Recently in Custody Category

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.

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Can my husband or wife leave and take the kids?

December 10, 2013

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You've decided to separate. Your spouse is moving out of the home. But now, he or she claims that they are taking the kids with them when they leave. Are they permitted to take the children with them when they leave?

Maybe. Unless the courts have already determined a custody agreement, one parent is not required permission to leave with the children. If you plan to pursue custody of the children, it is advised not to leave the house. Even if you take the children with you, it may impact custody decisions because the courts can decide to keep the children at the house to reduce the disruption in their lives.

The first thing you should do is contact an experienced family law attorney. Here is more information on how to find an attorney for you and questions you should ask your attorney. Your attorney should file for a temporary custody order. Temporary custody may be decided as soon as the parents are separated.

If the parties cannot agree to a temporary custody arrangement then a hearing may be scheduled. After the hearing, the judge will issue a temporary order deciding custody. This order will be in effect until the final divorce decree is entered by the court.

What should you do if your spouse takes the children against your will?
Speak to an attorney immediately. An attorney can assist with obtaining the temporary custody order.

If you feel your children may be in danger, contact the police immediately.

Remember, these suggestions are not meant to be legal advice. You should consult an experienced assisted reproductive technology law attorney to discuss the specifics of your situation

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The role of a Guardian ad Litem in family law cases

May 31, 2013

1205419_little_fisher.jpgYou may be wondering what the role of a Guardian Ad Litem is in family law cases. Frequently abbreviated "GAL", the Guardian Ad Litem is a volunteer appointed by the court to represent the best interests of a child involved in litigation. Indiana law requires the appointment of either a guardian ad litem or a trained court appointed special advocate in abuse and neglect cases. The purpose of the GAL is NOT to directly "represent" the child, a distinction which some find confusing, especially as many GALs are attorneys. However, it is not necessary to be an attorney to be a GAL, but Indiana does required that GAL or CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) volunteers complete special training.

Traditionally, GAL/CASA volunteers have been appointed in abuse or neglect cases or when a child becomes subject of proceedings to terminate a parent/child relationship. However, Indiana law allows for appointments of these special volunteers in divorce or paternity cases, which is becoming more frequent, especially when custody is contested or allegations arise regarding the health and safety of the child in the family law proceeding.

The GAL will perform a number of functions in a case to help determine the best interests of a child. The volunteer may conduct home visits and interview the parent(s), stepparents, significant others, or extended family who are involved in the child's home life. They may also interview any child care providers as well as teachers and may review medical or education records. The GAL is tasked with investigating the child's situation and ultimately filing a report with the court regarding the GAL's recommendation about custody of the child. For more information about the role of GAL/CASA volunteers in Indiana, please visit the Kids' Voice of Indiana link below.

Dissolution of Marriage in Guardian Ad Litem Practice

If you have questions about divorce in Indiana or other family law matters, 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.

Creating a child custody plan that works for the holidays

December 4, 2012
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Attorney Lanae Harden discusses best practices in Indiana in regards handling child custody and parenting time for the holidays.

The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines specifically set out the holiday schedule for divorced parents. However, most court orders provide that the holiday schedule shall be as agreed upon by the parties, and in the event of disagreement, the Guidelines control. For example, the custodial parent receives Thanksgiving on odd years with the non-custodial parent receiving Thanksgiving on even years. Often, parents voluntarily agree that instead of having the child entirely one year and not the next, that each parent will have the opportunity to see the child over the Thanksgiving holiday.

It can be very difficult for kids the first major holiday after a divorce. Parents should do their best to split up the holidays in a manner which will be as least disruptive as possible for the child. Unfortunately, sometimes this is not possible because both extended families may celebrate the particular holiday at the same time. Hopefully, grandparents will understand that they, too, need to be flexible so that arrangements can be made for the child to enjoy celebrations with each side of the family.

Sometimes, divorced parents may feel that they need to provide the perfect holiday for their child because their child can no longer celebrate holidays at the same time with both parents. However, there are no perfect holidays, and I'm sure there weren't perfect holidays when the parents were still married. I think as long as you show unconditional love for your children and support them through this difficult time, your children will be able to enjoy the holidays. Besides that is the only thing you can really control.

At some point, the new traditions that you celebrate with your children as a single parent will become their traditions in the future, and the children will grow to love them if the emphasis is on family.

It's very difficult to be up for the holidays for the parent who is suffering through the first holiday without their spouse. I'm sure that most people can't understand what that feels like unless they, themselves, have gone through such a painful time. It is key for parents to maintain their own wellbeing and manage stress. Children often become more aware of what is going on with their parents during a divorce and observing a parent deteriorate under the stress of the situation will only increase their own worries. Hopefully, the parent can surround themselves with the love and support of their extended family during the holidays to help them get through such a difficult time.

No doubt it is difficult to deal with an ex-spouse and their families concerning splitting up holidays. You would hope that each extended family would behave reasonably; however, there are so many emotions tied up with a divorce that even extended families can behave unreasonably and be unwilling to change their traditional holiday schedules. They think they are doing a favor for the ex-spouse. I think the better way to look at it is that you are being flexible, not to benefit the ex-spouse, but to benefit the child. After all, it's in the best interest of the child to spend the holidays with both sets of parents in a stress-free environment.

I can't tell you how many times I have been called right before the start of the holiday season with a frantic client who's ex-spouse is not cooperating about the holidays. If your settlement agreement or court order is clear, there should be no discussion but just implementation of the schedule. If your order is ambiguous, you should start dealing with the problem months in advance so you have an opportunity to get in front of the court prior to the holiday season. The best way to handle a potential problem about the holidays is as follows: 1) call your attorney well in advance; 2) have your attorney negotiate with opposing counsel to come up with a reasonable compromise; and 3) if the conflict cannot be resolved, your attorney can ask for a 15 minute hearing on the court's calendar to resolve the issue, if a hearing is requested well in advance of the holidays. It is unreasonable to expect that the court, given their busy dockets, can schedule a hearing immediately before the holidays. However, sometimes it is just impossible given the timing to get in before court. In those instances, be the adult. Make sure the other side understands your position and that you will be addressing this matter with the courts after the holiday if you cannot get into court before the holiday. Therefore, with the threat of future litigation, the other spouse may back down.

I think it's always a mistake to try to compete with the ex-spouse for the best present or holiday experience. I truly believe that a parent who shows unconditional love to his or her child and spends time with that child will be better served in the long run than trying to buy affection with an iPhone 5. The holidays can be a financial strain, even on married couples, and therefore, it will be an even bigger strain on a single parent. I think it's perfectly understandable to talk with your children that they may not get as many gifts as they had in the past but reinforce that the holiday season is not about who gets the most or best gifts but to spend time with your family. Understand, that sometimes children will be disappointed. That happens when parents are married as well. Children need to learn how to adapt to different situations; even ones they may not like. It's a valuable life lesson to be able to feel confident that you can adapt to circumstances whether you like them or not.

I'm sure it can be very tempting to be glad if your child does not wish to spend the holidays with the other parent. However, typically holidays are split between the parents and you do not want to be in violation of a court order. It is important to have a health, strong relationship with both parents. I can't help but think that if you're estranged from one parent, that will follow you the rest of your life, not only in selecting a future mate but also how you deal with your children. Therefore, I feel like 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.

Divorcing couples are required, in most counties, to attend a class entitled Children Coping with Divorce. At that class, the parents are taught the importance of being supportive of the other parent to the child and keeping the child out of the middle of any disputes.

Of course, it is impossible for a single parent to always be upbeat in front of their child. At times, the child may worry about their parent. It would be best to be as positive as you can in front of your child. However, realistically that's pretty much impossible. I think again there is a life lesson here. If your child notices that you are sad, it is perfectly acceptable to talk with that child that it is natural for you to be sad about the break-up of the family and that it's okay to be upset. That's how life is. Sometimes you go through rough patches. You might explain to your child that you will be fine, that this is just a temporary situation, and as long as they have each other, they will all get through this situation. The bond may even be stronger because of this struggle that the parents and children go through together. But, it shouldn't be an us vs. them situation. I can't underscore how important it is to let the child know that it is fine for that child to love the other parent and that just because the two of you were unable to make the marriage work doesn't mean that the other parent isn't a wonderful parent. Reinforce that the parents will work together to make the situation the least stressful for the child.

I think it's vitally important for a divorced spouse to make sure they are around friends and family during the holidays when the children are with the other spouse. You should never stay alone no matter how bad you feel. You really need to force yourself to get up and spend your time with those who care about you most.

The above is for informational purposes only should not be considered legal advice.  Each case is unique and you should consult an attorney for advice regarding your particular situation.


Posted by Lanae Harden



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Grandparent Rights and Custody/Visitation in Indiana

August 30, 2012

Lanae Harden and Michele Jackson on WISH-TV's Indy Style morning show speaking about Grandparents Right and Custody in Indiana.

Rights of a Grandparent

For more information about Grandparent Rights and Custody, visit here

Spiritual Custody Disputes

July 12, 2012

The recent media coverage regarding the divorce of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes has brought to light custody issues that many parents may not be aware of: Spiritual Custody.  Spiritual custody comes into play when divorcing parents cannot come to an agreement about the religious upbringing of their children.  Typically, these disputes come from interfaith marriages that have ended up as interfaith divorces.

This creates a difficult situation for the courts and legal professionals, not to mention the children that are caught in the middle of such disputes.  In our system of government it is required to separate church and state. The courts cannot determine the one true path to God or even godlessness.  The courts are then left with determining what is “in the best interest of the children”.

Carmel divorce attorney, Clarissa Finnell, explains more about case law in Indiana concerning spiritual custody.  “Typically, a judge will look at the parent’s spiritual/religious practices in regards to their children prior to the divorce and keep the agreement similar to their previous arrangements.”  For example, if one parent was Catholic and the other Jewish, and the children had been attending a synagogue while the parents were married, a judge would usually rule for the children to continue that practice.  Finnell goes on to say, “Most interfaith parents have already decided how they are going to raise their children, in regards to theology, such as which holidays they will celebrate and where they will worship.  A judge wouldn’t rule to change those practices just because the couple is divorcing.”

There was a case in Indiana in which a divorcing couple who practiced Wicca was ordered to “take such steps as are needed to shelter [the child] from involvement and observation of these non-mainstream religious beliefs and rituals.” The father appealed the decision and the court of appeals overturned the order.  They ruled that “parents have a constitutionally recognized fundamental right to control the upbringing, education, and religious training of their children”.   It’s when the parents disagree on that religious training that legal professionals and the courts run up against tougher decisions.

Parents may define a child's best interest in the condition of his soul. But the law can only assess it in the condition of his psyche.

To learn more about child custody in Indiana, click here.

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

Indiana Child Support Statute Changes

June 19, 2012

Are you aware of the upcoming changes in Indiana child support statutes that may affect child support payments and your child’s eligibility for educational support?  Effective July 1, 2012, Indiana Parenting Guidelines (Public Law 111-2012) will change a child’s presumptive age for termination of child support from twenty-one to nineteen.  The law also amends the time frame in which a child may seek educational support, affecting children in the 18-21 age range who may need educational support or may soon lose their eligibility for support.  Parents with previous support orders may want to revisit the issue if the order does not explicitly refer to “educational support.”

All parents should consider seeking legal advice prior to terminating their support obligations when their child turns nineteen.  Although many parents’ duties to pay child support will end when their child turns nineteen, a parent who fails to pay support that is owed risks a finding of contempt and possible criminal sanctions.  Also, if you have additional children subject to a child support order, you will likely need to modify your child support obligation upon the emancipation of your nineteen year old.

Our firm is committed to providing clients with personalized service and updating parents on changes in Indiana law that may affect their interests and their children.  We encourage parents who believe that their child may be affected to contact counsel and assess whether action is necessary before Public Law 111-2012 becomes effective July 1, 2012.

Please contact Harden Jackson Law at 317-569-0770 or www.hardenjacksonlaw.com  for more information about the changes in Indiana’s Parenting Guidelines.

The above is for informational purposes only should not be considered legal advice.  Each case is unique and you should consult an attorney for advice regarding your particular situation.

Child Custody and Summer Visitation

April 23, 2012

As the school year comes to an end, parents are scheduling camps, vacations and other activities for their children.  Of course, this also means that the summer visitation requirements must be addressed for divorced families.  Family law attorney, Lanae Harden, gives tips on how to ensure a smooth summer for both the parents and children involved.


  1. If you don’t have a detailed parenting visitation schedule, create one.  This may be difficult for former spouses to come to an agreement.  If you are unable to come up with a mutually agreeable schedule, consult a professional to aid with this.  The more detailed your agreement is, the less room for interpretation, therefore less conflict.

  2. Recognize the emotional impact this may have on the children.   A significant change in schedule can bring up emotions for the children.  This could be positive or negative emotions, but usually a mixture of both.  Children thrive on routine, and summer visitation schedules usually vary significantly from the routines that the children became accustomed to during the school year.  Depending on the ages of the children, explain to them the exact schedule and where they will be at any given time.  Create a calendar with color coded days signifying when they will be at mom’s house and when they will be at dad’s house.

  3. Plan accordingly.  This may include scheduling time off work or altering your work schedule when the children are visiting.  Plan appropriate summer-time activities.  If you are the non-custodial parent, this may also include arranging for care (nanny, babysitter etc.).  If possible, utilize their same care provider at both homes for consistency.  This

  4. Be supportive if your child misses the other parent.  Don’t take this personally or assume this means the child loves the other parent more than you.  Look for ways to calm your child and allow them to speak frequently with their other parent.  This will only help build your bond with your child.

The best interest of the child is always the most important thing to keep in mind.  Both parents should communicate and cooperate to make sure  reasonable visitation time is met and the child feels safe and secure.  If you need assistance with determining child visitation or custody, contact HARDEN JACKSON at 317-569-0770 or www.hardenjacksonlaw.com.

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

Relocating and Custody - Know Before You Go

March 28, 2012

Attorney Lanae Harden, who chairs Harden Jackson’s Family Law Practice Group, advises those parents who are considering relocating and how to ensure you are abiding by the state statute.

Job losses and the housing market decline during this economic recession have forced many people to relocate in order to downsize their residences or to pursue new job opportunities. A move may also occur following a divorce, especially if one of the former spouses had temporary living arrangements while the sale of the marital home was pending, or subsequently as the result of remarriage.

Divorce and relocation are two of the most stressful changes in an adult’s life. Numerous details and tasks must be managed and completed. When children are involved, the focus is usually whether the change will affect their friends or which school they attend. What many parents do not realize is that their move may violate a state statute. Pursuant to Indiana law, a relocating individual must file detailed written notice of their intent to move with the clerk of the court that issued a custody or parenting time order. The notice is required well in advance of a move, and applies regardless of whether the move is across the street, across town or to a different state. Many parents have been caught by surprise by the relatively new relocation statute (particularly those who divorced prior to its adoption), and have found themselves unwittingly in violation of such.

Previously, the statute only required filing of a relocation notice when a move was greater than 100 miles or out of state. Now, notice applies to every move and must be filed 90 days before the proposed relocation. The non-relocating parent then has 60 days to object to the move or request modifications in custody or parenting time from the court relevant to the relocation. The court considers numerous factors in determining whether any such modification should be granted, including the distance involved, and whether the relocating parent is making the move in good faith and has a legitimate reason for the move. The priority of the court is to confirm that the move is in the best interests of the children. If distance is a factor, other matters must be addressed, including how the move will affect parenting time and impact the non-relocating parent’s relationship with the children. This can be a volatile subject for many parents, and the financial and emotional stresses can exacerbate the situation. However, communication and cooperation can minimize the conflict and parents may be able to negotiate an agreement and alleviate many relocation hurdles and concerns. Consulting with an experienced family law attorney can help either the relocating or non-relocating parent understand how the statute applies to their particular situation and develop a plan of action to address their concerns.

The 21st Century Divorce

February 24, 2012

Communicating with your former (or soon-to be former) spouse can be difficult.  Emotions and disputes often make civil conversations difficult.  However, it’s easier than ever to communicate without ever even speaking.  Between email, social media and texting, we can now have a relationship or dialogue with pretty much anyone and never have to see them in person.  On the reverse side of that, emails, social media and texts can be used to enhance or detract from your case in a divorce or custody battle.

Attorney Clarissa Finnell, a seasoned attorney who practices exclusively in the area of family law, explains that using media as a tool has become prevalent in her family law cases.  Finnell explains, “Often times, a client comes in with emails or text messages to be submitted to the court to prove the spouse participating in inappropriate behavior, infidelity etc.”  However, Finnell also warns that this very same documentation can also be used against the client.  Finnell gives several tips on how to use technology in your favor for your divorce or custody dispute.

  • Limit communication. Do not engage in or reply to any other communication unless it’s directly related to the children.  Communication should be limited to information about children’s well-being, parenting time, education etc.  This includes texts, emails and online private messages.
  • Communication is important.  While limiting communication is important, it’s also important not to withhold child-related information.
  • Communicate via documented channels.  Phone calls are hard to admit in a court.  Emails and texts are much easier to submit to the court.  Establish a preferred method to communicate with your ex-spouse and keep all communications, when possible, through this method.
  • Save any emails, texts, Facebook posts or any other information you would like to submit to the court, but keep in mind that your ex-spouse can do the same.  This is why it is important to abstain from any communication that isn’t informational or about the children.
  • Do not post anything online that you wouldn’t want the court to see.  Anything you post online including your status updates, pictures and even jobs you apply for can be used in court.  This also includes pictures of your children.

Tragedy Brings Up Questions About Child Custody Laws

February 8, 2012

This week, we learned of a tragic story out of Utah.  Josh Powell, the husband of a missing Utah woman, killed his two sons and himself in an intentional house fire. This horrific act brings up questions about what could have been done to protect these children and the countless others who are caught in a child custody battle.

Powell, who was a suspect in the disappearance of his wife, had lost custody of his sons, yet they were still at his home when he took their lives. Custody in Powell's case was handled much like many cases — the goal was to remedy the situation that caused the loss of custody while maintaining the relationship of the father and sons. Powell lost custody after his father, Steven Powell, who they were living with, was arrested on child pornography charges in September, police said. Powell had been granted visits with his sons twice per week in his home.

Attorney, Lanae Harden, who chairs the Family Law Practice Group at HARDEN JACKSON, LLC, and has over 15 years experience with Child Custody cases commented that while this situation is very tragic, it is unlikely that a court could have ever predicted something like this. “Unless the child appears in immediate danger and/or the parent has a history of violence, it is very unlikely that a court would not allow the children to have visitation with the parent in their home.” Harden goes on to say “Child custody laws are designed for ‘the best interest of the child’, and typically this means that children should spend time with their parents.”

Read the complete article at: http://www.usatoday.com/news/parenting-family/story/2012-02-07/Powell-tragedy-sparks-questions-about-child-custody/53003130/1