Articles Posted in Custody

T5662029278_ea66e0d9bf_qhe Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments last week after the State of Indiana appealed a federal judge’s ruling that permitted same-sex couples to list both names on their child’s birth certificate. In June 2016, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana issued a decision allowing the placement of both females in a same-sex marriage on their child’s birth certificate. Prior to this ruling, the State of Indiana permitted only the listing of a mother and a father on a birth certificate. As a result, in the case of female married same-sex couples, only the woman who carried the child could be listed as the child’s parent on the birth certificate. The child was considered born out of wedlock, and the spouse needed to adopt the child to become a legal parent.  The Court held that Indiana’s refusal to recognize two mothers on a birth certificate violated the Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution, because the State did not extend equal rights to married same-sex couples. After the decision was issued, the State of Indiana began placing both married same-sex parents’ names on their children’s birth certificates, which was a very progressive step that continues to provide a great benefit to our married same-sex clients.  Click here to read our blog post about the 2016 district court ruling for more information.

During the oral arguments, Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher argued that Indiana law only provides parental rights through biology or adoption, and contended that the district court’s decision created a third category that “creates inequality and undermines the rights of the biological fathers.”  Meanwhile, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, Karen Celestino-Horseman, responded that Indiana law does not treat married same-sex couples and married heterosexual couples equally. For example, the law treats female spouses of women who underwent artificial insemination differently than male spouses of women in the same scenario, as the male spouse would be the presumed legal father of the child under Indiana law.  The Seventh Circuit frequently alluded to biology during the oral arguments, with Judge Diane S. Skyes stating, “You can’t overcome biology and if the state defines parenthood by biology, no argument under Equal Protection Clause of the substantive due process clause can overcome that.”  Celestino-Horseman countered that parenthood is no longer defined by biology.

The Seventh Circuit is taking the case under advisement and will make a ruling at a later date. We are hopeful that the Seventh Circuit makes a decision that accords equal rights to married-same sex couples, and continues to allow both parents to be listed on their children’s birth certificates in the State of Indiana.  Stay tuned to our blog for more updates on this case.

state-clip-art-new-york-clipart-480x480_01c9de-300x300New York Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblywoman Amy Paulin have proposed a new bill, The Child Parent Security Act (“CSPA”), that would remove the ban on compensated surrogacy and provide a clear mechanism for intended parents legal rights to obtain legal rights to their child born through gestational surrogacy. When the requirements in the law are met, Intended parents can receive an “Order of Parentage” from a court which becomes effective immediately after birth of the child. Additionally, the bill would provide for the enforcement of contractual agreements between the gestational surrogate and the intended parents. The CSPA would significantly change surrogacy law in New York, which is one of only five states that where compensated surrogacy is illegal. Click here for more information about the bill.

Surrogacy is one of the only family-building options for more than 440,000 infertile New Yorkers, same-sex couples, and single individuals who wish to have children. This bill would remove barriers for New Yorkers who are forced to pursue surrogacy out-of-state, and permit them to achieve their dream of building a family. With IVF and gestational surrogacy becoming so widespread, it has come time for many states to update and clarify laws to keep up with technological advances in assisted reproduction. The bill is currently being reviewed by the Committee of Judiciary, but stay tuned to our blog for more updates on this bill and other efforts to update surrogacy laws throughout the country.

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.

ME_23_00_sm-150x150Earlier this year, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court upheld the Rockland District Court’s decision that found a de facto parentage relationship between Jessica Lisio’s two biological children and her transgender domestic partner, Tammy Thorndike. Lisio and Thorndike, who identifies as male, began a relationship and decided to have a child together. In 2009, Lisio and Thorndike registered as domestic partners and later Lisio gave birth to their daughter. Their relationship began to fall apart a few months later, but Thorndike and Lisio maintained their existing parental roles. Thorndike finally moved out and two years later, filed a complaint for a determination of paternity and parental rights and responsibilities, which Lisio opposed, arguing that Thorndike had no parental rights. The Court found that “Thorndike undertook a permanent and responsible parental role in the children’s lives”, and that the children would be negatively affected if Thorndike was removed from their lives.

This case is a prime example of how the laws and court system are delayed and could have been avoided had the two parties taken proactive steps to establish their parental rights and responsibilities. In this case, a second-parent adoption lets the non-biological parent adopt a child without the biological parents losing their rights. Also, if the relationship ends, it still allows the adoptive parent to have custody and visitation rights. It’s important to keep in mind that Indiana has become one of a handful of states that now puts both biological and non-biological married same-sex parents on the birth certificate. Therefore, a second-parent adoption is not always necessary in this scenario. Meet with an experienced adoption and reproductive law attorney to learn more about when a second-parent adoption may be required.

In the many states that don’t recognize second-parent adoption, there is the option of a co-parenting agreement which lays out the intentions of the parents regarding the care of the children. This will help protect the intent of the non-biological parent toward the care of the child in the event that the relationship ends. This decision also strengthens the case for establishment of parentage in non-biological parents that use donor egg, which can sometimes arise in a gestational surrogacy. Many states don’t have clear laws on whether parentage can be established using donor egg, so taking intent into consideration fortifies the argument for establishment of legal parentage in non-biological parents.

missouri-state-flag-150x150In late 2016, The Missouri Court of Appeals upheld the decision that pre-embryos were “marital property of a special character” and could not be used to have a child without the consent of both parties. The parties to this case are Jalesia McQueen and then husband Justin Gadberry, who decided to freeze Gadberrys’ sperm just before he was deployed to Iraq. While Gadberry was overseas, the couple discussed In Vitro Fertilization (“IVF”) and just months later two of the four embryos were implanted in McQueen’s uterus. McQueen gave birth to twin boys and froze the other two embryos at a cryobank facility. The couple later divorced and a dispute regarding the disposition of their frozen embryos arose during their divorce proceedings. This dispute quickly turned into a legal case to determine when exactly life begins and the legal status of frozen embryos. The Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s decision that frozen-embryos cannot be used without the consent of both McQueen and Gadberry. The Court further ruled that frozen embryos are not considered persons. Rather, they are considered the property of the two parties involved.

Judge Robert M. Clayton III wrote the majority opinion, stating that awarding joint custody “subjects neither party to any unwarranted governmental intrusion but leaves the intimate decision of whether to potentially have more children to the parties alone.” The court made it clear in the decision that they were not determining when life begins, but just interpreting the legal status of embryos in Missouri. The Court ruled that embryos have no legal claim to the same protections as a human being under Missouri law, and that forcing the husband to have a child that he doesn’t want to have violates his privacy rights. McQueen is planning on appealing the decision. After the ruling was issued, she stated “It’s part of me, and what rights do the judges or the governments have to tell me I cannot have them?”

Tim Schlesinger, Gadberry’s attorney, commented “I think today’s ruling is a victory for individuals against unjustified government intrusion.” Schlesinger hopes that this case will provide guidance to other states that are facing similar issues. This issue will likely arise in numerous states at some point, as IVF becomes more prevalent. Click here to read our blog post about the legal status of frozen embryos to learn more about where several states stand on this question.

In late 2016, thekansas-flag-medium-150x150 Shawnee County District court in Kansas issued a significant ruling in November 2016 concerning sperm donors’ responsibility for child support. William Marotta of Topeka, Kansas answered an ad on Craigslist to donate sperm to a same-sex couple, who used the sperm to have a child. The couple later separated and then reached out to the state Department for Children and Families for help when one of the mothers lost her job. The department then filed a suit claiming that Marotta wasn’t paying child support and sought to hold him liable for $6,100 in child support expenses since the child’s birth in December 2009.

Shawnee County District Judge Mary Mattivi ruled that Marotta does not have to provide child support. The department argued that Marotta needed to pay the child support because the two women did not use a physician and Kansas law states that one must be inseminated by a doctor.  Marotta’s attorneys, Tim Schlesinger and Charles Baylor, further argued that the laws are antiquated and have not been updated. Baylor contended, “If the presumptive parent, in this case the non-biological mother, had been a man, they never would have gone after the sperm donor.” Marotta’s attorneys countered that he never had the intentions of being the child’s father nor has he tried to make contact with the couple. The state Department for Children and Families is thinking of appealing the court’s decision.

A key element of Mattivi’s holding is the reasoning that the woman who didn’t give birth to the child is considered the child’s second parent, and the sperm donor is therefore not financially responsible. This ruling is especially meaningful for married same-sex couples, as courts continue to follow the growing trend of extending legal parentage to the non-biological parent. This case also provides guidance on issues surrounding sperm and egg donation, as laws in this area are often lacking or have not yet caught up with the rapid growth of reproductive technology. Stay tuned to the blog for updates on this decision as well as other similar decisions, as the position that non-biological parents in married same-sex couples are considered the child’s legal parents gains traction in courts throughout the United States.

5662029278_ea66e0d9bf_qIn 2015, eight female same-sex couples filed a federal lawsuit claiming that Indiana violated their constitutional rights regarding the information on their children’s birth certificates. Until recently, Indiana did not include the non-birth mother or father’s name on the birth certificates of children born into same-sex marriages, and classified these births as “out of wedlock”.  In the 2016 decision, Judge Tanya Walter Pratt of the United States District Court, Southern District of Indiana determined that Indiana law regulating birth certificate documentation violated the equal protection and due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. The judge also ruled that the state cannot classify children born to a birth mother who is married to a same-sex spouse as born out of wedlock.

Weeks after the judgment, the state of Indiana sought to amend the order, raising questions of jurisdiction and asking whether the judgment applies to all wives of all birth mothers, or only to wives of birth mothers who conceived through artificial insemination. The judge refused to amend the decision and said, “The order means what it says and says what it means and the law intends to give wives of birth mothers comparable rights to husbands of birth mothers.” With the Supreme Court declaring same-sex marriage legal in the U.S. just over a year ago, this is another great leap in giving same-sex couples equal rights in parenting. Indiana must now name both same sex-parents on their child’s birth certificate if the parents are married, not just the birth mother.

The attorneys of Harden Jackson Law are devoted to servicing clients in all areas of 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 reproductive law. For more information, please contact us at 317.569.0770 or www.hardenjacksonlaw.com.

Baby at Doctor's Checkup.jpgDivision of medical expenses is always a big issue for our clients. Generally, the issue of coverage and insurance premiums is included in child support calculations because the party who provides insurance coverage is entitled to credit for the weekly amount paid. Therefore, the biggest remaining issue between parents is how to divide uninsured medical expenses for the children. When parties can agree, they have the ability to be flexible about how they want to divide these expenses, and there are many good reasons why parties would want to tailor the way they divide these expenses to their specific situation. In some cases, one party has supplemental coverage, a Health Savings Account, Flex Spending account, or other employer benefits that make sense to exhaust before dividing expenses between parties. Parents of children with specific medical issues may also need to specifically plan how uninsured expenses will be divided throughout the year.

When parents cannot agree or do not believe their case requires special accommodations, we advise clients of the 6% Rule, which is how the Indiana Child Support Guidelines ICSG suggest dividing uninsured medical expenses. While there is no guarantee that a judge would order parties to divide uninsured expenses pursuant to the 6% Rule, it is a generally accepted method and endorsed by the ICSG. Therefore, there is a good chance that a party’s judge is familiar with the rule and frequently implements it in his/her child support orders. Per the 6% Rule, the parent who is assigned to pay controlled expenses, usually the custodial parent and the one receiving child support, is required to pay an initial portion of ordinary uninsured health care expenses. The theory behind this is that the parent who is receiving child support can use a percentage of the support toward ordinary uninsured health care expenses. Therefore, the parent who is assigned to pay controlled expenses is expected to pay uninsured medical expenses up to 6% of the annual basic child support obligation, which can be calculated from the parties’ completed child support worksheet. Beyond that, the parties divide any additional uninsured medical expenses pursuant to their pro rata shares of the parties’ total gross income, which is also listed on the parties’ completed worksheet.

One major caution we always have for clients who follow the 6% Rule is the importance of good record-keeping. As with any other co-parenting issue, parties have to exchange information, billing statements, and receipts in order to determine if one parent has met his/her 6% threshold and how bills should be divided. Without a proper exchange of information and accurate record keeping, it can be difficult for an attorney to help resolve a payment dispute under this rule.

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.

Thumbnail image for suitcases.jpgYou’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.

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.