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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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  1. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  2. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  3. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  4. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

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