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IBA: Legislative Committee takes action on grandparents rights

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The Indiana General Assembly grappled with some hefty family law issues during the recent legislative session and the IBA was up to the challenge.

A letter from the Indianapolis Bar Association's Legislative Committee was read during discussion in the Indiana House on Senate Bill 59. The Legislative Committee and the Family Law Section had been keeping a close eye on Senate Bill 59 as it progressed through the legislature. The bill, which set out to expand the parameters surrounding grandparent and great-grandparent visitation, was opposed by section members because it would open the door for potentially contentious litigation in intact families.

IBA Members were kept abreast of legislation this year via updates in the IBA E-Bulletin electronic newsletter and targeted e-mails. "It is critical that members of the Bar be aware and involved in the issues being addressed by the legislature," said Kerry Hyatt Blomquist, co-chair of the IBA's Legislative Committee. "In general terms, our legislators are passing laws that we, as lawyers, will be referencing and that we, as judges, will be interpreting."

Senate Bill 59 was defeated on third reading in the Indiana House on Feb. 25. As of press time, no further action had taken place, but the bill could be revived in conference committee or attached to another piece of legislation.

A letter written by Blomquist outlining the IBA's opposition to SB 59 was read by Rep. Cindy Noe (R-Indianapolis), during discussion before the final vote.

In part, the letter stated: "This bill would create a cause of action for every disgruntled grandparent and allow them the remedy of filing a law suit when they are not allowed to see their grandchildren. Please understand that we are talking about an intact, married couple losing the ability to decide together, as parents of their children, whether to limit or restrict grandparent visitation. That is a right that all parents have, and we believe it is a right that should not be challengeable unless there is a viable concern for the safety or well being of their children."

Chris Worden, a family law attorney and member of the Family Law Section's executive committee, also had testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that the bill could have a negative impact on intact families and children. "So many family law attorneys oppose this legislation because they've seen how destructive parenting time litigation is for children and parental relationships. It can be stressful and financially devastating," he said.

Members of the Family Law Section had received a number of e-mail updates about this bill and Senate Bill 178, which dealt with custody issues. Members also had a chance to share their comments on an online survey.

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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