Indiana Juvenile Law
In family law, you can be more than a lawyer assessing and advising a client on their legal rights. You can help an individual through one of the most stressful experiences in life. It is very rewarding to know you've helped someone through such a difficult time. While rewarding, it can also be quite difficult to go through these events with clients. The biggest challenge is usually when one or both parties are set on making the process as difficult as possible in a self-defeating attempt to hurt the other party.
Child Custody is an issue that affects everybody involved - mom, dad, children, as well as other family members. Nothing is as precious to a parent as their own child. Regardless of any bad situations, or choices you may have made in the past, you still have rights. If you are looking to establish or modify child custody or visitation, it is generally wise to consult with a lawyer. A lawyer has experience dealing with the complicated court system and can work to protect your relationship with the child.
In determining custody, the court may not give preference to the mother or father based on gender . Also, the court will consider the conduct, marital status, income, social environment or lifestyle of a parent only if it is shown that those factors are causing or may cause emotional or physical damage to the child. The court may consider a child's preference as to where he or she wants to live, but a court does not have to follow the child's wishes. Most courts are reluctant to consider the wishes of the child, and forcing a child to "choose" a parent is often not in the child's best interests. Typically, courts are reluctant to separate siblings. There is a presumption (which can be rebutted) that it is not in the best interest and welfare of a child to award custody of a child to a parent who has committed abuse against the other parent or child (as defined in the FAPA Restraining Order statutes).
Divorce is stressful for you and your spouse, but it's just as stressful for your child, if not more so. It's the court's job to make sure your child gets the necessary physical and emotional care and support your child needs to survive the divorce and have a full and happy childhood. It's a job the courts take seriously and they will make every effort to make the right decision to do so.
In the United States, there is a strong public policy interest in making sure that both parents support a child. This means that rigidly enforced child support laws are in place in all 50 states. Parents generally cannot waive a child's right to child support, and parents who are ordered to pay support but do not do so can face a host of enforcement actions and penalties including the loss of their driver’s license or garnishment of their wages. Support determinations are made by looking at factors such as the income of the parents, the responsibilities of the parents, the number of children and the needs of those children. Each state has slightly different laws and calculations, including the Income Shares model, the Percentage of Income model, and the Melson Formula model.
Payment of child support can come about in one of the three main ways:
- Agreed upon in informal negotiations between the parents (usually with attorneys)
- Resolved through use of out of court alternative dispute resolution (ADR) proceedings
- Decided when a child support order is entered by a court
Whether the parties resolve a child support dispute out-of-court through informal negotiation or ADR, the ideal result is a written document which finalized what was agreed upon. This agreement is usually shown to a judge for final approval, to ensure that what the parents have agreed to also complies with state guidelines on child support. An informal court hearing may follow, during which the judge will ask some basic factual questions to make sure that each party understands the terms of the agreement. As long as the judge is satisfied that the child support agreement was fairly negotiated, and that the terms do not contradict state guidelines, the agreement will almost always receive court approval. In most states, the agreement then becomes a binding court order or “degree.” And the parents or other parties to the agreements must adhere to it or face legal consequences.
Alimony or spousal support is an attempt to help a spouse live according to the means they have become accustomed to. It attempts to adjust the incomes of the spouses so that they are able to approximate their prior lifestyle factors, which influences the amount and duration of spousal support. Once alimony has been granted, it becomes an ongoing financial obligation. It is designed to provide the lower-income spouse with money for living expenses over and above the money provided by child support. Different from child support, which is obligatory, alimony is very much implemented by the discretion of the judge. Support can be either temporary or permanent, depending on the length of the marriage and the earning potential of each spouse. The amount is generally calculated based on state-specific formulas that take income and potential enjoyability into account. Factors such as the need to care for a special-needs child or the inability of one spouse to work due to health issues or disability may also factor into an alimony determination. Since the subject of alimony is quite complex, it is always best to speak with a divorce attorney so that you know where you stand when it comes to alimony.
The purpose of alimony is to limit any unfair economic effects of a divorce by providing a continuing income to a non-wage-earning or lower-wage-earning spouse. There are no definate guidelines for determining either the amount or duration of spousal support. If the divorce will leave one spouse with very little income and the other with sufficient income to contribute support, generally the court will award support. In the classic case, spousal support is awarded to a homemaker who has put his/her career on hold for the benefit of the family and paid by the wage-earning spouse who has worked during the marriage and enjoyed the benefit of a steadily increasing income. In short-term marriages of say less than ten (10) years, that assistance may continue for a period equal to one-half the duration of the marriage. That period is loosely calculated to enable the recipient spouse to further his/her education, receive job training and reestablish him/herself in the workforce. For longer term marriages of say fifteen (15) years or more, such rehabilitation may not be possible and support may continue indefinitely. No two parties’ circumstances are the same and thus support amounts and durations tend to vary.
What factors will the court consider when setting the permanent spousal support?
- The following are some of the factors the court will consider in order spousal support:
- The earning capacity of each party, including their education, skills and work experience
- The standard of living established during the marriage
- The supporting party’s ability to pay
- The parties’ respective contributions to the marriage
- The needs of each party including the minor children
- The duration of the marriage
- The tax consequences to the parties
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