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IBA: Helping Clients Give Children a Home

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By, Laurie Goggins, Staff Attorney, Indianapolis Legal Aid Society, Inc.

One of the most rewarding experiences an attorney from the Indianapolis Legal Aid Society can have is to assist a client to obtain Guardianship or Third Party Custody of a child. While both of these procedures enable a person to become the legal caregiver for a child, the requirements and procedures for each differ. The need for both guardianship and third party custody arise when a child’s parents are no longer able to care for them. There are many situations where this can occur. For example, a parent may be suffering from a debilitating illness, may be incarcerated, may struggle with addiction, or may be deceased.

Guardianships are filed in Probate Court. With proper consents of all parties, guardianships for minors may be granted without a formal hearing. Certain requirements must be met including the need for the petitioner to be free of any felony convictions.

A guardianship may not be granted if paternity has been established in another court, a child support order is in place, or there has been a dissolution of marriage. In these situations the appropriate action is to file for third party custody. Petitions for third party custody are filed in both Circuit and Superior Court. Typically a petitioner must file a motion to intervene as well as a petition for third party custody. If there is not an agreement by all involved parties, a hearing is held to determine if third party custody should be granted.

Recently the Indianapolis Legal Aid Society was able to assist a client in obtaining third party custody of three siblings. In this particular situation the children had been adopted by their maternal grandparents. Sadly, the grandmother died and a few years later the grandfather died. The children were now in their pre-teen and teenage years. Without a place to go, or other family members available, the future of the children seemed hopeless. Then, the childhood friend of the grandparents stepped forward and took all of the children into her home. With the assistance of the Indianapolis Legal Aid Society, this client was able to petition the court and be awarded custody of the children. The children are doing well and are once again in a stable and loving environment.

In another situation a woman came to the Indianapolis Legal Aid Society to seek guardianship of an infant. The mother of the child had impending legal issues and was facing incarceration. The mother wanted to know that the child would be well cared for while she was away. She had asked the client, a family friend, to take care of her child. The Indianapolis Legal Aid Society assisted the client in obtaining guardianship of the infant. Thanks to this client, the baby was placed in a stable, loving home.

For the attorneys who do these cases, there is a lot of satisfaction in seeing such a happy outcome for children who would otherwise be displaced. The Indianapolis Legal Aid Society is proud to do this work and happy to provide training for any attorneys who wish to volunteer their time in these worthwhile cases.

Any attorney interested in volunteering to assist the Indianapolis Legal Aid Society should contact John Floreancig, ILAS Executive Director, at 317.635.9538.•

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  1. I can understand a 10 yr suspension for drinking and driving and not following the rules,but don't you think the people who compleate their sentences and are trying to be good people of their community,and are on the right path should be able to obtain a drivers license to do as they please.We as a state should encourage good behavior instead of saying well you did all your time but we can't give you a license come on.When is a persons time served than cause from where I'm standing,its still a punishment,when u can't have the freedom to go where ever you want to in car,truck ,motorcycle,maybe their should be better programs for people instead of just throwing them away like daily trash,then expecting them to change because they we in jail or prison for x amount of yrs.Everyone should look around because we all pay each others bills,and keep each other in business..better knowledge equals better community equals better people...just my 2 cents

  2. I was wondering about the 6 million put aside for common attorney fees?does that mean that if you are a plaintiff your attorney fees will be partially covered?

  3. I expressed my thought in the title, long as it was. I am shocked that there is ever immunity from accountability for ANY Government agency. That appears to violate every principle in the US Constitution, which exists to limit Government power and to ensure Government accountability. I don't know how many cases of legitimate child abuse exist, but in the few cases in which I knew the people involved, in every example an anonymous caller used DCS as their personal weapon to strike at innocent people over trivial disagreements that had no connection with any facts. Given that the system is vulnerable to abuse, and given the extreme harm any action by DCS causes to families, I would assume any degree of failure to comply with the smallest infraction of personal rights would result in mandatory review. Even one day of parent-child separation in the absence of reasonable cause for a felony arrest should result in severe penalties to those involved in the action. It appears to me, that like all bureaucracies, DCS is prone to interpret every case as legitimate. This is not an accusation against DCS. It is a statement about the nature of bureaucracies, and the need for ADDED scrutiny of all bureaucratic actions. Frankly, I question the constitutionality of bureaucracies in general, because their power is delegated, and therefore unaccountable. No Government action can be unaccountable if we want to avoid its eventual degeneration into irrelevance and lawlessness, and the law of the jungle. Our Constitution is the source of all Government power, and it is the contract that legitimizes all Government power. To the extent that its various protections against intrusion are set aside, so is the power afforded by that contract. Eventually overstepping the limits of power eliminates that power, as a law of nature. Even total tyranny eventually crumbles to nothing.

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