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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. The child support award is many times what the custodial parent earns, and exceeds the actual costs of providing for the children's needs. My fiance and I have agreed that if we divorce, that the children will be provided for using a shared checking account like this one(http://www.mediate.com/articles/if_they_can_do_parenting_plans.cfm) to avoid the hidden alimony in Indiana's child support guidelines.

  2. Fiat justitia ruat caelum is a Latin legal phrase, meaning "Let justice be done though the heavens fall." The maxim signifies the belief that justice must be realized regardless of consequences.

  3. Indiana up holds this behavior. the state police know they got it made.

  4. Additional Points: -Civility in the profession: Treating others with respect will not only move others to respect you, it will show a shared respect for the legal system we are all sworn to protect. When attorneys engage in unnecessary personal attacks, they lose the respect and favor of judges, jurors, the person being attacked, and others witnessing or reading the communication. It's not always easy to put anger aside, but if you don't, you will lose respect, credibility, cases, clients & jobs or job opportunities. -Read Rule 22 of the Admission & Discipline Rules. Capture that spirit and apply those principles in your daily work. -Strive to represent clients in a manner that communicates the importance you place on the legal matter you're privileged to handle for them. -There are good lawyers of all ages, but no one is perfect. Older lawyers can learn valuable skills from younger lawyers who tend to be more adept with new technologies that can improve work quality and speed. Older lawyers have already tackled more legal issues and worked through more of the problems encountered when representing clients on various types of legal matters. If there's mutual respect and a willingness to learn from each other, it will help make both attorneys better lawyers. -Erosion of the public trust in lawyers wears down public confidence in the rule of law. Always keep your duty to the profession in mind. -You can learn so much by asking questions & actively listening to instructions and advice from more experienced attorneys, regardless of how many years or decades you've each practiced law. Don't miss out on that chance.

  5. Agreed on 4th Amendment call - that was just bad policing that resulted in dismissal for repeat offender. What kind of parent names their boy "Kriston"?

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