What happens to your frozen embryos? Inheritance and Wills

April 3, 2014

fortune.jpgAn important issue surrounding frozen embryos has recently emerged into spotlight: What happens when parents die and leave no will or instructions for the fertility clinic regarding the disposition of their frozen embryos? A Master in Chancery appointed by a Dallas probate court has recommended that a two year old boy, whose parents were murdered, inherit their eleven frozen embryos when he turns eighteen. John Robertson, professor of law at the University of Texas at Austin, addresses the groundbreaking nature of this case in the Harvard Law Petrie-Flom Center Blog by stating that "there are no Texas or United States cases involving inheritance of frozen embryos when both parties have died and left no instructions with the clinic or in a will."

This issue introduces the question of whether frozen embryos are considered "property" in these types of scenarios. Robertson informs us that the Master found that Texas courts have not held them to be property, nor have they found them to be worthless. He reports that as a result, the Master assigned them an implicit value under Texas's intestacy statute since they can be the subject of an enforceable contract. If they embryos are not designated as "property," the Master found that the boy can still retain an "ownership interest" that would give him "dispositional control" over the eleven embryos.

Robertson introduces the complex issues that arise from giving a two year old orphan dispositional control over his future siblings when he turns eighteen, including the "oddity" of asking someone so young to "decide whether to continue paying storage fees, discard [the embryos], or donate to others or to research."

This case illustrates the various complications that ensue when parents who create embryos fail to leave directions for what should occur to their frozen embryos if they both die. Difficult, ethically questionable inquiries such as whether frozen embryos are considered property or what an eighteen year old should do when he receives control over his potential siblings are avoidable. This begs the question as to whether it is the clinic's obligation to mandate that all intended parents create a will prior to creating embryos instructions regarding the embryos' disposition in the event of their death.

photo credit: quinn.anya via photopin cc

"Conscious Uncoupling" - What does it mean?

March 27, 2014

Gwyneth-Paltrow-Chris-Martin.jpgThe phrase "conscious uncoupling" made the news this week as Hollywood couple, Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin announced their split. The couple used the phrase to describe their separation, and what we can only assume to be their impending divorce. The term "conscious uncoupling" left people around the country puzzled by what it actually means.

While the term may be new or fairly unknown, we can assume several things about "conscious uncoupling". First of all, based on the blog post on Paltrow's website Goop, it sounds like the couple has been working hard on their relationship and have now decided to amicably split. From a family law perspective, it sounds like the couple will be perfect candidates for mediation or collaborative law to handle their split. These methods of non-adversarial "decoupling" are nothing new in the family law realm. Our Indiana divorce attorneys routinely practice in both mediation and collaborative law as an alternative solution to litigation for our clients.

Mediation is a non-adversarial alternative to litigation wherein the parties work together, with the help of a neutral third party "mediator," to determine their own outcome, as opposed to having a result imposed upon them by a court. Mediation typically occurs in an office rather than a courtroom, making the process less formal than a court proceeding. The mediator does not decide the outcome of the dispute, but rather assists the parties in reaching their own mutually acceptable resolution. A mediator may inform parties of certain applicable laws, rules and guidelines so that parties may have the information necessary to make well-reasoned decisions.

Mediation can result in quicker dispute resolution since mediation occurs at the parties' and mediator's convenience, as opposed to judicial proceedings which are often scheduled months or even years in advance, depending on the court ' s calendar. Because much of the necessary exchange of information between the parties can occur at mediation as opposed to gathering the same through time-consuming and costly formal "discovery," mediation tends also to be less expensive than litigating a dispute through a court proceeding.

In family law matters involving children, mediation can set the stage for future peaceful and cooperative parenting, as opposed to the hostile and uncooperative parenting relationships which too often follow bitter and lengthy legal battles, and which typically have a profound negative effect on children.

Collaborative Law is another alternative dispute resolution process in which the parties retain separate attorneys whose primary function is to help them reach an agreed settlement. The parties and their attorneys collaborate in good faith, and commit to communicate respectfully and honestly to represent the legitimate needs of both parties.

Collaborative Law is an option to deal more effectively with potential problems for parties who may not be as prepared for mediation. While maintaining the same absolute commitment to settlement as the sole agenda, each party has quality legal advice and advocacy built in at all times during the process. Even if either party lacks negotiating skill, or is emotionally upset or angry, the process is equalized by the presence of the skilled advocates. It is the responsibility of the attorneys to encourage their clients to be reasonable to make sure that the process stays positive and productive.

The best candidates for the collaborative process are parties who, among other factors, want a civilized, respectful resolution of the issues, would like to keep open the possibility of a friendship with the other party, will be co-parenting children together and want the best co-parenting relationship possible, and want to protect their children from the harm associated with protracted, contested litigation.

It is impossible to know the exact circumstances surrounding the separation of the Hollywood couple, or any couple, for that matter. However, it is to be commended that the parties have already stated that they are respectful of each other and are committed to coparenting together. While amicable separations are not possible in all situations, it can be said that the commitment to parenting and causing the least amount of emotional trauma on the children is always a step in the right direction when dealing with difficult matters such as divorce.

Remember, these suggestions are not meant to be legal advice. You should consult a family law attorney to discuss the specifics of your situation.

(Photo: Colin Young-Wolff, Invision/AP)

Ethical and Legal Dilemmas of Post-humous reproduction

March 14, 2014

ART.jpgAssisted Reproduction Technology has created many alternatives for families with infertility to build their families. However, it has also created many legal issues due to the slow nature of the law to keep up with this rapidly evolving technology. One extremely complex area of this law is dealing with frozen reproductive material that is in storage at a sperm or egg bank after a loved one dies. Examples of legal issues include the legitimacy of the child born, inheritance rights of the child, psychosocial/psychological issues, grieving period prior to deciding when and how to use reproductive material, and the "shelf-life" of the preserved reproductive material.

Recently, a woman in the UK won a court battle to stop her deceased husband's frozen sperm from being destroyed. The husband had sperm frozen before starting cancer treatment and signed paperwork saying his wife could use the sperm after his death. After the husband died, he could no longer update his consent for the sperm to stay in storage so officials sought to destroy it by April 2015. The woman won the right to extend the preservation of the sperm until 2023. The woman has not decided when and if she will use the sperm to have a child.

This story is not that uncommon. There are plenty of situations when individual are faced with the diagnosis of a terminal disease, or another illness that threatens their ability to reproduce so they make plans to have their reproductive material cryopreserved for future use by their significant other. The legal question remains: Did the donor explicitly give consent, simply by donating their material, for future use? What if it is written in a last will and testament?

The law previously addressed these issues by enacting paternity statutes to prevent subsequent children from emerging and claiming that they are entitled to some inheritance money indefinitely. However, now that technology has advanced, these paternity statutes don't necessarily apply. So how does the law handle it in these emerging situations? Indiana allows claims of paternity for up to 11 months after the death of the parent. That would mean the widow(er) would be required to get pregnant within 2 months of the death or the child would lose rights to any inheritance or benefits, as well as possibly losing the ability to establish their heritage through paternity or maternity which could potentially cause psychological issues for the child. However, without these statutes any heirs would not be able to collect their rightful share until the estate is closed. These are examples of the ongoing ethical and legal dilemmas surrounding cryopreservation and posthumous use of reproductive material.

Remember, these suggestions are not meant to be legal advice. You should consult a family law attorney to discuss the specifics of your situation.

Should you have a legal matter regarding Assisted Reproductive Technology, contact an experience attorney. Call Harden Jackson Law at 317.569.0770.

photo credit: WaDaNaBe via photopin cc

Changing Child Custody - What is best for the children?

February 27, 2014

child dad.jpgRecently, NPR ran a story about the push to change custody laws in many states. The new measures favor equally shared custody for most parents after divorce. Supporters argue that if the parents are deemed fit and there is no domestic violence or abuse issues, joint custody should be favored in divorce cases. There are studies that indicate that children do better when they regularly see both parents. Why not mandate joint custody?

It is always true that when there is conflict between parents, there is a negative impact on the child(ren). Perhaps implementing state-mandated joint parenting plans for parents going through a divorce would reduce conflict in some divorce cases. As family law attorneys, we stand behind measures that focus on the best needs of the child. We consistently coach clients on how to keep their children's needs first when going through a divorce. It is critical for each parent to be positive about the other parent, at least in front of the children, and encourage that child to have a relationship with the other parent. Obviously, there are exceptions in cases where abuse is involved.

The application of this theory is a little more complicated and must be designed to focus on what is best for the child(ren) NOT the parents. What if the parents don't live near each other? What if the parents just cannot get along? What if the children have chaotic after school schedules? There are so many scenarios that it would be hard for a sweeping mandate to address every situation.

What do you think? Would you support measures in Indiana that favor equal parenting time?

Remember, these suggestions are not meant to be legal advice. You should consult a family law attorney to discuss the specifics of your situation.

photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

Attorneys from Harden Jackson recognized by SuperLawyers

February 13, 2014

Harden Jackson is pleased to announce that three attorneys from our firm have been recognized by SuperLawyers for 2014.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for MLJ WEB2.jpgMichele Jackson has been named to the "Rising Stars" list as one of the top up-and-coming attorneys in Indiana for 2014. Ms. Jackson chairs the firm's Adoption and Reproductive Law Practice Group and focuses her practice in adoption as well as assisted reproductive technology law matters.

AEG WEB.jpgAmanda Glowacki has been named to the "Rising Stars" list as one of the top up-and-coming attorneys in Indiana for 2014. Ms. Glowacki assists individuals with all areas of family law, including dissolution of marriage, post-dissolution modifications, and custody cases. She is also a registered domestic relations mediator providing mediation services to families facing the changing circumstances which accompany dissolution of marriage, custody and parenting time modifications, child support modifications and paternity determinations.

CMD close.jpgChristine Douglas has has been selected to the 2014 Indiana Super Lawyers list. Each year, no more than five percent of the lawyers in the state are selected by the research team at Super Lawyers to receive this honor. Christine Douglas practices solely in the area of family law and is a Certified Family Law Specialist, as certified by the Family Law Certification Board.

The selection process for Super Lawyers employs a rigorous, multiphase process. Peer nominations and evaluations are combined with third party research. Each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. Selections are made on an annual, state-by-state basis.

Harden Jackson, LLC is a Carmel law firm providing personalized service with a responsive and compassionate approach. As effective and experienced litigators, the attorneys work with clients to develop strategies for negotiating settlements, while always preparing for litigation if necessary. The practice assists clients in all areas of family law, adoption and reproductive law matters. For more information, please contact Leah Potter at 317.569.0770 or www.hardenjacksonlaw.com .

Indianapolis mother shares her infertility struggle in new book

February 7, 2014

about-the-author.jpgIndianapolis mother and former client of Harden Jackson opens up about her infertility struggles and journey to becoming a parent in her new book, When It's Not As Simple As The Birds And The Bees. Sandhya Graves wrote this book to make sense of the complex emotions and difficult steps involved in creating a family.
Graves and her husband explored all options when encountered with infertility, including adoption, in-vitro fertilization and surrogacy. Graves' memoir is an honest and raw account of the heartbreaks, disappointments and the ultimate triumph to have children. "In this personal memoir, I share the intimate and heart-wrenching details of fertility procedures," Graves explains. "Despite the emotional turmoil that comes with infertility, multiple IVF attempts and miscarriages, this book is about the hope that kept us going and how we survived every day until we made our dreams come true."
Sandhya M. Graves lives in Indianapolis, Indiana with her husband Tyler and their three children, Wyatt, Nolan and Lily. You can learn more about the author and the book here. Also, you can buy a copy of the book here.

Congratulations Sandhya and Tyler!

How to manage your fees in your Divorce

January 24, 2014

FAMILY LAW WEB.jpgFinding the best divorce lawyer for your situation can be difficult. Once you've chosen an attorney, the decisions don't end there. You can choose your actions carefully and help manage your case to reduce fees and emotional turmoil. Our law office offers suggestions to keep the fees (and emotions) under control.
Legal matters can contribute to emotional and financial stress. A client's emotional state can cause attorneys' fees and litigation costs to escalate. For example, if one party is vindictive or mean-spirited, he/she may refuse to negotiate in good faith, behave in such a manner that necessitates numerous court appearances, or otherwise cause delays. Assuming the other party acts unreasonably, such conduct is outside your control. In these circumstances your divorce attorney should attempt to cope with the situation through appropriate procedures. This negative conduct will be expensive and exhausting to all parties. By being aware of how emotion and behavior can affect attorneys' fees, you are capable of reducing fees by conducting yourself in the highest, most rational manner and following these simple rules:

  1. Keep in mind that the services your family law attorney provides are primarily legal. It is essential that your attorney understand the basic nature of your past interaction with the other party(ies). It is in your best interests that you recognize and cope with the stress which occurs when you are involved in a legal dispute. If necessary, see a professional therapist or counselor. Our office is happy to give credible referrals. Unless you are thinking clearly, you may be inclined to make decisions influenced more by emotion, which could increase your fees or negatively affect the litigation or settlement of your case.

  2. Participate as effectively as you can in your own case. Your lawyer will ask you to help in gathering information and documents. Your time is likely to be less expensive to you than an attorney's time. Accordingly, it is for your own best financial interests that you obtain as much of the information and documents for your case as possible, and provide them to us when requested.

  3. During your case, your attorney may undertake the discovery process. Parties, through their counsel, may submit formal requests for information and documents, including a long set of written questions, called INTERROGATORIES. Parties are entitled, under the rules of the court, to request answers to the information sought, although it may entail hours of research gathering your records. It is your attorney's legal responsibility to ensure that the information is supplied. Many of the INTERROGATORIES are seeking answers that are legal in nature which will require our guidance. However, if the labor of answering all of the INTERROGATORIES falls to your attorney or if there is a delay in producing documents that you could have provided more easily than an attorney can obtain, it will increase your fees. Also, if there is a delay in response due to your lack of cooperation, the other party could apply to the court for an order to compel you to answer and produce, and there could be monetary sanctions against you.

  4. Organize the papers involved in your case and bring them to conferences and hearings unless otherwise directed. This will also help you keep track of the status of your case.

  5. Think positively toward settlement of your case. Most cases are, and should be, settled through the negotiations of the parties and attorneys. The court expects those attempts. Often, the parties' discussions help to bring about a settlement

Additionally, there are other avenues to resolve disputes. Mediation is a manner of "Alternative Dispute Resolution" in which a certified mediator can help parties negotiate and reach agreement. Your attorney should discuss with you at some point and advise whether to mediate, and in some cases, the court may require mediation or a settlement conference prior to scheduling a final hearing or trial. Your attorney should always be in a position to negotiate a settlement, and quite frankly, a negotiated settlement is often the most favorable and cost effective way of achieving a result acceptable to both parties. It has been said that the mark of a good settlement is that neither party is entirely happy

However, sometimes litigation is the only way to resolve the dispute. Litigation can be costly and stressful. However, it may be necessary. If it is necessary, your attorney should work with you to prepare your case for trial in order to present your case as favorably as possible.

Remember, these suggestions are not meant to be legal advice. You should consult an experienced family law lawyer in Indiana to discuss the specifics of your situation.

Attorney Michele Jackson testifies for Indiana Adoption Tax Credit

January 16, 2014

Thumbnail image for Africa orphanage trip.jpgYesterday attorney Michele Jackson was asked to give testimony in front of the Indiana legislature in support of Governor Pence's bill on the adoption tax credit. The bill was approved by the The Family, Children and Human Affairs Committee. Governor Pence has stated that his goal would be to make Indiana the nation's "most pro-adoption state."

This is part of a continued effort from Ms. Jackson to advocate for Indiana laws to benefit adopted children and their families. Prior to this testimony, Ms. Jackson met with representatives from the Governor's office and other Indiana legislature representatives to educate and promote favorable laws in Indiana for adoption. The federal government offers a tax credit for adoptive parents. The bill would allow any Indiana adoptive parents eligible for the federal tax credit to be eligible for the proposed state credit. The bill also would establish a committee to study other states' adoption programs to improve Indiana policy, including streamlining the process.

Ms. Jackson is well regarded for her work in international adoptions. She has dedicated her profession and personal philanthropy to the adoption and care of orphans worldwide, while assisting couples and individuals to realize their dreams of becoming parents. For a link to the article about the bill, click here.

Orphan Visa Denials or Revocations - What you need to know about the Universal Accreditation Act

January 13, 2014

quoteblock_clinton.jpgThe Intercountry Adoption Universal Accreditation Act of 2012 (UAA) goes into effect on July 14, 2014. As of that date, all agencies or persons that provide adoption services in support of the two forms listed below must be accredited or approved, or be a supervised or exempted provider, in compliance with the Intercountry Adoption Act and accreditation regulations. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), adoptive parents who are not working with an accredited or approved adoption provider and filed Form I-600A or Form I-600 (Application for Orphan Visa) on or after July 13, 2013, may be denied an orphan visa. An Adoptive parent that has filed the appropriate adoption application to the appropriate foreign authority for adoptions prior to July 13, 2013 may also be grandfathered into old regulations and USCIS may not require them to use an agency/provider under the UAA.
This means that many parents may be given a Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) or a Notice of Intent to Revoke (NOIR) if they attempted an independent international adoption or used as their placing agency an organization or agency that was not approved/accredited per the UAA unless they filed the above forms/document prior to July 13, 2013. If you receive a NOID or NOIR, it can be a serious complication in your adoption process and may prevent you from completing the international adoption process. The Orphan Visa enables a child adopted from a foreign country to enter the United States. Without the Orphan Visa it may be impossible for the child to legally enter the United States. Our team can assist you with your Rebuttal of a NOID or Appeal of Denial with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Our legal team may also be able to explore other immigration options with you as well.

Denials & Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) Orphan Visa
If an I600A/I600/I800A/I800 is not approvable, it will be denied. If denial is based on information not previously known by parents, USCIS must issue a Notice of Intent to Deny the orphan visa, prior to a final denial. USCIS may issue a final denial if appropriate and at their discretion based upon the findings of their Orphan Visa investigation (I-604 Investigation).

Why would USCIS issue parent(s) a NOID notification or denial?
This letter would be issued if adoptive parents are not working with an accredited or approved adoption provider and filed Form I-600A or Form I-600 (Application for Orphan Visa) on or after July 13, 2013. The parent may also be able to move forward if they filed these forms after this date but filed an appropriate adoption application with the foreign authority responsible for international adoptions. The exact parameters of appropriate application and proper foreign authority may leave room for interpretation and discretion. Beyond not meeting these deadlines a NOID or NOIR can also so be issued upon a suspicion of fraud, undue influence, duress, or ineligibility of child to be adopted internationally.

What is a NOID?
This is a response from USCIS to your 1600/I800 Petition to Classify Orphan as Immediate Relative, which will provide you with Orphan Visa (IR3 or IR4). The purpose is to notify parents of intent to deny an orphan visa for your child. Prior to a NOID you may also receive a Request for Further Evidence (RFE) in an effort for the parents to have time to provide additional information to USCIS regarding their adoption process or child's eligibility.
The NOID/NOIR/RFE will state the reasons for issuance.

What to do if you receive a NOID letter?
Contact an attorney who has experience with these matter immediately as parents and their attorney have thirty (30) days to respond with a rebuttal of reasons stated. Attorney Michele Jackson at Harden Jackson Law has experience dealing with these matters. Please note that an immigration attorney or adoption attorney may not automatically be experienced in this area. The rebuttal or appeal that is drafted by you or on your behalf may not be successful. Also remember that you may be given a specified time in which you can respond and any answer post deadline may not be accepted.

What to do if you receive a Final Denial of the orphan visa?
Again, time is of the essence. Contact an experience attorney immediately, as parents may appeal denials if "appealable."

Attorney Michele Jackson interviewed regarding Congo Adoptions

January 10, 2014

Thumbnail image for MLJ WEB2.jpgAttorney Michele Jackson was interviewed by the Associated Press about the desperate situation for the children and adoptive parents in the Congo. The article appeared in many national publications, including the Huffington Post. To link to the article, click here. Otherwise, the text is below.

"Justin Carroll is the proud dad of a 6-week-old daughter in Tennessee, but thus far he's done his doting via Facetime video phone calls from Africa. Since mid-November, Carroll has been living in Congo, unwilling to leave until he gets exit papers allowing two newly adopted sons to travel with him.
Carroll and his wife, Alana, are among scores of U.S. couples caught up in wrenching uncertainty, as a suspension of all foreign adoptions imposed by Congolese authorities has temporarily derailed their efforts to adopt.
While most of the families are awaiting a resolution from their homes in the U.S., Justin Carroll and a few other parents whose adoptions had been approved have actually taken custody of their adopted children in Kinshasa, Congo's capital. However, they say that promised exit papers for the children are now being withheld pending further case-by-case reviews, and the parents don't want to leave Kinshasa without them.
"Justin is not going to leave the boys," Alana Carroll said from the family's home in Jefferson City, Tenn., where she's been caring for biological daughter Carson since her birth on Nov. 25. Justin Carroll was not present for Carson's birth; he left for Africa almost a week earlier.
"In a dire situation, we would just move there," said Alana, referring to Congo. "Leaving our sons there is not an option."
According to UNICEF estimates, Congo -- long plagued by poverty and conflict -- is home to more than 800,000 children who've lost both parents, in many cases because of AIDS.
Until the suspension was announced in September, Congo had been viewed by adoption advocates in the U.S. as a promising option at a time when the overall number of international adoptions has been plummeting. Congo accounted for the sixth highest number of adoptions by Americans in 2012 -- 240 children, up from 41 in 2010 and 133 in 2011.
There are varied explanations for the suspension -- explanations which reflect how international adoption has become a highly divisive topic.
The U.S. State Department, in its latest Congo advisory, says all applications for exit permits for adopted children are facing increased scrutiny because of concerns over suspected falsification of documents. Congolese authorities earlier attributed the suspension to concerns that some children had been abused or abandoned by their adoptive parents or have been "sold to homosexuals."
"The government wants to get a handle on this matter, because there is a lot of criminality around it," Interior Minister Richard Muyej Mangez told The Associated Press last month.
The State Department has said it is trying to get accurate information with the hope of enabling some of the families -- such as the Carrolls -- to take home children whose adoptions had been approved prior to the Sept. 25 suspension. However, it has warned waiting parents that there could be significant delays.
American diplomats in Kinshasa have met with the waiting families and with Congolese officials to discuss the suspension, but Alana Carroll said the families wished the U.S. Embassy staff would press harder to get the cases moving.
"The ambassador said they didn't want to ruffle any feathers," Carroll said.
The Carrolls and four other families have dubbed themselves the "Stuck In Congo Five" and created a Facebook page to draw attention to their plight. Alana and two of the other mothers also have been communicating through their blogs.
One of them, Erin Wallace of Annapolis, Md., has been in Congo since October, awaiting exit papers that would enable her to bring newly adopted daughter Lainey home to her husband and their two other children.
She has urged readers of her blog to contact their congressional delegations on behalf of the five families.
"We are desperate to return home with our children," she wrote. "We have been stuck for too long."
Katie Harshman, another of the bloggers, also has been in Kinshasa since October. Her husband, Eric, a groundskeeper with the University of Kentucky athletics department, joined her for the first seven weeks before returning to work.
"There is no reason why we should still be here," Katie Harshman wrote in a recent post. "We have gotten caught in the middle of some kind of craziness."
The Harshmans, Wallaces and Carrolls have been working with Africa Adoption Services, a Louisville, Ky., agency founded by Danielle Anderson, a former consular staffer at the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa.
The spouses who are waiting in Kinshasa, along with their adopted children, are staying together in a guest house. Anderson has advised the Americans to be cautious about venturing out with the children, saying many Congolese people are suspicious about international adoptions.
Anderson said it's difficult to pinpoint why authorities there suspended adoptions.
"It's financial, it's political, it's because of severe homophobia," she said. "But in the end, kids are getting stuck and families are not being united."
In the past two years, Africa Adoption Services has helped dozens of families complete adoptions from Congo, generally for a cost of about $27,000, excluding travel.
Among the successful couples were Emily and Mike Mauntel of Atlanta, whose 2-year-old son, Moses, came home in October. The couple also have a 4-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter.
"My heart is breaking for these five families stuck in the Congo and for the many more families waiting to bring their children home," Emily Mauntel wrote in an email. "I was in the Congo for almost four months trying to bring our son home and it was by far the most difficult time in my life."
Among the U.S. agencies active in Congo is MLJ Adoptions, founded by Indianapolis attorney Michele Jackson, who has two sons adopted from the Congo.
Even before the suspension, Jackson said, the international adoption process in Congo could be slow, with U.S. authorities often taking six months or more to verify that children were not part of any trafficking or baby-selling scheme. In at least recent three cases, Jackson said, children died of disease during the vetting process.
Alana Carroll said one of her two new sons, Canaan, was sickly and introverted when her husband began caring for him, and is now thriving. But the long separation has taken an emotional toll.
"It was like a dream come true and now it's like nightmare I can't wake up from," she said."

Surviving Divorce

January 9, 2014

Thumbnail image for LMH WEB2.jpgDivorce is traumatic, but it does not have to be tragic. With the New Year comes a new beginning for many who are going through a divorce. Lanae Harden, who chairs the Family Law Practice Group at HARDEN JACKSON, offers the following suggestions to help you through the process. With more than 18 years as a family law attorney handling complex and high-conflict divorce and custody cases in Indiana, she has heard almost everything.

  • Don't refuse to communicate with your ex (unless the relationship is abusive). Refusing to communicate will only result in increased animosity and ultimately, more time and expense. If you set an adversarial tone because of your anger and emotions, your case will take longer. You also won't recover as quickly (emotionally or financially), and you'll likely be re-litigating issues for months or years after your divorce. For your children's sake, be willing to communicate in a civil and respectful manner.
  • Always put your children's interests first. Not only is this in the best interests of your children, but from a strategic standpoint, your willingness to act in good faith will have a favorable impact on your case at court. Every action you take should be measured by how it will be viewed by the judge. When it comes to custody, judges are evaluating which parent places the children as priorities. Remember, questionable actions or behavior by you could be used by your spouse's attorney to negatively affect you. Attorneys are trained to spin circumstances to favor their clients. Don't leave anything up to interpretation.

  • Be reasonable about expectations. Your lifestyle will change. Ultimately there will be two households and two sets of expenses. And the more adversarial your divorce, the more you and your spouse will be spending of your income and assets in order to divide them. Set goals and keep the big picture in mind. This will help you be effective in your communication with your attorney. While she does care about your emotional well-being, don't use your attorney as a substitute for a therapist or divorce coach. Counseling with a trained expert will be less expensive and your attorney will be able to focus on what she is best trained to do: managing and protecting your legal rights.

Lanae Harden speaks about divorce in Indiana for online radio show

December 20, 2013

LMH WEB2.jpg
We are proud that Lanae Harden was recently interviewed by the Business Leader Spotlight Show, an online radio show that is syndicated to over 1.5-million listeners. The
"Business Leader Spotlight" show's goal is to take topics that are of general interest to the public and provide valuable insights into the topic from experienced professionals in that industry. Lanae was interviewed about the legal issues you can encounter in a divorce in Indiana. You can listen to the interview by clicking on the following link:

Lanae Harden Indiana Divorce Attorney Interview

Can my husband or wife leave and take the kids?

December 10, 2013

Thumbnail image for suitcases.jpg
You've decided to separate. Your spouse is moving out of the home. But now, he or she claims that they are taking the kids with them when they leave. Are they permitted to take the children with them when they leave?

Maybe. Unless the courts have already determined a custody agreement, one parent is not required permission to leave with the children. If you plan to pursue custody of the children, it is advised not to leave the house. Even if you take the children with you, it may impact custody decisions because the courts can decide to keep the children at the house to reduce the disruption in their lives.

The first thing you should do is contact an experienced family law attorney. Here is more information on how to find an attorney for you and questions you should ask your attorney. Your attorney should file for a temporary custody order. Temporary custody may be decided as soon as the parents are separated.

If the parties cannot agree to a temporary custody arrangement then a hearing may be scheduled. After the hearing, the judge will issue a temporary order deciding custody. This order will be in effect until the final divorce decree is entered by the court.

What should you do if your spouse takes the children against your will?
Speak to an attorney immediately. An attorney can assist with obtaining the temporary custody order.

If you feel your children may be in danger, contact the police immediately.

Remember, these suggestions are not meant to be legal advice. You should consult an experienced assisted reproductive technology law attorney to discuss the specifics of your situation

photo credit: sachman75 via photopin cc

Should Sperm and Egg Donors Remain Anonymous?

December 6, 2013

With donor situations becoming more prevalent in the media: through the internet, television (MTV's Generation Cryo series) and on the big screen (Vince Vaughn's Delivery Man), it makes one contemplate which person's rights are more important to protect in dealing with such an intimate set of circumstances. Should the donor's rights to remain anonymous prevail over his or her potential offspring's rights to know their biological identity? For example, you have a sperm or egg donor that is explicit that they want their identity to remain anonymous. Their reasons for donating might be financially motivated or morally motivated. Either way, they are contributing their healthy sperm or ovum to individuals or couples that otherwise would not have been able to conceive. These donors remain anonymous for possibly a number of reasons: they don't want to be financially responsible, don't want to have a relationship, etc.

Fast forward to years later perhaps the donor's offspring has an interest in finding that 'anonymous' donor. Maybe their reasons are for fulfillment of health history or genetic illnesses, curiosity about looks, or maybe even to form a relationship. Situations have arisen that could tip in favor of the donor offspring obtaining identifying information about the donor. For example, this story: A man and woman meet in college, marry and have 3 children. Both spouses are children of lesbian mothers who each conceived with donor sperm (in different states and through different sperm banks). One spouse has found the identity of their donor, but the other has had no desire. After some hesitation, the one partner is convinced to also find the identity of their donor. Surprise! Both of them are from the same donor and are half siblings! Reasons such as genetic illnesses and incest relationships are extremely important and could warrant an offspring finding their donor. This is becoming more of an issue that needs to be contemplated. However, making such donors known could possibly deter a person from wanting to donate again or ever.

Remember, these suggestions are not meant to be legal advice. You should consult an experienced assisted reproductive technology law attorney to discuss the specifics of your situation

photo credit: Retinafunk via photopin cc

Facebook Leads Adopted Indiana Woman to Biological Family in 36 Hours

November 15, 2013

23962308_BG1.jpgThe process of finding biological family can be very difficult for adopted individuals. Thanks to technology, this process has become a little easier for some. An Indiana woman used Facebook to find her biological family. She posted a plea that included her birth information and in less than 2 days found members of her biological family. Read the full story from ABC News.

It all started with a simple Facebook post: "My name is Elizabeth Boys aka Betsy. I was born at St. Francis Hospital in Beech Grove, IN on May 29th, 1984. I am searching for my biological mother."

Thirty-six hours later, Boys had Facebook messages from her biological brother, a cousin and an aunt. She was stunned.

Boys, 29, is the mother of a 2-year-old and lives in Indianapolis. She owns a housecleaning service called Maid in Indy.

"I've always known that I was adopted," Boys told ABCNews.com. "That was never, ever a secret."

She was adopted when she was a day old by loving parents who were high school sweethearts whose first date was a Beatles concert. They have been married for 42 years.

Boys' sister, who is two years older, was also adopted at a few days old and successfully tracked down her birth family two years ago.

"It inspired me," Boys said. "I've always wanted to find her [biological mother], but I had an awesome childhood so I was a little hesitant. I didn't want to juggle things up. There was a little part of me that was scared of the result."

When Boys recently saw a story similar to hers on a national news show, she found herself crying and knew it was time.

"All of a sudden [I realized], I'm going to use Facebook. I guarantee I can find her through Facebook," she said.

Her parents were fully supportive and her dad even told her he'd want to do the same thing if he were adopted.

Woman's Facebook Plea Finds Brother She's Missed Since Childhood

Then she got a clue from her mother that proved to be key to the search. The adoption was closed on both sides, but her mother had seen Boys' biological mother's last name on a form where it wasn't entirely whited out. It was Woods.

Boys created a Facebook page called, "Betsy's biological Journey" and kept her bio simple with her name, birth date and the hospital where she was born. She invited all her friends to see and share the page.

"Before I knew it, I had 300 likes on the page and people posting left and right, saying good luck and we're here for you," Boys said. "I was like, 'Wow, this could really happen.'"

The next day, she was receiving messages from across the country and around the world. The page now has nearly 6,000 likes and Boys hopes to continue using it to help others find their families.

Boys posted her information on Facebook at 2 p.m. last Wednesday and by Friday at 2 a.m., she had messages from her biological brother, a cousin and an aunt.

"I found her within 36 hours," she said of her biological mother. She soon found out that she has a large family. Her biological mother is the youngest of six.

Boys told her brother to call her right away and when he did they confirmed that they had found each other. They talked for two hours on the phone and agreed to meet.

By Sunday, she was standing outside a door waiting to meet her brother, Toby Hardy.

"I can't even explain it. I wasn't nervous at all. I was just so excited," she said. "When he opened the door, I just froze not because I was nervous, but because I was like, 'Lord, this is really real.' It was like I was looking at myself because he looks just like me."

Hardy grew up as an only child raised by his father and step-mother. He had intermittent contact with their birth mother throughout his life.

"I had no idea," Hardy said of his sibling. "Nobody had ever told me anything. I was excited because I always wanted a little sister."

He was just as amazed as Boys when he saw her for the first time.

Video below from local news station, WTHR:

13 WTHR Indianapolis