Challenges come from every direction in a family law matter—emotional, financial, and legal. With so much at stake, it is critical to work with highly competent attorneys who will be strong, effective advocates for your interests and assure that you are supported, comfortable, and well-informed. Family Law is a large area of law that encompasses many different types of cases. At Salzmann Law LLC, our firm represents individuals in a number of different types of family law cases that include:
- Divorce (with and without children) Modifications
- Legal Separations
- Juvenile Paternity Cases
- Mediation Cases
- Guardianship Cases
- Child in Need of Services Cases and DCS Investigations
Indiana refers to a divorce legally as a “dissolution of marriage” though both terms mean the same thing. Indiana is a no-fault divorce state, which means that the individual filing for divorce is not required to prove who is at fault for the marriage or who is responsible for the divorce. The non-filing spouse will not be able to prevent the filing party from requesting a divorce.
In order to get a divorce in Indiana, either you or your former spouse must live in Indiana for the six months preceding the filing. In addition, one of you must live in the county in which you file for the three months preceding the filing.
There are two types of divorce: contested and uncontested divorce. With an uncontested divorce, you and your former spouse both desire to divorce and either (1) have no assets to divide and no children or (2) have already agreed upon how to divide assets and handle all issues arising from the divorce. This means the court does not need to do decide anything with your divorce. The only thing that the court needs to do is enter the divorce decree.
According to Indiana statute, every divorce must wait the required minimum of 60 days for the final order or decree to be entered after the petition is filed. However, prior to the finalized order, there may be a “provisional” or “preliminary” hearing, during which the judge may enter a temporary order. Usually, these hearings are very brief and only if one party requests one.
What is an uncontested divorce?
With uncontested divorces, parties often settle property, debt, and child issues through written agreements. Even if you and your former spouse are willing to sit down and hash things out without involving a judge, you should hire an experienced attorney to help you draft a marital settlement agreement or child custody and support agreement to ensure that all important provisions are included and are drafted correctly. Dissolution agreements involving children will receive extra scrutiny from the court.
What is a contested divorce?
If the divorce is contested, however, the court will decide the division of assets and debts if you and your former spouse fail to arrive at an agreement through mediation or arbitration. The court presumes a division of assets and debts 50/50, though not every case is able to be divided 50/50. Each divorce is decided on a case-by-case basis and is dependent on evidence provided by each party at each hearing which is why is it important to hire an experienced family law attorney.
How can Salzmann Law help your case?
Salzmann Law LLC can help facilitate the modification of an existing divorce by working with the client to determine what is important to them and what their interests are concerning any changes in circumstance or priority based on a prior divorce decree. Divorces are often emotional and tumultuous processes where situations and circumstances can change after a final order is made and that is why it is important to have an attorney assisting you in the process to ensure your interests are protected.
When you are a parent, you always try to put your child first and base your decisions on what is best for them. You don’t want to drag them through a stressful and emotional child custody battle. If you and the other parent are amicable about your children, you may be able to draft a child custody and support agreement with the help of an experienced Family Law Attorney.
This custody agreement will cover which parents have legal and physical custody, when each parent will spend time with the child, who is responsible for making which decisions, the amount of child support, what child support is to cover, and more.
How is custody determined?
If you are unable to agree, the court will determine custody based on a number of factors to determine what they believe is in the best interests of your children by considering:
- Their ages
- Relationship with their parents and siblings
- Their wishes (especially when the children are over 14 years old) and the parents’ wishes
- Medical or mental health issues of the children
- Parents’ ability to provide for the children
- Children’s involvement in school and other activities
- The criminal record or domestic violence history of either parent
In determining support, the court will use the Indiana child support guidelines. These guidelines take into account the income of the parents, educational expenses, medical expenses, costs of raising the children, daycare or school expenses, and more. They are based on gross weekly income.
This calculation is done online and can be altered if agreed upon by both parties. This is why it is important to have an experienced attorney on your side to help you navigate the emotional waters of custody battles.
When a divorce, child custody, or child support dispute is resolved with a final order, the parties are required to follow the order. If someone violates the order, such as not paying child support, they can be found in contempt of court. Often at contempt hearings, the judge will give the breaching party an opportunity to correct the issue. The judge may also the final divorce, custody, or support order. In addition, the judge has the power to order attorney’s fees be awarded, adjust parenting time and support figures to remedy the matter or jail someone for violating a court order. It should be noted that incarceration is a rare remedy, reserved for the most serious issues.
Through an action for legal separation, a couple who is not ready to dissolve their marriage may obtain a court order dividing their assets, addressing issues of child custody, parenting time, child support, and assigned responsibility for debts. The Decree of Legal Separation expires after one year unless it is converted to a Dissolution Decree.
In Indiana, if a child is born outside of marriage, the rights and responsibilities of the parents are enforced through paternity actions. There rights and responsibilities automatically attach to a biological mother, however, oftentimes, a paternity action needs to be established for a Father to take advantage of his rights and obligations of parenthood.
When a child is born to a couple that is married Indiana law presumes that the husband is the biological father of the child. Therefore, the Father is given legal rights and has an equal say in the care and upbringing of the child. However, in some situations, a husband is not the biological father and may contest paternity. In other situations, the purported parents are not a couple. Therefore, the court intervenes to determine paternity. In this situation, paternity must be established to determine who the biological Father is or is not.
How is paternity established?
The first way to establish paternity is to file a paternity affidavit. A paternity affidavit is a declaration, signed by both the man and woman, that the man is the biological father. Usually, this affidavit is done at the hospital after the child is born, though it can be executed at any time while the child is a minor. Once the affidavit is signed and submitted to the Indiana State Department of Health, the man will be listed as the father on the birth certificate.
However, if the man contests paternity or if the parties are unsure, the court can order the parties to determine paternity. This can be done through agreement but is more commonly done through genetic testing by an accredited laboratory. The results of the DNA test will then be admitted into evidence. If the man is the father, he receives all rights and responsibilities of parenting. Establishing paternity allows for a child to be fully cared for by both parents and to receive all necessities required for his or her upbringing, such as food, shelter, and education.
Alternative Dispute Resolution, usually referred to as ADR, is the collective term for the ways that parties can settle disputes with the help of an independent third party and without the need for a formal court hearing.
Mediation is a confidential alternative dispute resolution process that allows couples to amicably resolve their issues by reaching a mutually satisfactory agreement without having to go to court. People tend to be happier with an outcome when it is arrived at through mutual agreement rather than imposed upon them by court order. With the help of a neutral mediator, the parties in mediation are more likely to address and resolve their problems (such as the division of property and debt, spousal support issues, and child rearing responsibilities) in a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect.
Is mediation an alternative to divorce litigation?
Mediation is a good alternative to expensive and lengthy divorce litigation, which can continue for months and/or sometimes years, often resulting in unnecessary conflict, bitterness, uncertainty, and attorney fees. Mediation is a leading alternative to litigation for resolving legal conflicts and disputes. The unique feature of mediation is the involvement of an objective, neutral professional, who serves as a “mediator” between two (or more) sides or parties.
A mediator seeks to understand each party’s goals and interests, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of each party’s case. The mediator then works with the parties (and their attorneys, if represented) to communicate and negotiate, and to develop alternative proposals and solutions, in order to reach a mutually acceptable resolution of the dispute.
How does mediation differ from divorce litigations?
Mediation is intended to assist parties in solving conflict cooperatively, as compared to the more adversarial process of litigation, providing the benefits of preserving relationships and reducing stress and conflict. In mediation, the parties themselves, rather than a judge, control any agreement that is reached. Mediation also provides room for far greater flexibility, creativity, and detail in designing solutions, since it is not constrained by the same restrictions that a judge must follow in entering orders and judgments.
Mediation is highly effective in helping parties to reach agreement. However, if an agreement is not reached, the parties may litigate their dispute. A mediator does not make decisions for the parties. All communication that occurs during the mediation is kept confidential and cannot be used in future litigation, so there is complete freedom to explore ideas and offer possible solutions.
What is the role of a mediator?
Although many mediators also are attorneys, mediators cannot provide legal advice and are not a substitute for attorneys. The role of the mediator is to facilitate negotiation between the parties, not to advise or advocate for either party. Parties should consult with their own attorneys for an understanding of the law and their rights, responsibilities, opportunities, and risks.
When a parent cannot provide care for a child, a child is in need of care, services, treatment, or assistance, sometimes the parents are unable or unwilling to provide the child with basic necessities, a third party may seek custody of the child through guardianship proceedings. Only a parent can dictate how their child is cared for or raised However, in certain limited circumstances, the court may award a non-parent with a guardianship or third-party custody, effectively giving this individual the legal power to oversee the child’s upbringing.
The state of Indiana respects parental rights but intervenes when necessary. To determine if you are eligible to petition for third party custody or guardianship of a child in need, you need an experienced attorney to guide you through understanding the law. Salzmann Law LLC provides support and legal guidance on petitions for custody or guardianship.
The Indiana Department of Child Services may become involved in a family through a CHINS action or an action to terminate the parents’ rights. If you find yourself involved with the Department of Child Services, it is very important to find an experienced attorney to represent your legal parental rights.
How is a “Child in Need of Services” determined?
A “Child in Need of Services,” or CHINS for short, is a child under the age of eighteen who is neglected or abused, AND who is not getting care or treatment that the child needs. The goal is to protect and care for the child. CHINS proceedings are not criminal proceedings, so the parent cannot be incarcerated, fined, or put on probation as a result of the CHINS. The parent could have to pay for some treatment costs, however.
The child can be a CHINS if the child:
- is seriously endangered due to injury caused by something the parents did or did not do.
- is living in a home where illegal drugs are being manufactured.
- is a danger to himself or to others.
- is repeatedly disruptive in school and parents don’t participate in the disciplinary proceedings
- is a missing child
- is a victim of a sex offense.
- is born with disorders caused by the mother drinking alcohol or taking drugs during pregnancy.
When a CHINS case is filed with the court the following hearings will occur:
- Initial Hearing. At this hearing, the child’s parent or guardian must either admit or deny the allegations made in the CHINS petition. If the parent or guardian admits the allegations, the Court will schedule a Dispositional Hearing. If the parent or guardian denies the allegations, the court will schedule a Fact-Finding Hearing.
- Fact-Finding Hearing. This hearing is a civil trial held before a judge, not a jury. The Office of Family and Children (OFC) will try to prove that the allegations of abuse or neglect in the CHINS petition are “more likely than not” true. If the OFC meets this burden, the court will schedule a Dispositional Hearing. If the OFC does not meet this burden, then the case is dismissed.
- Dispositional Hearing. At this hearing, the court decides what orders should be made regarding the child’s placement and what services are needed to help the child and her parents. The goal is to get the family back together, if possible. The court will consider testimony from the parties and may also consider written reports prepared by experts. At this hearing, the court can:
- order supervision of the child by the OFC.
- order the child to receive outpatient treatment at a social service agency or from an individual practitioner.
- remove the child from the care of the parent and place her in a foster home, shelter care facility, or some other therapeutic placement.
- award wardship of the child to any person or agency, including the Office of Family and Children.
- partially or completely emancipate the child.
- order the child or parent to receive family services.
- Order the parents to pay for some of all of the costs of caring for the child.
What does Termination of Parental Rights occur?
Termination of Parental rights occurs when the Office of Family and Children files an order on behalf of the child after attempts to unify the child and parents through CHINS proceedings. If this has been attempted and any of the following events have happened, the court can then order further action:
- The child has been removed from the parents for over six months.
- Reuniting the family is not necessary for the specific proceeding.
- The child has been under the supervision of the Office of Family and Children for fifteen of the past twenty-two months.
In any of these cases, the court can give the order to have parental rights terminated. If this happens, you and your lawyer can argue your case to protect your child’s best interests and your parental rights.
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There When You Need Us The Most
As Indiana family lawyers, Salzmann Law LLC offers a breadth of experience and many alternatives to resolve your issues. Our preparation, knowledge and responsiveness make us tough advocates for our clients, as well as skilled communicators.
We know how to negotiate with opposing counsel, but also represent you before a judge in a contested dispute if negotiations are not successful. We take this privilege and responsibility seriously for each and every one of our clients. To schedule an initial consultation, call Salzmann Law LLC at 812-333-2275.