Clients contemplating divorce often have questions about legal separation. Typically, they want to know how legal separation differs from divorce, and which option is best for them. What should you know about the two?
Legal separation is, like a divorce proceeding, a legal proceeding that formally separates you from your spouse. To grant a legal separation, an Indiana Court must find that conditions in the marriage are currently so intolerable that the couple cannot live together, but the marriage itself should nevertheless be maintained. A legal separation is not required before filing for divorce in Indiana.
During a legal separation, you may reach an agreement or obtain court orders that set forth what both spouses will do during the period of legal separation, addressing matters such as custody, parenting time, child support, and financial issues related to the marriage. Any orders or agreements entered during a legal separation end when the legal separation ends. A legal separation can last up to one year. After one year, you will need to decide if you want to get a divorce or reconcile with your spouse. If you choose to proceed with divorce proceedings, your legal-separation case can be converted to a divorce proceeding.
By contrast, divorce proceedings, once complete, permanently terminate your marriage, and permanently divide your marital property. During a divorce, you may also reach an agreement or obtain court orders regarding child-related issues, although those may be modified in the future. Divorce proceedings may, and often do, last more than one year. If one spouse initiates divorce proceedings, the other spouse may not then petition the Court for legal separation.
Legal separation may be right for couples who are not certain they want to end the marriage, but nonetheless desire a trial separation. The attorneys at Ruppert & Schaefer, P.C., are available to speak to you about which option is right for you. Call us at (317) 580-9295; your future is our concern.
You’re sitting in an office building, waiting to meet with an attorney about a family-law matter. While you wait, you notice various plaques and certificates on the walls. One catches your eye—Certified Family Law Specialist by the Family Law Certification Board. What exactly is a Certified Family Law Specialist?
In Indiana, certification in family law is individual and voluntary. An attorney applying for certification must submit a detailed and comprehensive application that includes the following information:
- Proof that the attorney has been practicing law for at least 5 years;
- Proof that the attorney is of good character and reputation;
- A full and complete legal work history;
- A sufficient number of professional references who can attest to the attorney’s qualifications;
- Substantial involvement (shown by meeting numerical quotas) in the field of family law, including practice in specific family-law areas; and
- Sufficient continuing legal education in family law.
In addition to compiling the above information, the attorney must pass an examination prior to achieving certification. Certification in family law pertains to all aspects of family law, including divorce, taxation issues incident to family-law practice; contempt; enforcement proceedings; mediation and negotiation of family-law disputes; psychological and counseling aspects of family law; family law appellate practice; premarital agreements; non-marital domestic relationships; child custody; enforcement of child support; paternity; adoption; children in need of services (CHINS) cases; grandparents’ rights; and professional responsibility.
A Certified Family Law Specialist is a consummate legal professional and a recognized expert in the field of family law. Ruppert & Schaefer, P.C.’s founding partners, Michael G. Ruppert and Paula J. Schaefer, are Certified Family Law Specialists and are available to speak to you about your family-law issue at any time. Call us at (317) 580-9295; your future is our concern.
One of the most important decisions you can make in the divorce process is who your attorney will be. For some, the divorce process can take many months or even years. Having the right attorney to help you navigate the process can make all the difference. How, then, can you make the right choice?
1. Do your homework: Research, research, research. Talk to friends, family, and co-workers. Get online: many law firms now have attorney profiles, blogs, and social media accounts—check them out. Find out if the firm or attorney you’re looking at specializes in divorce or family law, or if they handle such cases routinely.
2. Ask questions and share information: When you’re ready, schedule a meeting with the attorney you’re considering hiring. While the attorney will certainly have many questions about your legal matter, you should have questions too. How long has the attorney been practicing? Is this their area of expertise? How do they bill? Do they work with other attorneys? Do they have a paralegal? How do they typically handle a matter like yours? Ask the attorney how he or she views your legal matter. Is your position reasonable? How might a judge view a particular request? What might your spouse request in return? Where might there be conflicts? Share your priorities, and make sure you tell the attorney what matters to you with respect to your case.
3. Keep communicating: When you hire an attorney, they represent you and your interests. To enable your attorney to do their best work, you should be honest and open with him or her throughout the process. There will likely be times you feel upset or anxious about your case, and sometimes you will need to share your thoughts and feelings with your attorney or their staff so that you are on the same page.
Selecting the right attorney to assist you with your divorce is critical. Your attorney should be someone you trust, and ideally, someone with whom you can connect. The attorneys at Ruppert & Schaefer are available to meet with you to discuss your divorce or other family-law matter at any time.
Call us at (317) 580-9295; your future is our concern.
So you’ve been to trial. You’ve received an order from the trial judge directing you to do (or perhaps not do) something. In the family-law context, the trial judge may have decided issues relating to custody, relocation, parenting time, child support, or marital property—just to name a few. What if you’re not happy with the result? What happens next?
In most circumstances, you have the option to appeal. If you choose to appeal, you must do so within thirty days. Appeals are handled by the Indiana Court of Appeals, which is based in downtown Indianapolis at the Statehouse. The Court of Appeals is comprised of 15 judges and they work in panels of three at a time.
Appeals are much different from trial-court cases. When you ask the Court of Appeals to review what the trial court has done, you do so by submitting written arguments. These written arguments are called “briefs,” and they are filled with legal argument and relevant legal authority. Occasionally, the Court of Appeals will hold oral argument in appeals with unique, complicated, or interesting facts; however, typically the Court rules on a party’s appeal by issuing a written decision, called an “opinion,” within a few weeks to a few months. If an appellate party is not happy with the opinion issued by the Court of Appeals, they may consider a petition to transfer, which is a request that the Indiana Supreme Court consider the appeal. Unlike the Court of Appeals, which hears all appeals, the Supreme Court has the option to select what cases it will hear.
The rules that govern the appellate process are complex and can be tricky to navigate. If you are considering an appeal, you should consult an attorney with appellate experience. The attorneys at Ruppert & Schaefer routinely handle appellate cases and are available to discuss this process with you at any time. Call us at (317) 580-9295; your future is our concern.
Wedding planning is a flurry of happy activity. Your to-do list might include the following: venue, flowers, guest list, band, honeymoon. We suggest you add one more item to that list: premarital agreement.
Full disclosure: a lot of what we do at Ruppert & Schaefer involves divorce. We hope you never need assistance with the divorce process. But if you ever found yourself in our office, “do you have a premarital agreement?” is one of the first things we’d ask. That question is often met with surprise. Premarital agreements—sometimes referred to as “prenups”—are still viewed by many as a tool for the rich. In reality, a premarital agreement can benefit nearly anyone by fixing property rights well in advance of a divorce, should one occur in the future.
A little background. Indiana is a “one pot” or “marital pot” state. This means that in the absence of a prenuptial agreement, all property that either spouse owns at the time someone files for divorce is considered marital property. This is true regardless of how the property is titled or even how it was obtained. Pre-marital property, business interests, gifts, inheritances, and even individual debts such as student loans are all considered marital property subject to division. Indiana courts recognize a rebuttable presumption that all marital property—both assets and debts—should be divided equally between divorcing spouses.
Generally speaking, there’s no way to know what property might be amassed during a marriage, but one’s future plans may warrant consideration of a premarital agreement. A few simple examples show why this is so: future wife has just opened her own business and wishes to prevent her ownership interest from being treated as marital property in the event of divorce. In another instance, two partners intend to start a business together, but wish to predetermine what percentage of ownership each will have in the event that they later divorce. In yet another case, future husband stands to one day inherit an ownership interest in the family business, and the family wishes to prevent that interest from being divided or transferred to a non-family member in the event of divorce. None of these examples suggest that the future spouses have vast fortunes to protect, yet a premarital agreement would clearly be advantageous in each.
If you are contemplating marriage, we strongly recommend you consider a premarital agreement. A well-drafted premarital agreement can give you peace of mind by anticipating and disposing of many issues that would arise in the event of divorce—leaving you with plenty of free time to tackle the rest of that wedding planning!
If you would like to consult with the attorneys at Ruppert & Schaefer, P.C. to learn more about a premarital agreement, please call (317) 580-9295. Your future is our concern.
If you know a family law attorney, or if you know someone who has gone through a divorce recently, you may have heard the phrase “collaborative divorce.” Believe it or not, there is such a thing, and it’s gaining traction around the country. Here are some of the most common questions the attorneys at Ruppert & Schaefer, P.C., receive about collaborative divorce:
- What does collaborative divorce entail? The short answer is that in a collaborative divorce, the parties and attorneys make a promise that they will not go to court; rather, they will work together with their attorneys (and sometimes other professionals such as therapists or financial advisors) in series of meetings to civilly resolve all the issues. The parties and attorneys sign a collaborative agreement which memorializes this pledge. If, for some reason, this is not possible, and one or both parties choose to go to court, the parties must find new attorneys to represent them.
- Who should consider collaborative divorce? There is no one right answer to this question; however, you might consider collaborative divorce if you desire some or all of the following:
- to avoid court intervention;
- to achieve a civil resolution;
- to maintain an amicable relationship with your former spouse;
- to amicably co-parent with your former spouse; and
- maintain privacy, autonomy, and control in personal matters like those that arise in divorce.
The overall goal of collaborative divorce is to bring the parties and attorneys together so that creative, respectful, and collective problem solving can occur.
- Do I need an attorney who is trained to practice collaborative divorce? To be able to represent a client in a collaborative law divorce, the attorney must have received training in the collaborative process. A collaboratively trained attorney understands the goals of the collaborative-divorce process, knows how to work with other team members to effectuate those goals, and can make sure the client understands and feels comfortable with the process at each stage.
Attorneys Paula Schaefer and Lainie Hurwitz of Ruppert & Schaefer, P.C., are trained collaborative attorneys and are available to discuss this process with you at any time. Call us at (317) 580-9295; your future is our concern.
Divorce can be an emotional, exhausting, and expensive process. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Certain methods of alternative dispute resolution are becoming increasingly popular in the divorce context. Mediation is one of the most effective of those methods—so much so that some courts require parties to mediate at least once when seeking a divorce.
Why is mediation such an attractive alternative? Let the attorneys at Ruppert & Schaefer count the ways:
- You may avoid going to Court. Divorce trials often bring out the worst in people, and they can irreparably damage relationships between litigants who may have to co-parent for years to come. Even if no children are involved, trials are expensive and stressful for those involved.
- You have the control. You and your spouse decide what the terms of your divorce will be—not a judge. While you may have to “give” a little (and your spouse will likely have to, too), you will have the final say about sensitive matters like children, personal possessions, and finances.
- You can speak your mind (within reason). Divorce can stir up feelings of bitterness and resentment. When children are involved, there may be concerns about parenting or introductions between children and new romantic partners. These issues may not be relevant at a trial. Mediation provides a time and a place to speak about these things: emotions are simply more welcome at mediation. Sometimes the opportunity to speak freely about these subjects benefits the parties—and paves the way for settlement.
- You may save money. A trial is expensive. Even if you pay a mediator, you will likely spend less than what it will cost you to have your attorney prepare for a trial. Effective attorneys and mediators will help clients narrow the disputed issues as quickly as possible so that they can determine whether settlement is possible.
- You may save time. Often it is much easier to get on a mediator’s calendar than a court’s, and if you are able to settle your case in mediation, you will not need to wait weeks or even months to get a court date.
Although mediation is not appropriate in every case, many clients can benefit from mediation, for the reasons above and many others. The attorneys at Ruppert & Schaefer mediate with our clients on a regular basis and are available to discuss this process with you at any time. Call us at (317) 580-9295; your future is our concern.
As a grandparent, do I have the right to see my grandchild? Attorneys are often asked this question. In Indiana, the legal response is maybe.
Under certain circumstances, a grandparent residing in Indiana can petition a court for something called “grandparent visitation.” If one of the following is true, grandparent visitation may be appropriate:
- The grandchild’s parent is dead;
- The marriage of the grandchild’s parents has been dissolved (in other words, they are divorced); or
- The child was born outside of marriage. However, paternal grandparents of a child born outside of marriage can ask for grandparent visitation only if paternity has been established.
Although Indiana law permits grandparent visitation in certain circumstances, that right is limited by the United States Supreme case of Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57 (2000). Troxel emphasized the presumption that a fit parent acts in the best interests of their child, and so long as the parent is fit, a state has no grounds to question the parent’s decisions for raising their child—including decisions made about contact between that child and their grandparents. However, where a parent is unfit, or where the parent has made a decision that is not in their child’s best interests, a trial court may grant a request for grandparent visitation.
The appropriateness of grandparent visitation is a fact-sensitive inquiry, and the facts of each case are unique. The attorneys at Ruppert & Schaefer regularly handle grandparent visitation cases and are available to discuss your situation. Call us to schedule a consultation at (317) 580-9295, your future is our concern.
Ruppert & Schaefer invites you to bring unwrapped toys to our office to participate in our holiday toy drive.
All toys will be donated to the Hamilton County Department of Child Services for children in foster care.
Divorce is a traumatizing and overwhelming experience. There are actions you can take to help cope with a divorce.
See the enclosed video from James Publishing that explains some ways to cope and get through the divorce process.
If you would like to consult with the attorneys at Ruppert & Schaefer, P.C. to learn more about the divorce process, please call (317) 580-9295. Your futures is our concern.