Results tagged “divorce” from Indiana Family Lawyer Blog

"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)



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

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.

Facebook and Divorce

August 22, 2013

heart break.jpg
Facebook, the online social network, is estimated to have over 1 billion users per month. As the network has gained in popularity, researchers and scientists have been studying the effects on our daily lives, particularly our real life relationships. A study from the University of Michigan finds that Facebook use may dampen users' happiness levels. Furthermore, in 2012, divorce lawyers surveyed by Divorce-Online UK said that the social network was implicated in a third of all divorce filings the previous year. And more than 80 percent of U.S. divorce attorneys say social networking in divorce proceedings is on the rise, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. Our divorce attorneys at Harden Jackson Law in Indiana can agree with these sentiments.

Most recently, another study was done at the University of Missouri that indicates excessive Facebook use can CAUSE damage to relationships. Russell Clayton, a doctoral student in the University Of Missouri School Of Journalism, found that individuals who use Facebook excessively are far more likely to experience Facebook-related conflict with their romantic partners, which then may cause negative relationship outcomes including emotional and physical cheating, breakup and divorce.

"Previous research has shown that the more a person in a romantic relationship uses Facebook, the more likely they are to monitor their partner's Facebook activity more stringently, which can lead to feelings of jealousy," Clayton said. "Facebook-induced jealousy may lead to arguments concerning past partners. Also, our study found that excessive Facebook users are more likely to connect or reconnect with other Facebook users, including previous partners, which may lead to emotional and physical cheating."
This trend applied particularly to couples who had been in relationships under 3 years, maybe because these relationships had not fully matured.

So, how do you detach from the social media world? Some users reported deactivating their account to save their relationships. It's obvious that people need to focus on their personal, face-to-face relationships more and less on those "virtual" relationships. Facebook is a social networking tool that should be used as such and not taken too seriously. Also, limit your time on Facebook, instead of checking hourly, check daily or even a couple of times per week. Pare down your friend list to those that truly matter to your real life.

Should a judge be able to change your child's name?

August 13, 2013

gavel.jpgHow far can the judicial system go when it comes to decisions about your children? Can a judge rename your child without your input? A judge in Tennessee did just that. The judge has ordered parents who named their son Messiah to change it. The case first came to the court because the mother and father, who were not married, could not agree on whose last name the child should take.

The judge ordered that the child take the last name of both parents, but made another surprising decision by deciding Thursday that the baby, Messiah DeShawn Martin, should be renamed "Martin DeShawn McCullough."

"The word Messiah is a title and it's a title that has only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ," Ballew said, according to WBIR-TV.

She said she made the decision in the best interests of the child, but observers predicted it's not likely her order will hold. Many family law experts predict that this decision will not be upheld.

The boy's mother, Jaleesa Martin, of Newport, Tenn., said she plans to appeal the order and will not stop calling him Messiah.

"I never intended on that -- naming my son Messiah because it means God," she told WBIR-TV. "And I didn't think a judge could make me change my baby's name because of her religious beliefs."

Despite the judge's opinion about the name Messiah for a child, it was the fourth fastest rising name for boys over a one-year period, according to the Social Security Administration, jumping 246 spots from number 633 in 2011 to number 387 in 2012.

Critics, including the ACLU, claim this was a blatant breach of the parents' rights to name their child, especially when it wasn't the issue being presented to the court.

The role of Parenting Coordinators for Indiana parents

May 24, 2013

By: Amanda Glowacki

17.jpgThe use of parenting coordinators is something our office is seeing more and more in domestic relations cases in the Indianapolis area. Like mediation or collaborative law, there is a demand for alternative means of resolving domestic relations cases outside of court. Where appropriate, I believe that Parenting Coordinators can be very beneficial to parents who have high conflict on routine issues. These are issues that that are not necessarily suited for a judge to decide such as parenting time exchanges, daycare, etc.

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. Most PCs have experience with family law issues whether it is as an attorney, counselor, or mental health professional. 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.

Although I think that PCs can be wonderful at reducing conflict, I do not think they are not meant for everyone. I typically only recommend them to high conflict parents who have parenting issues that might otherwise force them to have repeated hearings or mediations. While many clients believe that they are high conflict, truly high conflict couples are those whose disputes are frequent and often crisis-oriented. With high conflict couples, one or both of the parties appear to the other as demanding, highly emotional and reactive to the point that you are unable to make simple decisions together. They will have ongoing conflict through continuous routine disputes over parenting time and face inflexibility by either or both of the parents. These are the couples that cannot resolve their issues without the assistance of their attorneys and the litigation process.

Looking that the Indiana PC Guidelines, PCs are intended to be used in the following:
• disputes about different interpretations of an order, Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines or parenting plans which need to be resolved in a timely manner; e.g., vacation/holiday schedules, transportation to and from visits, methods of pick-up and delivery, extracurricular activities, childcare, first right of refusal, and withholding visitation;
• accusations of neglect or abuse, which place the children in a situation of emotional risk;
• parents with severe personality disorders who are locked in impasses and are chronically litigating;
• consistent unsubstantiated allegations by one parent of misconduct on the part of the other parent, such as poor judgment, safety issues, abuse, and violence; and
• a history of alleged or actual alienating tactics, or alienation of the child from a parent.

Often, when I suggest intervention of a PC, many parents fear they will lose the power to make decisions about their children. However, a PC's first priority is to make reasonable efforts for parents to resolve their disputes themselves. When that is not possible, the PC (depending on what level of authority they are given) may offer a recommendation that decides the issue and is binding unless one of the parents brings the matter to the Court for a hearing. The PC invites each parent to present his and her evidence/opinion and tries to facilitate a mutually agreed upon decision. PCs may also have the authority to gather additional information as necessary. Additionally, Level 3 PC's have authority to select and manage a treatment team for parents and the children who may need to attend counseling or therapy.

A final key to remember with PCs is that their services are not to be considered mandatory divorce counseling or therapy. Once a PC has met the parties and has an idea of what their issues are, he/she will either schedule ongoing contacts with you via regularly scheduled sessions, phone consultations, or e-mail consultations as needed to meet the requirements of the Court order. Most of the time, a PC will only be around as much as they are needed. Their goal is to get the parents to a point where they can co-parent effectively on their own.

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.

Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore Divorce =Spousal Support. What would Indiana do?

March 8, 2013

11129148.jpg
It appears that Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher's divorce details have gone public. In recent court documents filed on Thursday by Demi, she not only wants support from the "Two and a Half Men" star, but she also wants him to pay her attorney's fees in their divorce proceedings. Ashton filed for divorce in December, more than a year after Demi announced that the marriage was over.

The California court has tremendous discretion in setting alimony or spousal support .Generally, under California law, whatever you acquire together, whether it is a dollar or $100 million dollars, you split it in half. It seems that Demi is alleging that Ashton made significantly more than she during their marriage.

What would happen if the two lived and divorced in Indiana?

Indiana generally does not allow for permanent spousal support or alimony. However, the courts may order for temporary spousal maintenance payments while the divorce proceedings are in progress. There are three specific situations in which a court may order permanent or long-term spousal support/maintenance. A court may make the following findings concerning maintenance:

(1) If the court finds a spouse to be physically or mentally incapacitated to the extent that the ability of the incapacitated spouse to support himself or herself is materially affected, the court may find that maintenance for the spouse is necessary during the period of incapacity, subject to further order of the court.

(2) If the court finds that:

(A) a spouse lacks sufficient property, including marital property apportioned to the spouse, to provide for the spouse's needs; and

(B) the spouse is the custodian of a child whose physical or mental incapacity requires the custodian to forgo employment;

the court may find that maintenance is necessary for the spouse in an amount and for a period of time that the court considers appropriate.

(3) After considering:

(A) the educational level of each spouse at the time of marriage and at the time the action is commenced;

(B) whether an interruption in the education, training, or employment of a spouse who is seeking maintenance occurred during the marriage as a result of homemaking or child care responsibilities, or both;

(C) the earning capacity of each spouse, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, and length of presence in or absence from the job market; and

(D) the time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the spouse who is seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment,

A court may find that rehabilitative maintenance for the spouse seeking maintenance is necessary in an amount and for a period of time that the court considers appropriate, but not to exceed three (3) years from the date of the final decree.

For more information about spousal support or divorce in Indiana, please contact Harden Jackson Law.

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 courtesy: www.hollywire.com

Presumption of paternity: What the tabloids are getting right.

March 7, 2013

By: Amanda Glowacki
1357138206_kim-kardashian-kanye-west-lg.jpg
I, like many others, have a guilty habit of looking at the tabloids in line at the supermarket. A couple weeks ago I was browsing some of the celebrity tabloids and came across a headline on Kim Kardashian's pregnancy and new boyfriend Kanye West. Per the headline, Kanye was furious that Kim's divorce to Kris Humphries was still pending and Kanye was willing to do whatever it took to finalize the divorce before Kim delivered. Turns out that Kanye's frustrations are valid as California, like Indiana and many other states, presumes that a married woman's husband is the father of a newly-born child. In Indiana this presumption is codified in IC 31-14-7 which provides in part that:
A man is presumed to be a child's biological father if: (1) the:
(A) man and the child's biological mother are or have been married to each other; and
(B) child is born during the marriage or not later than three hundred (300) days after the marriage is terminated by death, annulment, or dissolution;

For most married couples, this presumption is helpful. It avoids the awkward necessity of having a husband fill out a paternity affidavit or submit to DNA testing when it is clear that he is the father of his wife's child. For Kim and especially Kanye, the presumption is frustrating because a California court will presume that Kris is the father until the child's correct paternity is established. Even Kris should be concerned because the presumption theoretically places an obligation on him for the support of the child.

In reality, this situation occurs more than people realize. Divorce can be a long process, particularly for couples who have a lot of conflict or many assets to divide. In some cases where a couple cannot settle out of court, the road to a contested final hearing can take several months, if not years. It is not uncommon for one of the parties to begin a new relationship in that time, particularly where there are no children and the marriage was short term. Clients give me the stink eye all the time when I have to include in every petition and decree for dissolution whether the wife is pregnant. Unfortunately, it is something that Courts need to know in case a situation like Kim's should ever arise.

Now I am sure that Kim, Kris and Kanye's legal teams are more than capable of rebutting the presumption when/if Kim delivers before a divorce is final, but this situation is a great example of the way the legislature creates laws that do not fit every person's situation. Sometimes we all take for granted that just because a married woman gives birth to a child that she and her husband are the biological parents. There are cases like Kim's or more frequently case of a married gestational surrogate who is carrying another couple's child where the presumption doesn't match reality. In those situations, parties need to have an attorney with the ability to step in and protect the client's interest.

For more information about paternity in Indiana, contact Harden Jackson Law.

Photo courtesy usmagazine.com

Child Support Case Makes it to Indiana COA - Twice

January 31, 2013


A child support case has made it to the Indiana Court of Appeals for the second time. The judges have ordered the trial court to use a different income factor when calculating the father's support.

Matthew Ashworth and Kathryn (Ashworth) Ehrgott were married in 1999 and have two minor children. They divorced in 2006, and Ergott has sole legal and physical custody of the children

The support case first made it to court in 2010 when the judges ordered recalculation of his weekly gross income and to calculate credits against his child support payment. In late 2010, mother filed a child support modification petition which led to this latest appeal.

Matthew Ashworth appealed the order on modification of child support entered in favor of his ex-wife Kathryn Ehrgott. Ashworth contended that the trial court abused its discretion in calculating his 2012 and subsequent child support obligation and income withholding order; in determining his additional child support obligation based on his 2010-2012 bonuses and future irregular income; and that the court erred by declining to credit him for his overpaid child support obligations.

The judges ordered the trial court to apply a new income allocation factor, which resulted in an over-payment of $8.54 per week. The trial could will now calculate the credit owed to Ashworth.

Read full story here

Indiana COA affirms man's conviction of intimidating the judge in his divorce hearings

January 18, 2013

According to the Indiana Lawyer, A Dearborn County man who posted numerous articles online about a Superior judge who presided over his divorce alleging the judge was corrupt and a child abuser had his conviction of intimidation related to the conduct upheld by the Court of Appeals Thursday. But the judges found intimidation convictions relating to a psychologist who performed the custody evaluation and the judge's wife could not stand.

Daniel and Melissa Brewington were going through divorce proceedings before Dearborn Superior Judge Carl Taul. Dearborn Superior Judge James Humphrey later took over the case. Dr. Edward Connor was assigned to perform the custody evaluation of the children. He determined that Melissa Brewington should be the sole custodian and primary residential parent with Daniel Brewington receiving visitation because the couple couldn't communicate effectively.

Daniel Brewington objected to the report. Instead of allowing Connor to meet with him again, he began sending a torrent of abusive letters to Connor to release his entire file to him, withdraw from the case, and withdraw the evaluation. After Humphrey took over the case and entered a final order granting sole legal and physical custody to Melissa Brewington, Daniel Brewington began posting on websites claims that Humphrey was a child abuser and corrupt. He also posted online the name of Humphrey's wife, Heidi, and their home address and told people to send letters about his case to that address. He did not say that Heidi Humphrey, who previously was an advisor on the Supreme Court's Judicial Ethics and Professional Committee, is James Humphrey's wife.

Daniel Brewington was indicted on six charges and found guilty of five at trial: Class A misdemeanors intimidation relating to Connor and Heidi Humphrey ; Class D felony intimidation relating to James Humphrey; Class D felony attempted obstruction of justice relating to Connor; and one count of Class D felony perjury for falsely stating during grand jury proceedings that he didn't know Heidi Humphrey was the judge's wife. He received a five-year aggregate sentence.

Daniel Brewington appealed on several grounds, including double jeopardy and whether the evidence can sustain his convictions. The Court of Appeals concluded that double jeopardy required the intimidation conviction relating to Connor to be reversed and vacated because the jury could have relied on the same evidence to convict Daniel Brewington of intimidation and attempted obstruction of justice convictions. The judges reversed his conviction relating to the judge's wife, finding his posting of her address on the Internet and inviting the public to send comments about his divorce case didn't constitute a threat as defined by statute.

They upheld the conviction relating to James Humphrey, rejecting Daniel Brewington's argument civil defamation law principles must be incorporated into Indiana Code 35-42-2-1(c)(6). The judges found the state was not required to provide evidence that his public statements about James Humphrey were knowingly false.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court in all other respects.

The full story is here: http://www.theindianalawyer.com/coa-affirms-mans-conviction-of-intimidating-dearborn-county-judge/PARAMS/article/30547

Lanae Harden discusses Indiana's divorce basics on Indianapolis morning show

January 10, 2013

The beginning of the new year, there seems to be an increase in new clients filing for divorce. When dividing assets, the presumption is to split assets 50/50 but that presumption can be rebutted. Lanae Harden from Harden Jackson Family Law has more details on what you need to know...

No Fault Divorce


Should you hire a divorce coach?

October 25, 2012

Divorce is often an emotional and confusing process. Many individuals know nothing about the proceedings or laws surrounding divorce until they find themselves right in the middle of the process. Often times, individuals rely on their attorneys, friends and family members for advice and support. More recently, there is another option where you can get support from a certified divorce coach.

What can a Divorce Coach do?

  1. Provide "hand-holding" and emotional support. They may be able to offer objective support that family members and friends aren't able to offer.

  2. Organize. They may be able to assist you with organizing your financial paperwork needed to go about dividing marital assets in a divorce.

  3. Communicate. A divorce coach may be able to assist you in communicating with your soon-to-be ex spouse in a calm, respectful manner.

What CAN'T a Divorce Coach do?

  1. Provide legal advice. Remember, a divorce is a legal process. Only a well-informed attorney can give proper legal advice.
  2. Prepare you for your divorce proceedings. Only an attorney can adequately prepare you for your divorce case as it pertains to Indiana laws.

Divorce Coaches may be a great resource for some divorcing couples and individuals in Indiana. However, keep in mind a couple of other points:

  • Don't pay twice for the same advice. Your attorney can and should advise you on the best way to proceed in your divorce.
  • A divorce coach should never be used in place of an attorney. Legal advice given by anyone other than an attorney can be misleading and incorrect.

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

Who keeps the house in the divorce?

October 5, 2012

Indiana is an "equitable distribution" state. This means that the division of property and debts between the divorcing parties should be fair and equitable. However, the court does not have to give each spouse one half of the property. If one spouse owned the house before the marriage, and the other spouse has not contributed to the house (such as making payments or repairs), the court might decide that the house should not be split between the two spouses.

In deciding whether to award the home to one spouse, generally courts look at these factors:

  • Age and health of the spouses, and marriage length
  • Each spouse's contributions to the marriage
  • Each spouse's income and assets
  • Skills and employability of each spouse
  • Source of home or funds for home
  • Custody of minor children

When property is divided among divorcing spouses in Indiana, the person maintaining possession of the property, more often than not, will be responsible for the debt. This is important to understand when trying to come to an agreement on who will keep the house.

Need more information about divorce in Indiana? Divorce Basics

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