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.

Attorney Michele Jackson among community leaders modeling for Dress For Success

September 5, 2014

MLJ WEB.jpgTonight is the 12th annual Stepping Out In Style fundraising event presented by Dress for Success Indianapolis and PNC Bank at the JW Mariott in Indianapolis.

Stepping Out in Style is a fundraising event to raise money to support Dress for Success Indianapolis. Dress for Success Indianapolis provides professional attire and career development services to low income women living in Indianapolis and the surrounding counties who are referred to us by over 90 partnering agencies. In today's economy, the women we serve face challenges that extend far beyond finding a job. Most have limited resources and face barriers which require long-term support, perseverance and essential career development tools to help them thrive in work and in life. Their mission is "To promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life."

The evening will begin with the Bedel Financial Consulting, Inc. cocktail reception at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner, fashion show and the Citizens Energy Group after party. During the cocktail reception, guests can purchase tickets for the Grand Prize Drawing, bid on fabulous items through the Mainstreet silent auction, and try their hand at the Diamond Dig, sponsored by Aronstam Fine Jewelers! Guests can then join us at the after party to visit with friends and meet our models, artist and sponsors for the evening.

Attorney Michele Jackson, among other community leaders, has been selected to participate as a model to the stage for a high-energy fashion show. They will be wearing unique clothing from upscale local boutiques and walking the catwalk escorted by esteemed members of the Indianapolis Fire Department. The list of models for the evening are as follows:

  • Nicole Bickett - Chief Administrative Officer, Mainstreet
  • Angela Buchman - Meteorologist, WTHR Channel 13
  • Karen Crotchfelt - President and Publisher, Star Media
  • Meggie Dials - Regional Director of Channel Sales, ExactTarget; Founder, The Sussy Project
  • Shyra Ely-Gash - Wardrobe Stylist and Former WNBA Player
  • Kelly Huntington - President and CEO, Indianapolis Power and Light Company
  • Michele Jackson - Partner, Harden Jackson, LLC; Executive Director, MLJ Adoptions;
  • Founder, Global Orphan Foundation
  • Thea E. Kelly - Senior Counsel Commercial Operations, Dow AgroSciences LLC
  • Jewel Lofton - Lifelong Professional Women's Group (PWG) Member
  • Allyson Morrison - Lifelong Professional Women's Group (PWG) Member
  • Brooke Olzendam - Sportscaster, Fox Sports Indiana
  • Terina Perry - Project Manager Indianapolis, Lucas Oil Products
  • Andrea Roberts Pierson - Partner, Faegre Baker Daniels LLP
  • Debra Ross - Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer, The National Bank of Indianapolis
  • Sunny Lu Williams - Vice President Business Development, Telamon

To purchase tickets for tonight's event click HERE.

Resources for helping your children through divorce

August 26, 2014

suitcases.jpgIf you are planning to divorce, as a parent you have many concerns, the first of which may be how to tell your children. If you are in counseling, your therapist may have several suggestions for sharing the news with your children and preparing them for the transition during and after the divorce. You may also want to consider working with a divorce coach or parenting coordinator depending upon the nature of co-parenting or custody concerns you are facing. Seeking advice from experienced, specific support resources can make a significant difference in your and your children's ability to cope and adapt. The decision to divorce is only one step in a series of changes and modified plans that will vary as your children grow and you and your ex's lives change (relocation, remarriage, etc), so preparing now can help you avoid being mired in adversity and litigation, which will risk financial and emotional collapse for your family.

If counseling isn't a viable option for you (don't assume it isn't within your financial means as many therapists work on a sliding fee scale), there are a number of online resources including www.uptoparents.org and www.coparenting101.org which have blogs, discussion boards, videos, radio broadcasts and even worksheets and exercises which can help you become more child-centered and focus on co-parenting. With advice from experts and other parents who've been there, you can mine the information that is best for your particular situation.

You may also want to consider reading one of the numerous divorce guides or books with advice for divorcing parents. In determining which books are best for preparing your children, there are actually only a few which are based on solid knowledge and psychological research about how children and adolescents respond to the separation of their parents. Some which are recommended are: 'Mom's House, Dad's House for Kids: Feeling at Home in One Home or Two' by Isolina Ricci; 'The Truth About Children and Divorce: Dealing with the Emotions so You and Your Children Can Thrive' by Robert E. Emery, or 'For Better or For Worse: Divorce Reconsidered' by E. Mavis Hetherington and John Kelly.

The reality is that the extreme cases in divorce are, thankfully, the rare scenarios. Divorce is not "easy" despite opinions to the contrary, but it also isn't likely to lead to tragedy. Most families will struggle with financial and emotional issues as they separate into two households, change parenting styles or responsibilities, adjust schedules, deal with support and work issues and try to figure out "where to go from here." Grief, anger, bitterness, resentment, and even relief are all natural feelings which accompany divorce. These are feelings not just for the spouses, but their children as well.

Divorce isn't just a legal issue, and compassionate family law attorneys will acknowledge that by providing suggestions to clients of external resources to address the financial and emotional issues. The traditional litigation divorce model is only one path to dissolve your marriage, and for many families, alternatives to litigation such as collaborative law or mediation are better options to reduce the impact of the divorce on the spouses and children. Prospective divorce clients are usually operating from two different emotional positions - one is proactive, a spouse who for a number of reasons meets with an attorney for a general consultation to possibly discuss divorce, but isn't ready to initiate proceedings. The other is in reactionary mode because the other spouse has filed for divorce or perhaps has committed infidelity causing a strong emotional response often motivated by retaliation. In either situation, you can benefit from planning and researching how to discuss divorce with your children. Your advance preparation can help you avoid involving them in an adult situation, and minimize the emotional impact as you guide them through the transition.

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.

Embryo donation and Indiana law

August 26, 2014

embryo.jpgHave you ever wondered what happens to frozen embryos that go unused after a woman undergoes in vitro fertilization (IVF) and achieves a successful pregnancy? People with leftover embryos have various options: keeping the embryos frozen, destroying them, allowing them to be used for scientific research, and donating them. Embryo donation is on the rise as a means of conceiving a child to parents who are unable to naturally do so. This process enables a woman to donate her unused embryos to a clinic so another woman can have a child. Embryo donations usually occur anonymously, and require no contact between the donor and the recipient. However, a few clinics exist that encourage communication between the donor and recipient families, giving donors a say in choosing their embryo recipients.

The topic of embryo donation has been surrounded by controversy in recent years, specifically when the Bush Administration funded Nightlife Christian Adoptions' Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program. The term "embryo adoption" was scrutinized by the assisted reproductive technology community. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM)'s Ethics Committee released a report stating that "adoption" refers to "a specific legal procedure that establishes or transfers parentage of existing children." ASRM's report concluded that the use of the term adoption in conjunction with embryos was "inaccurate, misleading, and could place burdens upon infertile recipients and should be avoided," because it equates embryos to the status of children. Therefore, "embryo donation" is the preferred term among the assisted reproductive technology community.

Similar to adoption, embryo donation recipients must undergo a screening process involving an application and a home study. However, unlike adoption, the donation does not need to be finalized in court. Under Indiana law, the woman who gives birth is considered the legal mother and the man she is married to is the legal father. Indiana law is favorable towards embryo donation, and will likely continue to evolve as this practice becomes more common. Although embryo donation does not require court approval, it is important for persons undergoing IVF to include the disposition of any unused embryos in their will. This ensures that those who want to donate their frozen embryos will have their wishes fulfilled in the event of their deaths, and will avoid situations such as this one "What happens to your frozen embryos?"

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.

photo credit: John P Clare via photopin cc

Harden Jackson takes the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and Donates

August 22, 2014

The Indiana family law attorneys of Harden Jackson donated $500 to the ALS Association AND took the Ice Bucket Challenge. Man, that was cold! Who's next?


DIVORCE - BE WARY OF FRIENDLY ADVICE

July 31, 2014


bride secret.jpg There is one thing that is certain in every single divorce case: Unsolicited opinions and advice from others. Anyone who has gone through or is going through a divorce can most definitely say that they have received advice from friends, family, colleagues and pretty much anyone they encounter. Everyone wants to offer their opinions, share their stories and give advice on how to handle the divorce.

We get calls every day from our clients that start with the sentence: "My friend/neighbor/sister told me that I need to.....". It is completely understandable that the people around you would want to provide support and give advice in an emotional and difficult situation. That's what friends are for, right?

But, how should you handle all of this advice and well-meaning suggestions? Should you act on the opinions of friends, family and/or non-divorce professionals?

For the most part: No. Especially, if they are giving advice about legal and/or financial matters.

After all, divorce is a LEGAL process. That is not to say that there aren't many emotional issues that come with it, however, the end result relies on the law, and often times with a judge. Divorcing couples must remember that every situation is unique. Every situation needs expertise and professional guidance. You deserve to receive guidance from someone who understand the complexities of Indiana's divorce laws and someone who understand the financial impact that a divorce can have. It is imperative to your future, whether that be your financial future or the future of your children, to emerge from divorce with the best outcome for you and your family.

So, next time you need to vent to your family and friends, feel free, but be wary of the advice and opinions you get back. Utilize your support network as a sounding board and turn to the professionals for the advice you need for your 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.

photo credit: Suus Wansink via photopin cc

Michele L. Jackson to Serve on Governor's Adoption Committee

July 25, 2014

Thumbnail image for MLJ WEB.jpgMichele L. Jackson, founding partner of Harden Jackson, LLC, and Chair of the firm's Adoption and Reproductive Law Practice Group, was appointed to the Indiana Governor's Adoption Committee on July 21, 2014. Michele, who is also the CEO and founder of MLJ Adoptions, will be serving on the committee alongside eight other Indiana adoption professionals.
The Indiana Governor's Adoption Committee was formed after Governor Pence enacted House Enrolled Act 1222 (HEA 1222) earlier this year. HEA 1222 also established Indiana's first adoption tax credit. The committee's responsibilities include studying other states' partnerships with private, faith-based, and community organizations to provide services through the states' public adoption programs, making recommendations to improve of Indiana's adoption programs, and reporting the findings and recommendations to Governor Mike Pence and the Indiana Department of Child Services.
Michele was heavily involved with the Act throughout the legislative process, and had the privilege to testify before the Indiana House Family, Children, and Human Affairs committee in support of the Act. Her testimony included information about the individual and communal benefits of expanding and improving adoption in the State of Indiana, as well as the life-changing impact of adoption. Michele also emphasized that lack of financial resources may dissuade families from pursuing adoption. Michele was honored to attend the ceremonial signing of HEA 1222 alongside adoptive families and other adoption advocates, who were there to witness the culmination of their hard work.
Michele firmly believes that all children are entitled to a family as a fundamental and human right, and has devoted her career to removing the barriers to adoption. She is humbled and grateful for the opportunity to contribute her experience as an adoptive mother and adoption professional throughout her service on the Indiana Governor's Adoption Committee

Biological Dads Denied Names on Birth Certificate

June 26, 2014

same sex couple babies.jpgWhen a gay couple in Texas was denied the ability to place their names on their newborn children's birth certificates, the news story went viral. Jason Hanna and Joe Riggs, whose twin boys were born through a gestational surrogate, are each the biological father of one of the babies. However, neither of their names is listed on the boys' birth certificates, nor were they allowed to proceed with their second-parent adoption. Their petition to remove the surrogate's name from the birth certificate, place their names on the birth certificates, and adopt each other's biological child was denied. The surrogate, who has no biological ties to the children as the couple used an egg donor, is the only name on each birth certificate. Texas's ban on same-sex marriage was cited as the reason for the decision. Although ruled unconstitutional last February, the decision was stayed pending appeal and judges can use their discretion in these cases. Texas law requires a second-parent adoption to be between two legally married people. Although Hanna and Riggs were legally married in Washington D.C., the state of Texas does not recognize their marriage and denied their petition for a second-parent adoption. According to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), Texas and 17 other states have "unclear" laws regarding LGBT adoption and allow judges to have discretion to decide if LGBT parents can adopt. Regardless of Texas' stance on same-sex marriage, it is unclear as to why the judge denied the petitions for each father to be listed on his biological child's birth certificate.

Indiana is one of the few states that explicitly authorize same sex couples to petition for second-parent adoptions. Along with California, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and the District of Columbia, Indiana recognizes second-parent adoptions for same-sex couples through precedent-setting rulings at the state court level. Connecticut, Colorado, and Vermont allow second-parent adoptions by statute. Indiana law also does not prohibit individuals from adoption based on their sexual orientation. Therefore, LGBT individuals may petition to adopt, and same-sex couples may jointly petition to adopt.

The attorneys at Harden Jackson have a great deal of experience helping couples in their family building journey, in addition to assisting clients in all areas of family law, adoption, and reproductive law matters. For more information, please contact our office 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.

Photo credit: HuffingtonPost.com

Attorney Christine Douglas - Trained Parenting Coordinator

June 17, 2014

CMD close.jpgHarden Jackson is pleased to announce that attorney Christine Douglas has been trained as a Parenting Coordinator and is now accepting clients. Christine practices solely in the area of family law and is a Certified Family Law Specialist, as certified by the Family Law Certification Board. 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.

A Parenting Coordinator (PC) is a court-appointed "special master" tasked to assist parents with the development, implementation, and monitoring of parenting plans in hopes of reducing re-litigation. PCs also help parties and their children adjust to divorce and resolve impasses between parents. A PC's authority is specifically defined by the Court through an Order of Appointment prepared by the parties and their attorneys. The order outlines which matters a PC can address as well as confidentiality, length of appointment, authority to request information, fees, etc.

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.

Press Release - Attorney Michele Jackson Honored with "Young Entrepreneur Award"

April 23, 2014

MLJ WEB.jpgCARMEL, IN - April 22, 2014 - Founding Partner and Attorney Michele L. Jackson has been selected to receive the "Young Entrepreneur Award" from the Madame Walker Theatre Center at the 9th Annual Spirit Awards Gala.

"It truly is an honor to receive an award from an organization that celebrates the cultural heritage of diverse ethnicities and symbolizes the spirit of creativity and community pride in Indianapolis," Jackson said. "It is especially humbling to be honored by an organization founded by such an amazing woman and entrepreneur."

The Awards Gala will be held at Madame Walker Theatre on April 26, 2014. The evening opens with a cocktail reception and is followed by the awards ceremony where business and civic leaders will be recognized for their contributions to arts and culture.

Founded in 1927 as a lifelong dream of Madame C.J. Walker, the Theatre Center's mission is to preserve and advance the legacy of its namesake through arts, entertainment, cultural education, entrepreneurship and civic engagement. It lives its mission by celebrating the rich heritage of the African-American culture and other minority cultures through artistic expression and is seen as Central Indiana's only multi-cultural art house into which everyone is welcome. For more information about the programs and services available at the Theatre Center visit: www.walkertheare.com.

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.

National Infertility Awareness Week - RESOLVE to know more

April 22, 2014


National Infertility Awareness Week® (NIAW) is a movement that began in 1989. The goal of NIAW is to raise awareness about the disease of infertility and encourage the public to understand their reproductive health.
RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association founded this movement and continues to work with the professional family building community, corporate partners, and the media to:


  • ensure that people trying to conceive know the guidelines for seeing a specialist when they are trying to conceive.

  • enhance public understanding that infertility is a disease that needs and deserves attention.

  • educate legislators about the disease of infertility and how it impacts people in their state.


In 2010 National Infertility Awareness Week became a federally recognized health observance by the Department of Health and Human Services.This year RESOLVE is urging the infertility community to spread the message "Resolve to know more." Resolve to know more about all your family building options.

RESOLVE's Infertility Etiquette

Chances are, you know someone who is struggling with infertility. More than seven million people of childbearing age in the United States experience infertility. Yet, as a society, we are woefully uninformed about how to best provide emotional support for our loved ones during this painful time.

Infertility is, indeed, a very painful struggle. The pain is similar to the grief over losing a loved one, but it is unique because it is a recurring grief. When a loved one dies, he isn't coming back. There is no hope that he will come back from the dead. You must work through the stages of grief, accept that you will never see this person again, and move on with your life.

The grief of infertility is not so cut and dry. Infertile people grieve the loss of the baby that they may never know. They grieve the loss of that baby who would have had mommy's nose and daddy's eyes. But, each month, there is the hope that maybe that baby will be conceived after all. No matter how hard they try to prepare themselves for bad news, they still hope that this month will be different. Then, the bad news comes again, and the grief washes over the infertile couple anew. This process happens month after month, year after year. It is like having a deep cut that keeps getting opened right when it starts to heal.

As the couple moves into infertility treatments, the pain increases while the bank account depletes. The tests are invasive and embarrassing to both parties, and you feel like the doctor has taken over your bedroom. And for all of this discomfort, you pay a lot of money.

A couple will eventually resolve the infertility problem in one of three ways:

They will eventually conceive a baby.
They will stop the infertility treatments and choose to live without children.
They will find an alternative way to parent, such as by adopting a child or becoming a foster parent.
Reaching a resolution can take years, so your infertile loved ones need your emotional support during this journey. Most people don't know what to say, so they wind up saying the wrong thing, which only makes the journey so much harder for their loved ones. Knowing what not to say is half of the battle to providing support.

Don't Tell Them to Relax

Everyone knows someone who had trouble conceiving but then finally became pregnant once she "relaxed." Couples who are able to conceive after a few months of "relaxing" are not infertile. By definition, a couple is not diagnosed as "infertile" until they have tried unsuccessfully to become pregnant for a full year. In fact, most infertility specialists will not treat a couple for infertility until they have tried to become pregnant for a year. This year weeds out the people who aren't infertile but just need to "relax." Those that remain are truly infertile.

Comments such as "just relax" or "try going on a cruise" create even more stress for the infertile couple, particularly the woman. The woman feels like she is doing something wrong when, in fact, there is a good chance that there is a physical problem preventing her from becoming pregnant.

These comments can also reach the point of absurdity. As a couple, my husband and I underwent two surgeries, numerous inseminations, hormone treatments, and four years of poking and prodding by doctors. Yet, people still continued to say things like, "If you just relaxed on a cruise . . ." Infertility is a diagnosable medical problem that must be treated by a doctor, and even with treatment, many couples will NEVER successfully conceive a child. Relaxation itself does not cure medical infertility.

Don't Minimize the Problem

Failure to conceive a baby is a very painful journey. Infertile couples are surrounded by families with children. These couples watch their friends give birth to two or three children, and they watch those children grow while the couple goes home to the silence of an empty house. These couples see all of the joy that a child brings into someone's life, and they feel the emptiness of not being able to experience the same joy.

Comments like, "Just enjoy being able to sleep late . . . .travel . . etc.," do not offer comfort. Instead, these comments make infertile people feel like you are minimizing their pain. You wouldn't tell somebody whose parent just died to be thankful that he no longer has to buy Father's Day or Mother's Day cards. Losing that one obligation doesn't even begin to compensate for the incredible loss of losing a parent. In the same vein, being able to sleep late or travel does not provide comfort to somebody who desperately wants a child.

Don't Say There Are Worse Things That Could Happen

Along the same lines, don't tell your friend that there are worse things that she could be going through. Who is the final authority on what is the "worst" thing that could happen to someone? Is it going through a divorce? Watching a loved one die? Getting raped? Losing a job?

Different people react to different life experiences in different ways. To someone who has trained his whole life for the Olympics, the "worst" thing might be experiencing an injury the week before the event. To someone who has walked away from her career to become a stay-at-home wife for 40 years, watching her husband leave her for a younger woman might be the "worst" thing. And, to a woman whose sole goal in life has been to love and nurture a child, infertility may indeed be the "worst" thing that could happen.

People wouldn't dream of telling someone whose parent just died, "It could be worse: both of your parents could be dead." Such a comment would be considered cruel rather than comforting. In the same vein, don't tell your friend that she could be going through worse things than infertility.

Don't Say They Aren't Meant to Be Parents

One of the cruelest things anyone ever said to me is, "Maybe God doesn't intend for you to be a mother." How incredibly insensitive to imply that I would be such a bad mother that God felt the need to divinely sterilize me. If God were in the business of divinely sterilizing women, don't you think he would prevent the pregnancies that end in abortions? Or wouldn't he sterilize the women who wind up neglecting and abusing their children? Even if you aren't religious, the "maybe it's not meant to be" comments are not comforting. Infertility is a medical condition, not a punishment from God or Mother Nature.

Don't Ask Why They Aren't Trying IVF

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a method in which the woman harvests multiple eggs, which are then combined with the man's sperm in a petri dish. This is a method that can produce multiple births. People frequently ask, "Why don't you just try IVF?" in the same casual tone they would use to ask, "Why don't you try shopping at another store?"

Don't Be Crude

It is appalling that I even have to include this paragraph, but some of you need to hear this-Don't make crude jokes about your friend's vulnerable position. Crude comments like "I'll donate the sperm" or "Make sure the doctor uses your sperm for the insemination" are not funny, and they only irritate your friends.

Don't Complain About Your Pregnancy

This message is for pregnant women-Just being around you is painful for your infertile friends. Seeing your belly grow is a constant reminder of what your infertile friend cannot have. Unless an infertile women plans to spend her life in a cave, she has to find a way to interact with pregnant women. However, there are things you can do as her friend to make it easier.

The number one rule is DON'T COMPLAIN ABOUT YOUR PREGNANCY. I understand from my friends that, when you are pregnant, your hormones are going crazy and you experience a lot of discomfort, such as queasiness, stretch marks, and fatigue. You have every right to vent about the discomforts to any one else in your life, but don't put your infertile friend in the position of comforting you.

Your infertile friend would give anything to experience the discomforts you are enduring because those discomforts come from a baby growing inside of you. When I heard a pregnant woman complain about morning sickness, I would think, "I'd gladly throw up for nine straight months if it meant I could have a baby." When a pregnant woman would complain about her weight gain, I would think, "I would cut off my arm if I could be in your shoes."

I managed to go to baby showers and hospitals to welcome my friends' new babies, but it was hard. Without exception, it was hard. Stay sensitive to your infertile friend's emotions, and give her the leeway that she needs to be happy for you while she cries for herself. If she can't bring herself to hold your new baby, give her time. She isn't rejecting you or your new baby; she is just trying to work her way through her pain to show sincere joy for you. The fact that she is willing to endure such pain in order to celebrate your new baby with you speaks volumes about how much your friendship means to her.

Don't Treat Them Like They Are Ignorant

For some reason, some people seem to think that infertility causes a person to become unrealistic about the responsibilities of parenthood. I don't follow the logic, but several people told me that I wouldn't ache for a baby so much if I appreciated how much responsibility was involved in parenting.

Let's face it-no one can fully appreciate the responsibilities involved in parenting until they are, themselves, parents. That is true whether you successfully conceived after one month or after 10 years. The length of time you spend waiting for that baby does not factor in to your appreciation of responsibility. If anything, people who have been trying to become pregnant longer have had more time to think about those responsibilities. They have also probably been around lots of babies as their friends started their families.

Perhaps part of what fuels this perception is that infertile couples have a longer time to "dream" about what being a parent will be like. Like every other couple, we have our fantasies-my child will sleep through the night, would never have a tantrum in public, and will always eat his vegetables. Let us have our fantasies. Those fantasies are some of the few parent-to-be perks that we have-let us have them. You can give us your knowing looks when we discover the truth later.

Don't Gossip About Your Friend's Condition

Infertility treatments are very private and embarrassing, which is why many couples choose to undergo these treatments in secret. Men especially are very sensitive to letting people know about infertility testing, such as sperm counts. Gossiping about infertility is not usually done in a malicious manner. The gossipers are usually well-meaning people who are only trying to find out more about infertility so they can help their loved ones.

Regardless of why you are sharing this information with someone else, it hurts and embarrasses your friend to find out that Madge the bank teller knows what your husband's sperm count is and when your next period is expected. Infertility is something that should be kept as private as your friend wants to keep it. Respect your friend's privacy, and don't share any information that your friend hasn't authorized.

Don't Push Adoption (Yet)

Adoption is a wonderful way for infertile people to become parents. (As an adoptive parent, I can fully vouch for this!!) However, the couple needs to work through many issues before they will be ready to make an adoption decision. Before they can make the decision to love a "stranger's baby," they must first grieve the loss of that baby with Daddy's eyes and Mommy's nose. Adoption social workers recognize the importance of the grieving process. When my husband and I went for our initial adoption interview, we expected the first question to be, "Why do you want to adopt a baby?" Instead, the question was, "Have you grieved the loss of your biological child yet?" Our social worker emphasized how important it is to shut one door before you open another.

You do, indeed, need to grieve this loss before you are ready to start the adoption process. The adoption process is very long and expensive, and it is not an easy road. So, the couple needs to be very sure that they can let go of the hope of a biological child and that they can love an adopted baby. This takes time, and some couples are never able to reach this point. If your friend cannot love a baby that isn't her "own," then adoption isn't the right decision for her, and it is certainly not what is best for the baby.

Mentioning adoption in passing can be a comfort to some couples. (The only words that ever offered me comfort were from my sister, who said, "Whether through pregnancy or adoption, you will be a mother one day.") However, "pushing" the issue can frustrate your friend. So, mention the idea in passing if it seems appropriate, and then drop it. When your friend is ready to talk about adoption, she will raise the issue herself.

So, what can you say to your infertile friends? Unless you say "I am giving you this baby," there is nothing you can say that will erase their pain. So, take that pressure off of yourself. It isn't your job to erase their pain, but there is a lot you can do to lessen the load. Here are a few ideas.

Let Them Know That You Care

The best thing you can do is let your infertile friends know that you care. Send them cards. Let them cry on your shoulder. If they are religious, let them know you are praying for them. Offer the same support you would offer a friend who has lost a loved one. Just knowing they can count on you to be there for them lightens the load and lets them know that they aren't going through this alone.

Remember Them on Mother's Day

With all of the activity on Mother's Day, people tend to forget about women who cannot become mothers. Mother's Day is an incredibly painful time for infertile women. You cannot get away from it-There are ads on the TV, posters at the stores, church sermons devoted to celebrating motherhood, and all of the plans for celebrating with your own mother and mother-in-law.

Mother's Day is an important celebration and one that I relish now that I am a mother. However, it was very painful while I was waiting for my baby. Remember your infertile friends on Mother's Day, and send them a card to let them know you are thinking of them. They will appreciate knowing that you haven't "forgotten" them.

Support Their Decision to Stop Treatments

No couple can endure infertility treatments forever. At some point, they will stop. This is an agonizing decision to make, and it involves even more grief. Even if the couple chooses to adopt a baby, they must still first grieve the loss of that baby who would have had mommy's nose and daddy's eyes.

Once the couple has made the decision to stop treatments, support their decision. Don't encourage them to try again, and don't discourage them from adopting, if that is their choice. Once the couple has reached resolution (whether to live without children, adopt a child, or become foster parents), they can finally put that chapter of their lives behind them. Don't try to open that chapter again.

For more information on what you can do to join in the movement to support National Infertility Awareness Week, click here.

To find out more about your family building options, you can visit Harden Jackson Law here.

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