Articles Posted in General Law

Attorney Lanae Harden offers information on what the courts in Indiana look for when determining child custody in a divorce.

The best interests of the child is the standard by which any order of child custody is determined. If the parties agree, the court will order joint custody. Even if only one parent wants joint custody, the court may award it if the court thinks it would be in the child’s best interests.

The court can consider many factors, including:

Technology’s rapid advancement of e-communication continues to improve the speed and variety of ways we can keep connected via telephone and the web. This technology has impacted family law as well, with many parents now utilizing cyber technology to stay more connected with their children, especially in situations where distance is a factor. More states and family courts now acknowledge “virtual visitation” as a means for parents to interact with their children through the use of technology. “Virtual visitation,” (also referred to as “e-visitation”) is the common term to reference various forms of internet technology such as video-enabled phone applications (i.e. Skype) as well as video phones, social media, email and text messaging.

The concepts of virtual visitation have appeared in several family law cases, dating back to 2001. However, Utah was the first state to adopt virtual visitation laws following a court order in a case where a divorced father of a then-four-year-old asked the judge to require his ex-wife to allow him to use Skype to maintain contact with his son.

The Utah legislation prompted a surge in requests for virtual visitation. Non-custodial parents relayed their own experiences that interactions with their children via phone were often limited and short. In contrast, reports have shown that video calls via the internet last as much as 3 times longer than telephone calls. This information has led to advocacy for legislation and permitting virtual visitation is becoming a growing trend. Since 2004, 6 more states have adopted legislation, and while none exists in Indiana, a pre-draft bill has been proposed and is awaiting legislative support.

Two Wisconsin surrogate mothers- with help from the state Commissioner of Insurance and state Supreme Court- have made Wisconsin the most surrogacy-friendly state in the nation when it comes to health insurance.

A 2010 Supreme Court ruling, handed down after the two women were denied benefits, makes it illegal for most health insurers to refuse to cover a surrogate’s pregnancy. That means infertile couples who want to be parents can save thousands of dollars in medical costs by working with Wisconsin surrogates.

“The Supreme Court has said, essentially, that if you are an insurance policy governed by Wisconsin law and you provide maternity coverage, you can’t exclude coverage for somebody based on the circumstances of conception,” said attorney Lynn Bodi, who co-owns a surrogacy agency in Madison. Attorney’s around the country are very aware of the Wisconsin decision, the only one of its kind in the nation so far, Bodi said. She believes that the other states are interested in trying to use it to explain to their courts and legislatures that this makes sense.

1. Never allow your emotions to rule your actions – if your spouse has left and filed for divorce it is time for you to take action. Get an attorney and do what you need to do to protect yourself.

2. Don’t use the same lawyer. Each party should obtain separate counsel and get separate advice. Even if you plan to work things out amicably, one lawyer cannot equally represent conflicting or different interests.

3. Indiana addresses four main issues in Divorce: Property division, Child Custody, Child Visitation and Child Support.

You may have heard about Giulana and Bill Rancic’s plight to have a baby.  Giuliana, who co-hosts “Fashion Police” on E! and who shares a reality show with Bill (“Giuliana & Bill” on Style Network), has publicly shared the couple’s infertility struggles and then her subsequent breast cancer diagnosis on television.  They announced on the TODAY show this morning that they are having a baby through a gestational surrogate.

The couple had struggled to get pregnant prior to her cancer diagnosis and had two frozen embryos as their last hope.  Due to the cancer fighting drugs Giuliana has taken, she would have to wait years to carry a child.  They chose surrogacy and now have a baby on the way.

You can read more about their interview here:  http://todayentertainment.today.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/04/23/11348819-giuliana-and-bill-rancic-were-having-a-baby

We work very hard to build a positive reputation in our community.  In an ideal world, our attorneys great work would speak for itself.  However, in today’s consumer driven world, we have to distinguish our firm from others in the area.  The Indiana Lawyer recently interviewed our Director of Business Development, Leah Potter, on the hard work and effort that goes into promoting our positive message to the public.

The article content is below:

Lawyers know the importance of first impressions, and a client’s initial interaction with your firm may be through your website. That’s why savvy law firms have begun devoting more resources to presenting a polished online image.

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.

On March 19th, 2012, the US Supreme Court began hearing arguments on whether a child who was conceived via in vitro fertilization after the death of his biological father can receive Social Security benefits as his father’s surviving child (Astrue v. Capato). This issue is increasingly relevant as the Social Security Administration is dealing with cases such as this and other complicated issues due to advanced technology in Reproductive practices.

In this particular case, Robert Capato deposited semen for storage at a local Sperm Bank in 1999 when he was diagnosed with cancer. Mr. Capato died in 2002. In 2003, his wife, Karen, used his sperm to become pregnant and give birth to twins. At the time of his death, Mr. Capato only named his three existing children as his beneficiaries in his will.

Mr. Capato resided in Florida when he died, so when Karen Capato applied for Social Security benefits in Florida she was denied due to Florida’s intestacy law. Florida law allows a postmortem child to inherit only if provided for in the decedent’s will, the court held that the twins were not eligible for child’s insurance benefits. In part, the legal issue hinges on the Social Security Administration’s definition of “child”, which a federal appeals court agreed that the Capatos did meet the definition as they are biologically Mr. Capato’s. However, the Social Security Administration’s position was that the issue should be decided by the wage-earner’s home state and whether that state would let a posthumously conceived child inherit property in the absence of a will. In the Capato’s case, the agency concluded that since Mr. Capato was a resident of Florida and it is a state that wouldn’t permit such an inheritance, the denial of benefits was upheld.

What can I say? I love my job at Harden Jackson Law! I know that is what I’m supposed to say, but it is honestly true. I have been affiliated with the firm and the attorneys here for several years, but have only recently had a more prominent (and important!) role in Business Development. Some people may not think that Business Development at a law firm would be an exciting job. I am here to attest that it is indeed very exciting. We are constantly revising our strategy to inform potential clients of our outstanding capabilities in family law. It is very exciting to work in an environment in which we truly have an impact on people’s lives. We are their advocate and work with them to achieve the results they want for their life.

However, I have to admit that I have a personal interest in the firm. Our attorney, Michele Jackson, is one of the foremost legal authorities on Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) in Indiana. This means she helps couples and individuals achieve their dream of having a family through advising them in surrogacy, egg donors and adoption matters. This hits home for me.

In 2006, I yearned for a child of my own. When my husband and I found out that we could not naturally conceive, we were devastated. After grieving for our “loss”, we then decided that we had to go through any means necessary to have a child. We considered adoption and In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). After countless hours of research, crunching numbers and prayer, we ultimately chose IVF.