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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 practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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