Articles Tagged with 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.

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.

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.

Bus Stop.jpgAs family law attorneys, we are frequently asked what types of expenses child support is supposed to cover. Although generally child support is to be used for expenses benefiting the child, the Indiana Child Support Guidelines (ICSG) give several examples of expenses that are called “controlled expenses” that are to be paid by the custodial parent, who is usually the parent receiving child support (see “Definition – Controlled Expenses” from ICSG below). Generally, “controlled expenses” are everyday expenses like school lunches and standard items that are not necessarily duplicated by parents such as clothing and backpacks. Parents should note that the guidelines do not give a definitive list of everything that could be considered a controlled expense, so some communication may be required between parties and counsel if there is a question about whether an expense falls into this category. Common situations where an issue arises occur when the children attend private school or require school supplies that are more expensive than normal. Parents in joint physical custody arrangements may also have to work together as their parenting time arrangement means that there is no designated “custodial parent.” In these situations, we usually counsel clients to designate a parent to serve as the custodial parents for the purpose of controlled expenses, or we encourage the parties to reach their own arrangements with respect to how controlled expenses are divided. As with many other advantages to informal settlement and mediation, the ability to reach agreements outside of court allows parties to tailor agreements to their children’s specific needs. Furthermore, addressing these types of issues in child support agreements may reduce disputes and litigation fees down the road.

Definition – Controlled Expenses: This type of expense for the child(ren) is typically paid by the custodial parent and is not transferred or duplicated. Controlled expenses are items like clothing, education, school books and supplies, ordinary uninsured health care and personal care. For example, the custodial parent buys a winter coat for the child. The noncustodial parent will not buy another one. The custodial parent controls this type of expense. The controlled expenses account for 15% of the cost of raising the child. The parenting time credit is based on the more time the parents share, the more expenses are duplicated and transferred. The controlled expenses are not shared and remain with the parent that does not get the parenting time credit. Controlled expenses are generally not a consideration unless there is equal parenting time. These categories of expenses are not pertinent for litigation. They are presented only to explain the factors used in developing the parenting time credit formula. The percentages were assigned to these categories after considering the treatment of joint custody by other states and examining published data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey.

What do you think? Have questions about controlled expenses? Tweet us @HARDENJACKSONLAW.

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.

pencils.jpgIt’s that time of year. Summer is coming to a close and school is almost back in session. For divorced parents, this may present its own unique set of challenges in addition to the usual back to school transition. Below are common issues that can come up and tips to resolve.

Change in custody schedule – The new school year means new activities, new sports, new friends, and new problems with visitation schedules for parents who are separated or divorced. Parents should work together to find an agreeable schedule for them and for the child. Parents should communicate the changes with the children and prepare them for upcoming changes.

Finances – with the new school year comes new financial burdens. Fees for tuition, books, supplies and extracurricular activities add up. In Indiana, public school fees (including books, bus etc.), are considered a controlled expense and should be paid for by the custodial parent. However, private school tuition and extracurricular activity expenses are either decided by a court order or an agreement by the parents. Often times, parties will agree to the splitting of these fees, whether proportionately to income or equally. Pay the expenses you have been ordered or agreed to pay. Paying your attorney fees to argue over these expenses will probably exceed the costs of paying for the expenses themselves.