Results tagged “divorce” from Indiana Family Lawyer Blog

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

April 6, 2015

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

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

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

Let us know what you think and tweet @HARDENJACKSON.

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

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

Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle through Divorce

March 27, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Let us know what you think and tweet @HARDENJACKSON.

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

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

Photo credit: Meditating via photopin

What Really Causes Divorce?

March 20, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Let us know what you think and tweet @HARDENJACKSON.

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

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

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

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

March 13, 2015

15053056352_b003a001e8.jpgThe Technical Part

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

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


The (More) Fun Part

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

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


Let us know what you think and tweet @HARDENJACKSON.

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

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

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

Divorce Statistics Unaffected by NJ Collaborative Family Law Act

March 6, 2015

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

photo credit: Engagement Ring via photopin (license)

Valentine's Day Divorces

February 20, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct states:

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Broken Heart Grunge via photopin

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.

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

"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

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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

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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
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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.