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Judiciary committee to consider guardians being able to file for divorce

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Tackling an issue that has appeared in the Court of Appeals twice in recent months, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear legislation that would allow guardians to file for divorce on behalf incapacitated adults.

Senate Bill 59 is one of eight bills on the committee’s agenda Wednesday. Under the proposed bill, a court would be able to grant a guardian’s request for permission to file for divorce only if the guardian proves by a preponderance of the evidence that the dissolution is in the best interest of the protected person.

The guardian must be named in a petition for dissolution of marriage and must file with that petition a copy of the court order granting the request for permission to file the petition.

Indiana law does not currently allow a guardian to petition for dissolution of marriage on a ward’s behalf. The Indiana Court of Appeals issued opinions in October and July on this topic, in one case reversing the grant of a divorce filed by an incapacitated man’s daughters, who are his co-guardians.

The appellate judges cited caselaw from 1951 to support their rulings and also pointed out that the current laws governing dissolution of marriage and guardianship of incapacitated persons do not provide a means for a guardian to file for divorce on behalf of his or her ward. Court of Appeals Judge Paul Mathias wrote in In Re the Marriage of Leora McGee v. Robert McGee, 45A04-1301-DR-33, “In a world full of subsequent marriages and available pre-nuptial agreements, we will not read into a statute such a sweeping and potentially overreaching authority, authority that is not the clearly expressed intent of the General Assembly.”

The committee meets at 9 a.m. in Room 130 at the Statehouse. Also being heard Wednesday:

•    SB 41 provides that property sold at auction in a partition sale shall be sold without relief from valuation or appraisement laws.
•    SB 138, on victim advocates in civil proceedings, removes restrictions on grants from the victim services division of the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute for certain entities to enter into a contract with the domestic violence prevention and treatment council. The bill also provides that a court may allow a victim advocate to attend a civil proceeding and confer with a victim as necessary. A victim advocate is not considered to be practicing law when performing certain services.
•    SB 227 expands immunity from arrest or prosecution for certain alcohol offenses if the arrest or prosecution is due to the person reporting a medical emergency, being the victim of a sex crime, or witnessing and reporting a crime. Current law provides immunity only if the person reports a medical emergency that is due to alcohol consumption.
•    SB 229 on firearm buyback programs
•    SB 305 on Schedule I drugs and “spice”
•    SB 291 on human trafficking investigations
•    SB 312, on the assignment of lottery prizes, allows a person who wins a prize payable in installments from the lottery commission to assign the future prize payments under certain circumstances upon court approval.


 

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