Family Law

Family and divorce lawyers deal with emotional situations. Sometimes the emotions involve happiness and joy, as when a couple adopt a much-wanted child. More often that’s not true. The storm of emotions experienced by people going through a include anger, fear, despair…and sometimes relief. Either way, the family and divorce attorneys at Hand Ponist can be by your side all the way. Our family practice includes the following types of cases.

Divorce

Under Indiana law, the irretrievable breakdown of the marital relationship is the most common ground for a divorce, also called marriage dissolution. It is no longer necessary for either spouse to show adultery, mental cruelty, or any of the other more contentious, adversarial grounds that a spouse seeking a divorce had to show decades ago. In fact, the divorce itself is the easy part of a marriage dissolution proceeding.

The more difficult, emotional, and often adversarial aspects are parental rights and financial matters. Parental rights include difficult questions. Which parent will the kids live with? How often does the non-custodial parent get to see the children, and for how long? What if one parent plans to move to another state?

The financial aspects of a divorce can also be complicated. How much will one parent pay the other in child support? Who will pay for the children’s college education? How will the couple’s assets be divided between the spouses? Which spouse will be required to pay off their debt? Particularly complicated questions can arise when one or both spouses own a small business or when one of the spouses has received, or anticipates receiving, a large inheritance. Issues regarding the employment benefits earned by one or both spouses, such as pensions under an employer’s retirement plan, can also be difficult to resolve.

In all these matters, the lawyers at Hand Ponist believe the best solution is the one that the spouses agree to between themselves, and we can help you work toward an agreement that is both fair to you and avoids the need for litigation.

Unfortunately, an agreement is not always possible. Many people are shocked at how quickly and easily things can become vicious and vindictive in a divorce. Maybe the person you knew as a loving parent and spouse suddenly acts like someone you don’t even know, or maybe you’ve known for a long time that your spouse is a narcissist. If it turns out to be impossible to reach an agreement, we will not hesitate to go to court and fight for your rights.

Legal Separation

Sometimes spouse need some breathing room before deciding whether to get a divorce, but simply having one spouse move out can leave too many unresolved questions regarding parental and financial matters during the separation. That’s where a legal separation comes in. In a legal separation, the couple remains legally married but with temporary answers to those questions. If the couple ultimately divorces, there will be a new court order providing permanent answers to those questions.

A legal separation is not for everyone. For one thing, it can last no longer than one year. If the couple does not divorce by then, the legal separation expires. Many couples really know that divorce is the best answer, and going through a legal separation simply creates additional legal expenses and prolong the uncertainty and turmoil by delaying the inevitable. Even so, there are some situations in which a legal separation is precisely what a couple needs. Our family and divorce lawyers can help you evaluate if it is a good solution for you and, if so, help you establish it.

Paternity

If a married woman has a baby, the woman’s husband is almost always presumed to be the legal parent, but when a single woman has a baby, the identity of the father must be determined through a paternity action. Either the mother or the father can initiate the action to obtain a court decree establishing the identify of the child’s father. A paternity action also involves the resolution of questions of custody, parenting time, and child support.

Modification of Child Support, Custody, and Parenting Time

Situations often change after a divorce is finalized or paternity is established. Sometimes the determination of child support, child custody, and parenting time that was appropriate to begin with no longer makes sense. Maybe one spouse has moved, making it difficult or impossible for the non-custodial parent to be with the children during the parenting time established by the court’s order. Often the incomes the parents change, either up or down, making the original amount of child support either unreasonably high or low. Sometimes it is no longer in the best interest of the children for the parent who was awarded custody to remain as the custodial parent. In all those situations, the lawyers in the Hand Ponist family law practice can advise you of your rights and help in in trying to obtain a modification or in trying to resist a modification requested by the other parent.

Grandparent Visitation

Indiana law provides the possibility for the grandparents of children whose parents are divorcing to be given the legal right to spend some time with the children. A court order providing for grandparent visitation can be difficult to obtain, and the assistance of an attorney can help.

Adoption

As mentioned above, adoptions are one of the bright spots in a family law practice. If you are a childless couple wanting to adopt a child, or if you want to adopt children that your spouse had with someone else, we may be able to help you.

Same-Sex Couples

The landmark decision of the United Supreme Court, Obergefell v. Hodges, which held that the due process and equal protection rights of the United States Constitution guarantee to same-sex couples the same marital rights as those enjoyed by opposite-sex couples, alleviated many of the unique problems historically experienced by same-sex couples. But change comes slowly, and not all the problems have been eliminated. Sometimes same-sex couples still need the advice and assistance of a lawyer in understanding and securing their rights as lawfully married couples.

Prenuptial and Post-Nuptial Agreements

Prenuptial agreements (an agreement between a couple that is established before they get married, usually regarding the division of property in the event of divorce) and post-nuptial agreements (a similar agreement established after a couple are married) are not for everyone, but in the right situation, they can be very useful. One example of a good use of a prenuptial or a post-nuptial agreement is to ensure that property inherited by one spouse remains in that spouse’s family. Another good use of prenuptial or postnuptial agreements is to establish how a business owned by one or both spouses is to be handled in a divorce. Prenuptial and post-nuptial agreements can be subject to attack. They should be drafted by an attorney, and you should obtain the advice of a lawyer before you sign one.