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

Changing Child Custody - What is best for the children?

February 27, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

Attorneys from Harden Jackson recognized by SuperLawyers

February 13, 2014

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


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


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


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

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

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

Indianapolis mother shares her infertility struggle in new book

February 7, 2014

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

Congratulations Sandhya and Tyler!

How to manage your fees in your Divorce

January 24, 2014

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Attorney Michele Jackson testifies for Indiana Adoption Tax Credit

January 16, 2014

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

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

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

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

January 13, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attorney Michele Jackson interviewed regarding Congo Adoptions

January 10, 2014

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

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

Surviving Divorce

January 9, 2014

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

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


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