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By Andrew J Thompson, Esq.
Is the following something you can relate to: you’ve been through a bitter divorce or paternity battle, all the while doing whatever you can to be the best parent you can be. But the other parent, out of fear, anger, or for some other reason, has reported you to child protective services, and now they are investigating you as a parent. What did you do?
In many cases, there are very good reasons for CPS’ involvement, to the point of terminating the rights of parents who leave children, without heat or food in their home, inadequate shelter from the elements, or outright physical or emotional abuse, e.g. harsh, physical punishment with extreme objects of force.
But that isn’t your situation. Instead, you have found yourself on the wrong side of a custody battle, with a now-estranged judge, who is behaving punitively toward you, even though nothing, not even what is reported to CPS, fits the model of abuse or neglect in parenting. So why are they investigating you?
I have seen many, many instances when a parent has been investigated by child services, and had some or all rights stripped from them, even though that parent is the one person who takes a child’s best interests to heart to the greatest extent possible. How can this happen?
Consider the following, a single father, with no girlfriend, roommate, or significant other, has his children at home with him on alternating weekends. His two year son goes back to his mother’s on Sunday evening with a small cut over his left eye. The father tells the mother exactly what happened – the boys’ five year old sister came to the father and told him the boy was playing in
This is a very difficult situation. You need to be diligent and persistent about pursuing, restoring and protecting your rights.
You have recourse anywhere in the United States because the Constitution respects your rights as a parent above the authority of the state. Don’t minimize the ultimate importance of this protection. Practically speaking, however, enforcing your rights can be very time consuming, expensive and difficult. The state has a great deal of power and resources, and generally, once you’re in the CPS system, you are treated with suspicion.
You need to be patient, persistent and forthright in asserting your rights and your will as the parent – more interested in the care of your children than any agency can be.
Regardless of your sex, a good resource may be: http://www.familylawandfathers.com which addresses issues relating to parent’s rights in much detail. Depending on your finances, it’s possible, though harder than ever, you may be entitled to pro bono representation via your local legal services organization, but the truth is you will receive limited service on a pro bono basis. If you’re looking for sound, experienced representation, contact the team at the Thompson Law Office, by calling Andrew Thompson at (317) 604-1276, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We do offer sliding scale fee rates for individuals with limited resources as well – but don’t kid yourself! You need to be prepared for a time consuming and expensive battle that comes down to the protection of your rights and of your children.
Hanging in there as a parent to your kids is so important! I wish you well.
Under Indiana law, a court must determine custody and enter a custody order in accordance with the best interests of the child.
In determining the best interests of the child, there is no legal presumption favoring either parent. In fact, however, more women than men are awarded custody, as is common throughout the United States.
The court must consider all relevant factors, including the following:
(1) The age and sex of the child.
(2) The wishes of the child’s parent or parents.
(3) The wishes of the child, with more consideration given to the child’s wishes if the child is at least fourteen (14) years old.
(4) The interaction and interrelationship of the child with:
(A) the child’s parent or parents;
(B) the child’s sibling; and
(C) any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests.
(5) The child’s adjustment to the child’s:
(B) school; and
(6) The mental and physical health of all individuals involved.
(7) Evidence of a pattern of domestic or family violence by either parent.
(8) Evidence that the child has been cared for by a de facto custodian, and other than either parent.
Joint legal custody may be awarded only if the court finds it is in the best interests of the child. This is actually a broader window for joint custody than many states, which require that joint custody of any kind is by agreement only. Nonetheless, joint custody in Indiana does not cover specific parenting time arrangements. Therefore, the parties may have joint legal custody, but one parent may still have substantially more or less parenting time than the other.
Indiana Parenting Time guidelines were established on the premise that it is the best interests of children to maintain frequent, meaningful and continuing contact with each parent. The guidelines are based on the developmental stages of children. In other words, what is appropriate for parenting time for a pre-schooler is quite different from that of a teenager.
The guidelines contain commentary stating that parenting time of a non-custodial parent is not limited to a minimum established under order of the court. In other words if a non-custodial parent can spend more time with a child, this should be encouraged by the custodial parent in most situations. The guidelines do emphasize flexibility on the part of both parents.
The guidelines do not apply to situations involving violence, substance abuse, risk of flight with a child, and other situations that pose a significant risk to the child. In all other cases, the parenting time guidelines are presumed to apply and govern the administration of parenting time issues.
Child support in Indiana is based on a formula derived from a consideration of both parent’s income and the number of days per year children spend in the household of each parent. While the formula itself yields a very objective result, determination of income can be treated as a more subjective exercise. Thus, it becomes very important for both parents to think carefully about the resources that are available and the particular needs of the children that need to be covered. Child care expenses and health insurance for the children are both factored into the formula. Extraordinary educational expenses can also be included in the factors from which support is finally determined.
If you are facing a divorce with children or conemplating any action that would trigger an impact on custody, parenting time or child support in your life – visit Thompson Legal Services or contact Andrew Thompson for an assessment of your situation today.