has no history of attempting to conceal the child and has so far complied with visitation and custody orders.

HOW CAN A FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY HELP?

Here in Indiana, a skilled Lake County family law attorney can explain more about the Ne Exeat bond and about the rights of a non-traveling parent when children travel internationally with their other parent.

If the non-traveling parent has a legitimate fear that the other parent will not return to the United States, that parent must seek the advice of a family law attorney with experience in international abduction cases.

Some states like Arizona have different procedures, so it is best to advise a divorce lawyer in Tucson, AZ.

WHAT ABOUT TRAVEL COSTS?

When drafting their parenting plan, parents should decide if the children’s travel expenses should be addressed in the parenting agreement or determined on more of an “as-you-go” basis.

Most of the details regarding any particular trip or vacation should be discussed by the parents well in advance.

A parenting agreement cannot foresee and include every detail, so parents must try to remain on good terms and try to keep lines of communication open.

WHAT MUST YOU REMEMBER WHEN YOUR CHILD TRAVELS?

With so many details and concerns, it’s easy to forget that travel, holidays, and vacations are supposed to be fun – and big adventures for children.

Be a concerned parent – and if you need legal help or advice, obtain it at once – but encourage your child to learn, to be safe, and to have fun when he or she is traveling. Nothing is more important than the safety, the well-being, and the happiness of your children.

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? Can a child support attorney in Merrillville help?

Every family and every divorce is different, but we’ll teach you 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, a 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 a 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.

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, a top 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 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 a Lake County 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 a skilled 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 a top 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. This is something our guardianship lawyers can help with.

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 a top 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.

The Differences Between Legal Separation Vs. Divorce In Indiana

Before ending a marriage in Indiana, couples may want to look at the option of legal separation. Divorce and legal separation are two distinct legal alternatives for spouses in Indiana who want to end their marriages. The two procedures accomplish two different and separate goals, but you will need a divorce law firm to help with either. A divorce legally dissolves a marriage. A legal separation lets spouses live separately while deciding to work on the marriage or to dissolve it. Couples who legally separate remain married, but couples who divorce do not, and they are for all intents and purposes “single” once again.

In the state of Indiana, divorce and legal separation have important similarities, but they also have important differences. While a legal separation is not a legal divorce, for many married couples in Indiana, it is an important practical alternative. Indiana law prohibits a legal separation from lasting for more than a year, although a legally separated spouse does not have to wait a for a year to file a divorce petition.

After a year, a legally separated couple must either file for a divorce or declare that they will remain married. The courts in Indiana will sign off on a legal separation if a judge determines that the couple cannot currently live together but that eventually they may be able to reconcile. And before any divorce in Indiana can be finalized, a judge must determine that the marriage has suffered an “irretrievable” breakdown.

WHAT CAN A LEGAL SEPARATION ACHIEVE?

Legal separation gives a married couple the opportunity to “cool off” before either partner makes a final decision to divorce. No-fault divorce is the law in this state, so a spouse does not have to prove that the other spouse did anything wrong in order to be granted a divorce. A legal separation is not required prior to an Indiana divorce, although a legal separation may provide the divorce court with the evidence it needs of a marriage’s “irretrievable breakdown.”

During a legal separation, a judge may issue temporary orders for child support and custody, spousal support (or “alimony”), and counseling. Also in a legal separation, one spouse can still be a beneficiary of the other’s life insurance. A legally separated spouse may or may not be able to benefit from the other spouse’s health insurance, so before filing for separation, check your health plan; some plans cover legally separated spouses and others do not. After a divorce, however, the parties go their separate ways. For example, a spouse cannot be held accountable for the other spouse’s personal debts after a divorce is finalized.

WHAT IF YOUR FAITH FORBIDS DIVORCE?

In the state of Indiana, a legally separated couple is still a legally married couple. Some couples may choose legal separation instead of divorce in order to satisfy a religious belief. When a faith community forbids divorce, legal separation allows a couple to maintain their religious beliefs while nevertheless, in effect, ending the relationship. Others treat legal separation as the equivalent of a trial divorce – to try living apart to “see how it goes” before choosing to end the marriage permanently.

When the marriage partners agree that a divorce is in fact the goal of their legal separation, it’s the right time to start the daunting task of evaluating and dividing marital property and assets. These issues should be resolved as early as possible, and especially if substantial assets and a number of properties are involved. A legal separation agreement, correctly drafted, settles any spousal support or child support disputes prior to a divorce; resolves tax issues, debts, and other financial matters; and addresses access to credit cards, bank accounts, lines of credit, and equities.

While a legal separation in the state of Indiana is not a formal divorce, is not an annulment either. It is a legal agreement between marriage partners to live separately, although simply living apart does not by itself establish a “legal” separation. A couple must file for formal legal separation status to obtain the benefits of legal separation. In northwest Indiana, obtain the legal help you’ll need from an experienced Lake County family law attorney.

CAN A JUDGE ORDER COUNSELING DURING A LEGAL SEPARATION?

During the period of legal separation, the court may compel the separated spouses to seek counseling for themselves or for their child or children if either party makes a motion for counseling in an effort to improve the marriage; if either spouse, one of the children, or a court-appointed special counsel makes a motion for counseling for the child; or the court may order counseling if a judge believes that counseling will be helpful. The court may not require “joint” counseling of the spouses unless both consent or if there is evidence that one spouse has demonstrated a pattern of domestic violence.

A divorce in Indiana is legally called a “dissolution of marriage.” To file for either a divorce or a legal separation, a least one partner must be a resident of Indiana or stationed at a U.S. military installation in the state of Indiana for at least six months immediately preceding the filing. At the time of filing, at least one party must be a resident of the county or stationed at a U.S. military installation within the county where the petition is filed for at least three months immediately preceding the filing.

Before you arrive at any final decision about ending your marriage, it can’t hurt to seek some advice. If you have a best friend whom you discuss such things with, talk to that person. If you’re a member of a faith community, it probably provides counseling that’s right for you. Plenty of counseling resources are available in the Lake County area in both the public and private sectors.

Legal separation is never final; eventually, a married couple either reunites or moves toward divorce, but a legal separation in Indiana offers you and your spouse some breathing space and some time to assess your marital situation. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about fourteen percent of the married couples who file for legal separation eventually resolve their differences and remain in the marriage. An experienced Lake County divorce attorney can explain more about the legal separation process.

Is One Senator Blocking Foster Care Reform?

Our Indiana adoption lawyers have learned that as 2016 finally and mercifully comes to an end, the 114th Congress, which had been for all practical purposes inactive prior to the November elections, finally started passing some important measures. A billion dollars to combat the opioid addiction epidemic won the approval of both parties. Cancer research and the National Institutes of Health received some badly-needed federal funds, and coal miners obtained some additional healthcare coverage. One group, however, was “left behind” once again: children who are at risk. Senators didn’t even get to vote on a proposal aimed at a complete reform of the nation’s foster care system.

Foster care in the United States formally began in 1853 when Charles Loring Brace, a pastor and the director of the New York Children’s Aid Society, was concerned about the disturbing number of immigrant children sleeping in the streets of New York City. He advertised for and found families who were willing to provide homes for these children. As a result of Brace’s work, state governments became involved in foster home placements and helping foster parents with their expenses.

Today, according to the New York-based nonprofit group Children’s Rights, more than 400,000 children are in foster care in the United States. On average, kids remain in the system for two years, and but seven percent remain in foster care for five years or longer. In 2014, more than 22,000 new adults “aged out” of foster care without permanent families – increasing their chances of homelessness, unemployment, addiction, or incarceration as adults.

WHY WAS FOSTER CARE REFORM BLOCKED IN THE SENATE?

A comprehensive reform bill, the Families First Prevention Services Act, moved easily through the House of Representatives, where it passed unanimously. However, the Senate was allowed no opportunity to vote on the proposal. Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina opposed the legislation. Attempts to attach the bill to other pieces of legislation were rejected at Senator Burr’s request by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

At the last minute, Senator Burr acted to kill the foster care reforms because of opposition from the Baptist Children’s Homes (BCH) of North Carolina. The legislative proposal is designed to help keep families together and keep children from ending up in foster homes, which would mean fewer children in the group homes operated by BCH, which receives $4,500 per month per child for each child in their care.

With operations in every North Carolina county, BCH holds $45 million in assets, according to tax filings. A 2013 tax return shows that BCH President Michael Blackwell was paid about $230,000 that year in salary and other compensation. Reducing the number of children in foster care isn’t the only provision of the Families First Prevention Services Act. The proposal would require more training and scrutiny of prospective group home parents. After one BCH “house mom” was charged with smoking pot with foster kids and sleeping with a teenage boy in her care in 2015, BCH officials said, “the safety of the children we serve is always our first priority.”

WHO CAN BECOME A FOSTER PARENT?

Those who are seeking to become foster parents in the state of Indiana are carefully scrutinized and must attend pre-service training sessions. Indiana foster parents must be at least 21 years old and licensed by the Department of Child Services. An additional fifteen hours of training is required each year to retain the license. The requirements for foster parent licensure in Indiana include:

• Passing a criminal history, fingerprinting, and a background check
• Owning or renting a home that meets basic physical safety standards
• Financial stability
• Medical statements from a doctor for all household members
• Successful completion of training requirements including first aid and CPR training
• Home visits from a Department of Child Services Regional Licensing Specialist
• Completing all necessary forms and documents
• Personal references

Prospective foster parents in this state can have many of their questions answered by an experienced Indiana family law attorney. When a biological parent is no longer in a child’s life, those who are interested in the guardianship or adoption of a minor child – whether they are step-parents, grandparents, or foster parents – will need a family lawyer’s advice and services. Most of the people seeking to become guardians or adoptive parents will face few if any legal barriers in Indiana, but every situation is different. In most cases, an Indiana family law attorney can handle a guardianship or adoption smoothly and expeditiously.

From a political angle, what is so exceptional about Senator Burr’s opposition to the Families First Prevention Services Act is that it’s directed against the most senior and most powerful senator in his own party, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, a forty-year veteran of the Senate. Senator Hatch said that he still hoped to move the bill through the Senate before the end of 2016. “I can’t imagine anybody voting against it,” Hatch told the Huffington Post.

Currently, federal funding is available for group homes and other foster care settings only after children are removed from their homes – but not for preventing abuse or neglect in the first place. The Family First Prevention Services Act would let the states use federal foster care funds for mental health services, in-home parenting programs, and substance abuse treatment programs for parents struggling with addiction.

WHAT STATES HAVE THE MOST CHILDREN ENTERING FOSTER CARE?

Supporters of the legislation point to substance abuse as a leading reason for the rising numbers of children entering the foster care system. The Associated Press recently reported that the number of children in foster care has been climbing steadily in recent years and that five states account for nearly two-thirds of the recent increase. Indiana is one of those five states. What Indiana, Georgia, Arizona, Florida, and Minnesota have in common is rising numbers of parents involved with substance abuse.

In a lengthy defense of his position posted to the Independent Journal Review website, Senator Burr insists that the Families First Prevention Services Act “could have serious unintended consequences for foster children across the country, especially when it comes to keeping brothers and sisters together,” and that the proposal may “inflict even more harm on children who have already experienced a tragic loss.”

Where does the foster care system in the United States go from here? If the numbers of children going into the system are rising while the available funds are declining, foster care is hurtling toward a crisis. Will the new Congress act to avert a foster care crisis? As 2017 begins, there’s simply no way to know, but foster parents and everyone who works with children at risk will be watching the new Congress closely.

Babies With Three Parents: They’re Already Here

Our Merrillville child support lawyers learned that The British House of Commons in 2015 legalized a breakthrough fertility procedure aimed at keeping genetically-transmitted diseases from passing to future generations by creating children from the genetic material of three parents rather than two. In April of this year, the first three-parent child created by the new procedure – a healthy boy – was born, but not in Great Britain. The child was born in Mexico to a Jordanian couple with the help of U.S. doctors.

The boy’s mother carries genes for Leigh syndrome, a fatal disorder that is passed to children through the mitochondrial DNA inherited from the mother. The Jordanian couple contacted Dr. John Zhang and his colleagues in New York City at the New Hope Fertility Center. The procedure has not been approved in the United States – and Great Britain is the only nation that has legalized it formally – but Dr. Zhang met the prospective parents in Mexico, where he says “there are no rules.” He is zealous about his work and clients. “To save lives is the ethical thing to do,” Dr. Zhang says.

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The science is complicated and controversial. Unhealthy DNA is removed from a human egg cell, replaced with healthy DNA from a second egg cell, and then fertilized with a third parent’s sperm. But what may become even more complicated and controversial over time are the legal questions that will accompany a child with three parents – especially if there is a divorce or a child custody dispute. In Indiana, anyone involved in a contested divorce with children or any child custody dispute should discuss the case first with an experienced Lake County family law attorney. Family law is already complicated, even for children who have “only” two parents.

EXACTLY WHAT IS THIS NEW FERTILITY PROCEDURE?

The new baby’s parents have previously lost two children to Leigh syndrome. The mother carries the genes for Leigh syndrome in her mitochondrial DNA, inside the cell’s mitochondria. While nuclear DNA is inherited from both the father and mother, mitochondrial DNA comes only from the mother. Dr. Zhang and his team used mitochondria from an egg cell taken from a third-party anonymous donor. Most of a person’s twenty thousand or so genes are in the cell’s nucleus. The mitochondria carry only thirty-seven genes. The embryo that was created by Dr. Zhang’s team had the nuclear DNA of its parents and the mitochondrial DNA of the anonymous donor.

The baby boy born in April is not the first child created from three parents, but he is the first using Dr. Zhang’s technique and the first in many years. In the 1990s, seventeen three-parent children were born using a technique called ooplasmic transfer developed by Dr. Jacques Cohen at the Institute for Reproductive Medicine and Science at Saint Barnabas in New Jersey. But two of the fetuses lacked an X chromosome, and one of the mothers miscarried. In response, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2001 asked fertility clinics in the United States to stop using the ooplasmic transfer method, and they have.

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Although the fertility procedure performed in Mexico by John Zhang and his team is legal now in Great Britain, apparently no one there has yet attempted it. Embryologists who want to conduct the procedure in Great Britain must apply for a license and adhere to strict legal and ethical guidelines. Observers believe that the birth in Mexico will now generate renewed interest in the technique in scientific and medical communities around the world. In other words, we can now expect plenty of three-parent children in the future. In the United States, the FDA – which so far has made no determination – would have to approve the procedure.

DO ANY STATE LAWS PROVIDE FOR CHILDREN WITH THREE PARENTS?

If the three-parent procedure is approved by the FDA and eventually becomes available to prospective parents in the United States, it will significantly affect divorce cases and child custody disputes in a variety of ways that no one can now foresee. In the state of California, the law already officially “allows” a child to have more than two legal parents as a result of a proposal that became California law in 2013. That statute was adopted by the state’s lawmakers in response to the increasingly common living arrangement where a same-sex couple is raising a child after one partner had the child with a biological parent of the other sex.

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At first glance, the California law is clear and simple: “In cases where a child has more than two parents, the court shall allocate custody and visitation among the parents based on the best interest of the child.” This law – and similar legislation under consideration in a number of other states – simply allows the courts to recognize legally that more than two people may assert parental rights. Nevertheless, three-parent children and the laws that recognize three legal parents will inevitably complicate even further something that is already quite complex – the decisions courts make regarding child custody and child support during and after a divorce.

WHAT ARE SOME OTHER CONCERNS ABOUT GENETIC RESEARCH?

All of us can understand the apprehension of prospective parents who fear passing on a genetic abnormality to their children. Nevertheless, fears also remain about the unanticipated consequences of genetic research. If human beings can be created disease-free, can they also eventually be “customized” genetically? Of course, the ethical controversies will continue. Science-fiction writers and conspiracy theorists will offer frightening scenarios about genetic control and manipulation. But the courts are where real parents, lawyers, and judges will settle the hard legal questions that will emerge regarding three-parent children and child custody.

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For a parent, nothing can generate more concern than a child custody battle. Every custody case – and every child – is unique. Any parent divorcing in Indiana should have a Lake County family law attorney provide sound legal advice and fight for the best possible legal and physical child custody agreement for you and your child or children. In the United States, children with three biological parents probably will not be a legal concern for several more years, but lawmakers and judges should prepare now for three-way custody battles and the other kinds of custody disputes that are sure to arise when three people have legal claims and parental rights to a single child.

How Guardianships Work in The State of Indiana

A legal guardian has the legal authority and duty to care for another person, called a “ward.” Legal guardians are usually found in one of three situations: guardianship of an elderly person incapacitated by infirmity or old age; guardianship of a developmentally disabled adult; and the guardianship of a minor child. Our guardianship lawyers will discuss how a guardianship for a minor child works the state of Indiana. A child might need a court-appointed guardian for reasons such as but not limited to:

  • one or both biological parents have a record of child abuse or domestic violence
  • one or both biological parents are serving a jail or prison sentence
  • one or both biological parents are in drug or alcohol rehabilitation
  • one or both biological parents are deployed overseas in the military
  • one or both biological parents suffer from a mental or physical disability that impairs their ability to care for a child

Indiana family law courts always make a child’s best interests the top priority. If you are petitioning to become a child’s legal guardian, you should be able to show the court that your guardianship will serve the child’s best interests. You’ll probably need the help of an experienced Indiana family law attorney. Typically, the guardian of a child assumes parental responsibilities and sees to a child’s personal needs including education, housing, food, clothing, and medical care.

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A legal guardian in Indiana may also be the person who manages a child’s financial assets, although sometimes another person – a “guardian of the estate” – will be named for this purpose. Sometimes, parents need to set up a guardianship of the estate for their own child, even if the child lives with them. When substantial amounts of money or property are given to a minor child, attorneys and financial institutions may sometimes be hesitant to hand the assets to the parents. A guardianship of the estate protects a financial institution from any legal liability and makes the parents responsible for showing a court how such assets are used or invested.

HOW DOES GUARDIANSHIP DIFFER FROM ADOPTION?

A guardianship legalizes a relationship between a responsible adult and a child who is not the adult’s biological offspring. However, unlike an adoption, guardianship does not end or sever the relationship between the child and the birth parents. Even if a child resides with a guardian, the law requires biological parents to provide financial support. If a parent dies without a will, a child has automatic legal inheritance rights, and a guardian can help manage any inheritance.

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The distinction between guardianship and adoption is that adoption formally and permanently changes legal rights and relationships. The adults who adopt a minor child actually become the child’s legal parents and assume all of the rights and responsibilities of parenthood. Any living biological parent waives all parental rights and obligations, including the child support obligation, at the time of the adoption. Sometimes a guardian may step down with the court’s permission, and a judge will name a replacement if needed. A guardianship typically remains in effect until:

  • The child reaches age 18.
  • The child dies.
  • A court decides the guardianship is no longer needed.
  • If a guardianship ad litem was set up to manage the child’s finances, the guardianship ad litem concludes when the assets are gone.

WHAT IS A GUARDIAN AD LITEM?

A guardian ad litem is someone named by the court to represent the interests of a minor in a legal proceeding that involves the child’s interests. (Courts may also name a guardian ad litem for an incapacitated elderly or developmentally disabled adult.) In this instance, “representing the child’s interests” does not mean legal representation in the sense of acting as an attorney. Indiana judges may name a guardian ad litem in divorce or in paternity cases, particularly when custody is disputed, or accusations are made regarding the health and safety of the child.

In the state of Indiana, a guardian ad litem receives special training and is asked to investigate the child’s circumstances and living conditions and eventually submit his or her findings to the court along with a custody recommendation. A guardian ad litem may be a relative, a lawyer, or even a parent. If a guardian ad litem is not a lawyer, the minor or adult may also be represented by a lawyer.

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SHOULD YOU SEEK LEGAL GUARDIANSHIP?

You do not necessarily need to become the legal guardian of a child who is not your own but who resides in your home, especially if the child is staying only a few weeks or months – for example, if your own child’s friend is living with your family over the holidays or summer vacation. But if a child who is not your own is living in your home for a longer duration, without legal guardianship you may have difficulty enrolling the child in school, obtaining medical care, and acquiring benefits for the child. And you’ll have no legal standing if the child’s parents want the child returned – even if you believe the parents are unfit in some way.

Sometimes, adults may have children who are not their own living in their home, but those adults do not want to become legal guardians. They may expect that the child’s legal/biological parents will not agree to a guardianship, or they may want to avoid sparking a child custody dispute. Sometimes a “caretaker” simply doesn’t want to be a legal guardian because that caretaker simply doesn’t want to be scrutinized by the court or pay the (actually quite modest) legal fees involved with becoming a legal guardian. Still, such adults may need – and should have – the counsel of an experienced Indiana family law attorney.

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Many adults – often grandparents, but sometimes others – raise a child who is not their own without any authorization from the courts. Again, in some states, without guardianship you may have trouble signing up the child for school, seeking medical care, and obtaining benefits. Other states are making it easier for those who want to avoid the legal guardianship process. California has designed a form that allows an adult who is neither a parent nor a guardian to enroll a child in school and make medical choices for the child without going to court. Raising someone else’s child is a huge personal sacrifice, and those making that sacrifice need all the help they can get.