OTHER FAMILY LAW SERVICES
As families become more diverse and non-traditional, the law evolves to address their needs. Whether you require a premarital agreement, guardianship, name change, simple estate planning or other service, BKR can help you.
Premarital agreements: A premarital agreement is a legally binding contract between two individuals who intend to be married. Often referred to as a “prenuptial agreement” or “prenup,” a premarital agreement is executed in contemplation of marriage and becomes effective upon marriage. Indiana enforces such agreements, and has adopted its version of the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act. To be enforceable, the agreement must be in writing and signed by both parties, and each party must have voluntarily executed the agreement.
Premarital agreements can be an effective planning tool for the disposition of assets and debts upon the termination of the parties’ marriage. Most premarital agreements address the disposition of real estate, business assets, retirement benefits, debts, and the issue of spousal maintenance. Because premarital agreements are binding contracts, one considering a premarital agreement should thoroughly review the agreement with his or her attorney prior to signing the agreement.
Third Party Custody: In Indiana, any may request custody of a child. The person requesting custody need not be related to the child, nor must be “de facto custodians” to have an right to file a request for custody. However, Indiana also recognizes strong presumption that biological parents should have custody of their children. Third parties who wish to rebut this strong presumption must have compelling evidence to successfully litigate their cause. The attorneys at BKR have extensive experience with these types of cases representing third parties, biological parents, and representing the children as Guardians ad Litem.
Guardianships: When one becomes incapacitated or is presumed incapacitated (in the case of minors), friends and families often help them by becoming their guardians. Guardianship differs from third party custody actions in two significant ways. First, one can seek guardianship for an adult as well as for a child. Second, guardianships are governed by a completely different set of Indiana laws than those relating to custody. Guardians have duties not only to protect the physical health and safety of their ward, they also have special duties related to any assets or income of their ward. Due to the laws and rules by which guardians must abide, one should seek sound legal advice before accepting responsibility for another individual.
Name Changes: Adults can change their first or last names without citing or proving any particular reason. Adult name changes are relatively quick and simple legal proceedings. The person seeking the name change requests the same from the court. Their request is published in a local newspaper. After a requisite time period, the matter is set for a brief hearing. Individuals may not change their names in an effort to evade creditors or legal process.
To change the name of a child, both parents must consent. A child’s name may be changed without parental consent in some, select circumstances.
Estate Planning: No one likes to think about his own demise. However, the only guarantee in life is that eventually, we will all pass. Creating a simple estate plan provides individuals with peace of mind. At BKR, we recommend four basic estate planning documents: a will, a living will, a health care power of attorney and a general durable power of attorney. Completing these four documents helps insure that your wishes will be honored in the event of your incapacity or death.
Rights of Unmarried Couples, Co-Parent Adoptions and Cohabitation Agreements: In today’s world, more and more couples are forming families without marriage. For some, the decision is a choice. For others, their decision is made for them as Indiana does not recognize marriage between individuals of the same sex. While the law moves slowly and has not yet fully evolved in relation to the social trends, unmarried cohabitants have certain rights under the law.
When unmarried individuals purchase real estate together, their interests in that real estate can be addressed should the relationship end. The legal mechanism for this division is called a partition action. Dividing personal property or debt between unmarried individuals is not as simple under Indiana law. If a couple elects not to marry or cannot marry, they should seek legal advice regarding a cohabitation agreement. These agreements are similar in nature to premarital agreements. They are contracts between individuals and recognized as contracts under Indiana law. By taking the time to think about property issues at the beginning of a relationship, the significant emotional and financial hardship that can exist when a relationship ends may be avoided.
One of the most controversial topics related to non-traditional families is co-parent adoption. The most common co-parents adoptions involve a partner adopting the biological child(ren) of his/her significant other, partners adopting a child born of a surrogate, and partners adopting special needs children or wards of the State. Indiana courts have been progressive in extending parental rights to unmarried couples and especially couples of the same sex. Ironically, however, the decisions of the courts appear to directly contradict Indiana’s adoption statutes. Given the conflict between the statute and case law, the ability of co-parents or same sex partners to adopt children is in a constant state of flux and could change at any time. The attorneys at BKR dedicate themselves to knowing not only applicable law, but the latest trends and judicial attitudes regarding co-parent adoptions.