Gestational Surrogacy vs. Traditional Surrogacy

April 17, 2015

bond_with_baby_during_pregnancy.jpgHave you ever wondered what the difference is between gestational surrogacy and traditional surrogacy? The surrogate's genetic contribution is the distinguishing factor between the two classifications. In traditional surrogacy arrangements, the surrogate contributes her egg and is therefore genetically related to the child she is carrying. The intended father supplies the sperm. In contrast, the surrogate has no genetic link to the child in a gestational surrogacy arrangement.

Gestational surrogacy is the newer of the two categories and was first reported in 1985. Gestational surrogacy involves the surrogate mother carrying an embryo created from the genetic material of one or both of the intended parents. If an intended parent is unable to supply their genetic material, they will utilize donor egg or sperm. Gestational surrogacy is considered legally safer than traditional surrogacy, because the child has no biological relation to the gestational surrogate. Gestational surrogacy also poses fewer hurdles to the establishment of legal parentage due to the biological connection between the intended parents and the child.

The shift from traditional surrogacy towards gestational surrogacy was propelled by the Baby M case decided by the New Jersey Supreme Court in 1986, where two families "f[ought] over a baby who belonged to both of them." In Baby M., the surrogate refused to return the child, born through traditional surrogacy, to the biological father and his wife. The embryo was created using the biological father's sperm and the surrogate's egg. The intended parents sued to relinquish the surrogate's parental rights and sought to establish legal parentage in the biological father's wife. However, the New Jersey court ruled that the surrogate was the child's legal mother. The use of traditional surrogacy declined following the outcome of Baby M. Courts' inclination to establish legal parentage due to the genetic link and the accessibility of reproductive technology popularized gestational surrogacy.

The attorneys of Harden Jackson Law are devoted to servicing clients throughout the Indianapolis area and the state of Indiana in all areas family law, including divorce, custody, child support, property division, paternity, post-divorce modifications, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, simple wills, adoption, surrogacy and other areas of assisted reproductive technology law. For more information, please contact us at 317.569.0770 or www.hardenjacksonlaw.com.

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

Photo credit: www.newparent.com

"Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day"

April 13, 2015

Mother & Daughter.jpgWhile we often discuss the family turmoil surrounding divorce, custody battles, and child support, sometimes taking a step back and simply focusing on your children is the best move.

On Thursday April 23rd, it is "Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day", a day that strives to empower the youth of America and encourage children to create new pathways to their own success. Perhaps most importantly, this day also serves as an opportunity for the workplace to emphasize the importance of education to children still in school. This day is a great chance for you to show your children that you care about their future.

In preparation for "Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work" Day, here are some quick tips and fast facts on making the most of your day inspiring your children.

1. Before Thursday April 23rd, have your child go to the Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Foundation website and fill out their "dream calculator".
2. Make sure you review this article by Jacqueline Smith at Forbes on the "Do's and Don'ts" of taking your kids to work. As Smith states, "This day gives [kids] the opportunity to learn and be exposed to their dream jobs." It also debunks the common myth that you can only take your children to work - you can take anyone in the recommended age range of 8-18 (children of friends, family, neighbors, etc.).
3. Work from home? Check out this article by the Huffington Post on how to celebrate "Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day".
4. Check out this list of frequently asked questions.
5. Tweet your pictures with this year's hashtag, "#MPOWR".
6. Have fun and make the most of it!

Let us know what you think and tweet @HARDENJACKSON.


The attorneys of Harden Jackson Law are devoted to servicing clients throughout the Indianapolis area and the state of Indiana in all areas of family law, including divorce, custody, child support, property division, paternity, post-divorce modifications, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, simple wills, adoption, surrogacy and other areas of assisted reproductive technology law. For more information, please contact us at 317.569.0770 or www.hardenjacksonlaw.com.

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

photo credit: Canterbury Cathedral Precinct - Aug 2014 - Beautiful Mother & Daughter Candid via photopin (license)

Foreign Adoptions by Americans Continue to Decline

April 7, 2015

internationaladoption.jpg
According to the U.S. Department of State's 2014 Annual Report on Intercountry Adoption, American adoption of foreign-born children is dramatically declining. The report, released last week, found that the number of foreign-born children adopted by American families has dropped to its lowest level since 1982. Americans adopted 6, 441 foreign-born children in 2014, which constitutes a greater than 9% reduction from the 7, 094 adoptions reported in 2013. The report's findings indicate a 74% decline over the past ten years, when 22,991 foreign-born children were adopted in 2004.

Various adoption agencies surveyed in this Wall Street Journal article attribute the reduced numbers to several factors, including "policies meant to promote domestic adoption and foster care in countries such as Ethiopia; nationalist sentiment against adoption in emerging economies like China and South Korea; and increased U.S. scrutiny of some countries and individual cases." For example, China recently began advocating for domestic adoption and instituting stringent qualifications for foreigners to adopt. Additionally, the U.S. discontinued adoptions in Cambodia and Guatemala due to "evidence of baby selling and document fraud."

Another potential contribution to the steep decline is the improper implementation of the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption. The United States implemented the Convention in 2008. The Convention ensures that each intercountry adoption aligns with the best interests of the child and protects children from abduction, exploitation, and trafficking. According to the article, some countries, such as Cambodia, signed the Convention prior to creating procedures enabling their compliance.

Adoption advocacy organizations such as the National Council for Adoption ("NCFA") note that despite the plummeting numbers, American interest in pursuing intercountry adoption has not decreased. In response to the Annual Report, the NCFA proposes that the U.S. create a new office to serve as the nation's Central Authority (as mandated by the Convention). The NCFA contends that the present Central Authority, the Office of Children's Issues in Consular Affairs, serves merely a regulatory role. The proposed new office would focus not only on maintaining ethical procedures, but would also place an emphasis on advocacy. According to the NCFA, this includes partnering with and supporting willing countries in upholding their children's best interests in the realm of intercountry adoptions.

The attorneys of Harden Jackson Law are devoted to servicing clients throughout the Indianapolis area and the state of Indiana in all areas family law, including divorce, custody, child support, property division, paternity, post-divorce modifications, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, simple wills, adoption, surrogacy and other areas of assisted reproductive technology law. For more information, please contact us at 317.569.0770 or www.hardenjacksonlaw.com.

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

Photo credit: Youcaring.com

Frequently Asked Question - Protecting Assets and Children When Filing for Divorce

April 6, 2015

Stop sign.jpgPotential clients frequently ask how to protect their assets when they file for divorce, particularly in the event their spouse takes control of their assets, liquidates a bank or investment account, sells a car, takes a second mortgage on the house, racks up a bunch of credit card debt, etc. Without an agreement or court order, all of those actions are improper because they "dissipate" or waste marital assets that must be included and divided as part of the marital estate. Luckily, several counties, including Hamilton County, have local rules that immediately protect parties against dissipation of assets prior to a preliminary hearing. These rules are similar to Indiana Trial Rule 65(E) regarding temporary restraining orders in domestic relations cases, except that they do not require an initial petition or court order. In fact, Hamilton County's local rule has a similar provision to Trial Rule 65(E)(1)(b) against removing children from the state as well. Hamilton County's local rule LR29-TR65-212 states:

In any Domestic Relations case filed in Hamilton County, the parties shall not, without hearing or security: a. Transfer, encumber, conceal, sell or otherwise dispose of any joint property of the parties or asset of the marriage except in the usual course of business or for the necessities of life, without the written consent of the parties or the permission of the Court; and/or b. Remove any child of the parties then residing in the State of Indiana from the State with the intent to deprive the Court of jurisdiction over such child without the prior written consent of all parties or the permission of the Court.

Therefore, under Hamilton County's local rule, spouses should not be spending assets or accruing unnecessary debt unless it is for standard living expenses like a mortgage, utilities, car payment, etc. That being said, there are situations where a party has dissipated assets or needs to dispose of an asset where negotiation or court intervention may be necessary. For example, your spouse may have liquidated an account in violation of the local rules, or you and your spouse may agree that selling the marital residence is in the parties' financial interest. In those cases, I would encourage individual spouses to seek the advice of a domestic relations attorney to assist in recovering the dissipated assets or negotiating an agreement to list the house for sale that will protect their client during the sale process. Situations involving dissipation and temporary restraining orders are often fact specific, and it is important to seek the advice of an experienced domestic relations attorney who can advise you on the best course of action.

Let us know what you think and tweet @HARDENJACKSON.

The attorneys of Harden Jackson Law are devoted to servicing clients throughout the Indianapolis area and the state of Indiana in all areas family law, including divorce, custody, child support, property division, paternity, post-divorce modifications, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, simple wills, adoption, surrogacy and other areas of assisted reproductive technology law. For more information, please contact us at 317.569.0770 or www.hardenjacksonlaw.com.

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

Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle through Divorce

March 27, 2015

Meditating.jpgDuring a divorce there are lots of things on your mind. Everyday life becomes a challenge and the things that came to you naturally before your divorce require a conscious effort now. You hold yourself together at work and change the subject when your kids bring up your soon-to-be ex-spouse. You wonder how your spouse is doing as you check their Facebook profile for the tenth time that day - are they seeing anyone? Have they talked to your mutual friends about the divorce? You call your friends for support and you contact an attorney for legal advice.

But there's one thing you probably haven't given much thought to: your health.

A recent article by the U.S. News and World Report suggests that divorced people actually have a heightened risk for some long-term chronic health conditions. One family law attorney compared the divorce process to grieving a loved one who has passed on; "The accompanying stress and grief is comparable to a physical loss which affects you both physically and emotionally."

So if you're going through a divorce, it's important that you pay attention to your health and what your body needs. Here are some quick tips to keep up on your everyday health and avoid any future health conditions:

1. Be active! Whether it's walking your dog, hitting the gym, or going to a yoga studio with your friend, make sure you're getting at least the recommended 30 minutes of exercise each day. Choose something that's fun and that you'll want to do every day - the last thing you need is added stress.

2. Watch what you eat. This goes both ways - attorneys report clients going through divorce to drastically gain or lose weight during the process. Make sure you eat 3 meals every day and try to incorporate all the food groups. "Eat a rainbow" as your mom used to say. If you're busy and don't have time to make meals during the week, try pre-making all of your meals during the weekend. There are also some foods that can help lower stress.

3. Get regular checkups. Don't stop your life routine - if you normally see your family physician every 6 months, it's essential to continue doing so. Don't forget to also schedule other routine health screenings like mammograms. Taking preventative steps can make the difference in your long-term health.

4. Catch some Z's. Getting the recommended 6-8 hours of sleep has been proven to improve mood, focus, diet, and exercise. See a doctor if you're having trouble sleeping and see if there's a solution for you.


Let us know what you think and tweet @HARDENJACKSON.

The attorneys of Harden Jackson Law are devoted to servicing clients throughout the Indianapolis area and the state of Indiana in all areas family law, including divorce, custody, child support, property division, paternity, post-divorce modifications, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, simple wills, adoption, surrogacy and other areas of assisted reproductive technology law. For more information, please contact us at 317.569.0770 or www.hardenjacksonlaw.com.

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

Photo credit: Meditating via photopin

What Really Causes Divorce?

March 20, 2015

Sweatpants (2).jpgThere is a lot of media attention around Eva Mendes right now for her comments in an interview with Extra regarding sweatpants and their toxicity to marriages:

"No, no, no, no! You can't do sweatpants. No," she said. "Ladies, No. 1 cause of divorce in America? Sweatpants. No. Can't do that."

While many were quick to dismiss these comments, it does draw attention to the real causes of divorce. Just under fifty percent of all marriages in the United States end in divorce. So what really causes divorce in the United States and why?

According to a survey done by the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts, 43% of divorces are the result of incompatibility, 28% are due to infidelity, and 22% are due to financial stress. The other ten percent was attributed to "emotional and/or physical abuse", "parenting issues/arguments", and "addiction and/or alcoholism issues".

Additionally, one CDFA (Certified Divorce Financial Analyst) stated that basic incompatibility is actually a broad reason that usually encompasses some of the other causes mentioned above.

In a recent Huffington Post article, "Divorce Causes: 5 Marriage Mistakes That Lead to Divorce", one hundred couples answered this question: What would be a deal-breaker in your marriage?

Their responses included cheating, dishonesty, addictions, abuse, and major changes in priorities (which upon reading the description looks very similar to "incompatibility"). Read more by clicking here.

While incompatibility and infidelity are well-known as deal-breakers in a marriage, some may find financial stress puzzling as a cause of divorce. Some may be asking, "How is it possible that financial stress overshadows the percentage of marriages ending due to abuse or parenting issues?" However, there are studies that support the high percentage of marriages ending in divorce as a result of financial issues.

According to a 2009 study by Jeffrey Dew at Utah State University, couples who disagree about finances once a week are over 30 percent more likely to get divorced than couples that report disagreeing about finances a few times a month.

Regardless of the reason, it is obvious that divorce rates are on the rise. The reasons may change over the years but one thing will invariably remain: people won't get divorces because of sweatpants.


Let us know what you think and tweet @HARDENJACKSON.

The attorneys of Harden Jackson Law are devoted to servicing clients throughout the Indianapolis area and the state of Indiana in all areas family law, including divorce, custody, child support, property division, paternity, post-divorce modifications, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, simple wills, adoption, surrogacy and other areas of assisted reproductive technology law. For more information, please contact us at 317.569.0770 or www.hardenjacksonlaw.com.

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

Photo credit: sweatpant fashion+striped shirt+blazer+wedges+window+ferragamo bag+buildings via photopin (license)

You've Decided to File for Divorce. Now What?

March 13, 2015

15053056352_b003a001e8.jpgThe Technical Part

For whatever reason, you've decided to file for divorce. There are several things you need to do before you file for a divorce.

1. Call an attorney. This part doesn't have to be stressful - search engines like Google have made finding a good attorney faster and easier than in the past. Be wary of experience levels - an ideal attorney might have 5-10 years of experience, depending on the assets involved with your spouse.
2. Decide the style of your divorce. Will you mediate? Collaborate? Litigate? Typically the first two options will be significantly cheaper than litigation, though they require a high degree of tolerance and compromise.
3. Figure out the financials. Determine the assets that you own - both separate from your spouse and with your spouse. Draft a list of these items and add to it as you think of additional assets. Also determine any debts that you may owe (again, with or without your spouse) because these debts will also be allocated during the divorce.
4. Gather your documents. Find everything you can and make a copy of it - tax returns, bank statements, check registers, investment statements, retirement account statements, employee benefits handbooks, life insurance policies, mortgage documents, financial statements, credit card statements, wills, Social Security statements, automobile titles, etc. You will need documentation to show your income and the income of your spouse - if you are both salaried employees, these two figures can be proved using pay stubs from an income tax return. If either party is self-employed, copies and bank account statements might be the way to go.
5. Create a new budget. You have a new life that starts once you file for divorce - your income and expenses are now (primarily) separate. Make sure you are proactive about this step as it is essential to money management.
6. Identify and close any joint accounts. You don't want the headache of a joint account during the divorce process.


The (More) Fun Part

You're somewhere along in the divorce process - either right in the thick of it or within your first few months post-divorce. There are several things that you should try with your new life.

1. Create a list of all the things you want to do. There are undoubtedly things that you've put off doing because of your marriage. Now is the time to do them! Consider any childhood or college dreams that went unrealized and experiment with your interests. Delve into something you love. Ideas.
2. Spoil yourself. Buy something you've always wanted. You deserve it.
3. Draft a self-improvement plan. By identifying the parts of yourself that you might let go of with the added stress of your divorce, you can better address these parts and nurture them to make sure they stick around. This also gives you a huge boost in your self-confidence - if you know you have a tendency to stop working out when you're sad or stressed, being proactive and coming up with an attack strategy to keep hitting the gym can make you feel accomplished in a tough situation.
4. Be lazy. While you should keep up on your self-improvement plan, make sure to get some "me time" by relaxing with a hot bath, a nice movie, or a good book. When was the last time you got to choose your own movie, anyway?
5. Find your motivation. It sounds strange but little things like a playlist of empowering songs or a bulletin board full of inspirational quotes can pick you up when you're down. Don't neglect the little things!


Let us know what you think and tweet @HARDENJACKSON.

The attorneys of Harden Jackson Law are devoted to servicing clients throughout the Indianapolis area and the state of Indiana in all areas family law, including divorce, custody, child support, property division, paternity, post-divorce modifications, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, simple wills, adoption, surrogacy and other areas of assisted reproductive technology law. For more information, please contact us at 317.569.0770 or www.hardenjacksonlaw.com.

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

Photo credit: Daisaku Ikeda A person's true nature is revealed at times of the greatest adversity via photopin (license)

Divorce Statistics Unaffected by NJ Collaborative Family Law Act

March 6, 2015

Wedding Ring Blog Post.jpgLast fall, Governor Christie signed the New Jersey Collaborative Family Law Act after it passed unanimously through both the Senate and General Assembly. This legislation is modeled on a proposal from the New Jersey Law Revision Commission and the national Uniform Law Commission. The New Jersey Collaborative Family Law Act allows couples to have a marriage dissolved without court intervention through a process similar to mediation, in which both sides would be required to provide "timely, full, and candid disclosure" of relevant information without either side having to resort to discovery.

This demonstration of partisanship and constructive reform would allow couples who litigate their divorces in New Jersey to settle their cases through a newly enacted method called collaborative law. But according to recent statistics given by presiding judges in Morris; Sussex; Somerset; and Essex counties, approximately 97 percent of couples are still going through traditional divorces that end in settlements. So why aren't couples turning to collaboration to settle their divorces?


Even though New Jersey has one of the lowest divorce rates in the nation (6.9 per 1,000 women; 6.6 per 1,000 men), New Jersey is the ninth state to legitimize this process to reduce costs, improve the selection of options for divorcing spouses, reduce the impact of the divorce on children, and create new jobs in the legal, financial, and psychological health sectors.

This new area of New Jersey law has become the fourth official way to become divorced in New Jersey (and arguably the least costly). According to Assemblyman Holly Schepisi (R-Dist. 39), she introduced the New Jersey Collaborative Family Law Act because the cost of divorce was so high, ranging anywhere from $10,000 to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Having a joint expert shared by both parties, for example, can significantly reduce the costs typically associated with litigation where each couple hires their own expert.

Any given New Jersey couple now has the option to choose to litigate, mediate, arbitrate, or collaborate. It seems logical that couples would embrace an agreement that they've played a part in performing and this method also allows couples to come up with creative solutions that judges can't decide in court through traditional options like open duration, term, rehabilitative, or reimbursement. Through the use of collaborative law, divorcing spouses have more control over elements of the divorce such as timing and terms of settlement.

Additionally, couples who choose collaboration can often resolve later disputes more easily because their divorce was openly discussed and resolved in a collaborative method with minimal court intervention.


According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 40 percent of all children will experience the divorce of their parents. Additionally, 20 to 25 percent of those children will suffer significant adjustment problems as teenagers that they will carry into adulthood.

Because of the amiable nature of collaborative divorce, many couples are able to come up with a co-parenting plan (attached to their divorce decree) and establish a mutually agreeable system of handling their children's finances and other aspects of the child's care. This saves the child from becoming collateral damage as a result of drawn-out arguments and further emotional stress.


Lastly, this legislative reform has the potential to create new jobs while certainly strengthening and standardizing professional training and skills of existing collaborative professionals. Talia Katz, CEO of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, states, "We all quickly realized that divorce is not just a legal event. It's an emotional event. It's a financial event."

According to a survey by the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts, 62% of respondents said the number of new clients coming through their doors has remained steady or actually increased since the start of the recession. This new sector of financial advising through divorce agreements allows analysts to advise clients see how different financial arrangements play out after any given number of years (one, two, five, ten, retirement years) using family law software. Trough the help of this software, divorce financial planners can analyze components such as the tax impact of their alimony, child support, and individual income to help divorcing spouses make logical, informed decisions that formulate an effective financial strategy.

According to the New Jersey Collaborative Law Group, collaborative divorce bolsters civility through the termination of a marriage. One possible explanation for this civility could be the introduction of collaborative divorce coaches. Aaron Welt, a Morristown clinical psychologist who is now employed in the collaborative law field, says that as a divorce coach he advises clients to "recognize a fair deal when you see it and you can't let certain emotions like anger, regret, or resentment cloud your judgment." These divorce coaches typically work to reduce the emotional stress of the collaborative process.

According to an article by The Daily Record, a range of mental health experts - including clinical psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, licensed professional counselors, psychiatrists, substance abuse specialists, and compulsive behavior specialists - can be drawn into the process as needed, as can real estate and financial specialists.


Collaborative divorce agreements are most popular along the east coast and west coast, but experts predict that expansion will continue toward the Midwestern region of the U.S.

Let us know what you think about New Jersey's collaborative divorce legislation and tweet @HARDENJACKSON.

The attorneys of Harden Jackson Law are devoted to servicing clients throughout the Indianapolis area and the state of Indiana in all areas family law, including divorce, custody, child support, property division, paternity, post-divorce modifications, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, simple wills, adoption, surrogacy and other areas of assisted reproductive technology law. For more information, please contact us at 317.569.0770 or www.hardenjacksonlaw.com.

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

photo credit: Engagement Ring via photopin (license)

Ireland Cabinet Approves Drafting of Surrogacy Legislation

February 27, 2015

feet_heart.jpg
This week, Ireland's Cabinet gave the green light to continue drafting legislation aimed at regulating surrogacy and assisted reproduction. The proposed Bill for Assisted Human Reproduction and Stem Cell Research will cover surrogacy, embryo donation, gamete donation, and related research areas. The legislation's purpose is to "safeguard the welfare, safety and best interests of children, bring certainty to the area for potential parents, and provide guidance on what is permitted in terms of research." Presently, Irish common law and legislation (such as the Status of Children Act of 1987 and the Civil Registration Act of 2004) do not address surrogacy.

The approval to draft Ireland's first set of laws regarding assisted reproduction comes in the wake of a recent Supreme Court ruling. In late 2014, Ireland's Supreme Court reversed a landmark decision that established legal parentage in the genetic mother. The case involved twins born to a gestational surrogate. The embryos were created using the genetic material of both intended parents. The Supreme Court overturned the High Court's determination that the genetic mother is the legal mother, and ruled that the birth mother (the surrogate) is the children's legal mother. In its opinion, the Supreme Court noted the minimal guidance provided by Irish law in regard to surrogacy arrangements, and emphasized the need for legislation to address such issues.

Ireland is following the model set forth by countries that permit and regulate altruistic (non-commercial) surrogacy, such as Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom. The legislation will ban commercial surrogacy, but will permit reimbursement for "reasonable expenses." According to Ireland's Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, the proposed bill will also include a mechanism for transferring legal parentage from the surrogate to the intended parents.

The attorneys of Harden Jackson Law are devoted to servicing clients throughout the Indianapolis area and the state of Indiana in all areas family law, including divorce, custody, child support, property division, paternity, post-divorce modifications, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, simple wills, adoption, surrogacy and other areas of assisted reproductive technology law. For more information, please contact us at 317.569.0770 or www.hardenjacksonlaw.com.

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

Photo Credit: Advokids

Valentine's Day Divorces

February 20, 2015

Heartbreak Valentine's Day Divorces Blog Post.jpgWhile February is typically considered the month of love, many firms this month have offered free or discounted fees for filing a divorce claim. One law firm in Charleston, West Virginia accepted applications from couples that competed to show who deserved a free divorce. One location in New York even calls itself a "Divorce Hotel", where you can check-in married and check-out single after your weekend stay.

Another firm advertised that they were "giving away one free divorce for Valentine's Day. The winner will be chosen based on the most compelling and convincing story as to why they should be the winner."

According to Avvo.com, Valentine's Day sees a forty percent spike in divorce filings. Perhaps it's because the fear of ruining the holidays around November and December (who wants to explain to their mother why their husband isn't joining them for Christmas dinner?).

It could also be the intense pressure surrounding a day of romanticism and high expectations, which tend to be a bad combination when someone in the relationship is forgetful. One woman from Des Moines, Iowa was left reeling this year when her husband asked for a divorce after sending her two dozen roses to work last Valentine's Day with a note that read, "It's not you. It's the holidays. I need a divorce."

Another possibility is the financial pressure surrounding couples after holiday spending and the New Year - according to an article in The New York Times, couples who report disagreeing about finances once a week are thirty percent more likely to get a divorce than couples who reported disagreeing about finances a few times a month.

Regardless of the reason for the forty percent spike in divorce filings, many law firms have started taking advantage of these Valentine's Day blues. The ethical question is: should law firms be taking advantage of couples who are emotionally vulnerable in February?

The Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct states:

"A lawyer shall not solicit professional employment from a prospective client by in-person or by written, recorded, audio, video, or electronic communication, including the internet, if the lawyer knows, or reasonably should know, that the physical, emotional, or mental state of the person makes it unlikely that the person would exercise reasonable judgment in employing a lawyer."

Ultimately, Indiana attorneys are bound by the laws, regulations, and policies of the Indiana State Bar Association's ethics code. Outside of legislation and these rules, attorneys are only bound by their own personal code of ethics. Or in other words: each attorney must decide if advertising discounted divorce rates during the month of February (when the number of divorce filings is known to increase by forty percent) is taking advantage of the emotional state of a couple experiencing marital issues and impeding their ability to make a reasonable decision in choosing an attorney.

So what do you think? Let us know and tweet @HARDENJACKSON.

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: Broken Heart Grunge via photopin

Milestone Decision by German Court in Surrogacy Case

January 9, 2015

ART.jpg

On December 19th, 2014, the highest court in Germany issued a landmark ruling that recognizes German intended parents as the legal parents of children born through surrogacy. The case involved a same-sex couple whose child was born through a surrogate in California. A California court issued a decision that the couple was the legal parents of the child. Upon their return to Germany, the couple petitioned the Berlin courts for a birth certificate listing them as the child's parents. However, this request was denied because under German law, the California surrogate was considered the child's mother. The couple appealed the decision, and the Berlin appellate court upheld the refusal to recognize the couple as the child's parents. The court reasoned that the California court order was null and void in Germany, where surrogacy agreements are against public policy. The appellate court held that German law superseded; therefore only the woman who gave birth could be the child's legal mother.

The couple further appealed the decision in the Federal Supreme Court, which reversed the previous courts' rulings. The court ordered that the couple be registered as the child's legal parents, reasoning that the California court order requires the presumption of validity under the comity principle and that German courts may not question a foreign court's ruling. The court explained that comity can only be surmounted if the foreign ruling is incompatible with the basic principles of German law. Although German law prohibits surrogacy, the court established that a child born through surrogacy did not control the circumstances of its birth and is entitled to have legal parents. The court also reasoned that denying the couple legal parentage would be incompatible with basic human rights, as the child's mother is not recognized as such in her jurisdiction and is not prepared to take responsibility for the child.

While Intended Parents are still unable to legally pursue surrogacy in Germany, the ruling may generate a more positive regard toward surrogacy and potentially encourage legislative changes.

The attorneys of Harden Jackson Law are devoted to servicing clients throughout the Indianapolis area and the state of Indiana in all areas family law, including divorce, custody, child support, property division, paternity, post-divorce modifications, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, simple wills, adoption, surrogacy and other areas of assisted reproductive technology law. For more information, please contact Leah Potter at 317.569.0770 or www.hardenjacksonlaw.com.

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

Practical tips to avoid holiday parenting time problems

December 5, 2014

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for CMD close.jpgDuring the holiday season our office receives tons of questions from our clients about how to handle holiday parenting time. Attorney Christine Douglas helps individuals resolve a variety of legal issues that arise in families. With over 18 years experience guiding her clients through these types family law matters, Ms. Douglas offers advice on how to avoid holiday parenting time problems.

  1. Use common sense. Be flexible and focus on your child. If you are focusing on "your rights" or the other parent, you are not thinking about your child. The holidays should not be a battleground---ever! Be the better parent and avoid all confrontation. If the other parent is unwilling to be flexible with the holidays, then you should be flexible. You are not being taken advantage of--you are thinking about your child. You are helping create wonderful memories for your child and not holiday memories of on-going fighting and bitterness.
  2. Keep a diary of dates and times of parenting time and especially any modifications. Make sure all conversations about parenting time is limited to email so you have a record of who requested what, when parenting time was requested and how it was decided. If you ever have to go to court in regard to parenting time, you can show the Judge your efforts to be cooperative, reasonable and flexible.
  3. Do not focus on "the day". Who gets the child for Christmas Day seems to cause a lot of problems. Although Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines tries to resolve this issue, strict application of the Guidelines sometimes creates unrealistic results. If you cannot agree on who gets Christmas Day, be the better parent and celebrate Christmas on a different day with your child. Family is what makes Christmas special not a calendar day. If you want to see your child run down the stairs on Christmas morning, celebrate another day as Christmas morning before or after December 25th.
  4. Many school holiday breaks this year begin on Friday December 19, 2014 and end on Sunday, January 4, 2015---17 overnights. The IPTG state that the custodial parent shall have the first half of Christmas vacation and the other parent shall have the second half. Christmas vacation begins two hours after the Child is released from school for break and the second half ends at 6:00 p.m. on the day before school begins. The Guidelines do not state the exact time that the first break ends and the second week begins. Additionally, IPTG state that the non-custodial parent gets Christmas Day from noon to 9:00 p.m.
If you and the other parent cannot agree on how to divide this year's holiday parenting time, you may want to consider the following example holiday parenting time calendar:

parenting time calendar.jpg

If the other parent has shown no ability to be flexible or reasonable, AFTER the holidays contact a family law attorney and discuss what options (legal and non-legal) are available to you. Before I recommend that a client seek a Judge's assistance to resolve a problem, I often recommend that they try to resolve the problem on their own so they are more credible when they go to court.
If you would like to discuss the special circumstances surrounding your situation and possible legal and non-legal options, please contact me for a legal consultation. Legal consultations usually take about one hour, but I am happy to spend as much time with you as you need. I charge by the hour and during your consultation I will discuss and evaluate your specific situation and advise you on a path forward.

The attorneys of Harden Jackson Law are devoted to servicing clients throughout the Indianapolis area and the state of Indiana in all areas family law, including divorce, custody, child support, property division, paternity, post-divorce modifications, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, simple wills, adoption, surrogacy and other areas of assisted reproductive technology law. For more information, please contact Leah Potter at 317.569.0770 or www.hardenjacksonlaw.com.

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

Indiana's Third Information & Awareness Adoption Fair

November 18, 2014

Attorney Michele Jackson, who serves on the Governor's Adoption Committee, is among other Adoption professionals, adoptive parents and adoptees who attended Indiana's Third Information and Awareness Adoption Fair. The fair provided education and celebration for adoption.

Here is Michele's son, Thaxton, with Governor Pence.
New Picture.png

Here are more moments from the Fair:

Third Adoption Fair Pence 2014 .pdf

MICHELE JACKSON NAMED FINALIST FOR INDY'S BEST AND BRIGHTEST AWARD

September 19, 2014

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for MLJ WEB.jpgFor the second year in a row, attorney Michele Jackson has been selected as a finalist for the annual Indy's Best and Brightest award ceremony created by Junior Achievement. The event will honor 100 of central Indiana's most outstanding young professionals, age 40 and under, in 10 different industries.

The Best and Brightest event was created by Junior Achievement to recognize up and coming talent and the next generation of leaders in our community. Finalists in each category are judged on professional accomplishments, civic contributions, character and leadership qualities. The finalists to be honored at the event are listed below, as well as the website, www.indysbestandbrightest.org.

Michele Jackson chairs the firm's Adoption and Reproductive Law Practice Group and focuses her practice in domestic and international adoptions as well as reproductive law matters. Jackson is also the founder of MLJ Adoptions, Inc.
In addition to her professional contributions, Jackson also founded the Global Orphan Foundation (formerly the Fatherless Foundation), a not-for-profit organization which raises funds and provides supplies to orphanages world-wide.

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

Attorney Christine Douglas volunteers at Mediation Day

September 11, 2014

Thumbnail image for CMD close.jpgAttorney Christine Douglas will be volunteering with the IndyBar Alternative Dispute Resolution division at the 5th annual Mediation Day on Friday, September 26th. Mediation Day provides a service to the courts and community by volunteering to mediate several screened cases for litigants who qualify for modest means mediation. These litigants will have the use of a registered mediator at no cost to resolve their disputes. A judicial officer will be on-site to approve the mediated agreements.

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. Christine helps individuals resolve a variety of issues that arise in non-traditional and traditional families. Her practice includes: adoptions, custody disputes, domestic partnership agreements, divorces, grandparent visitation, guardianships, parenting time enforcement, paternity cases and premarital agreements. She has extensive mediation and trial experience and completed the American Bar Association's Family Law Trial Advocacy program in Denver, Colorado. She has been practicing for over sixteen (16) years and has extensive litigation experience managing heavy volume caseloads in complex, contested family law matters. Christine is also a trained parenting coordinator.

The attorneys of Harden Jackson Law are devoted to servicing clients throughout the Indianapolis area and the state of Indiana in all areas family law, including divorce, custody, child support, property division, paternity, post-divorce modifications, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, simple wills, adoption, surrogacy and other areas of assisted reproductive technology law. For more information, please contact Leah Potter at 317.569.0770 or www.hardenjacksonlaw.com.

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