Do you need a premarital agreement? (Yes, you.)

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.

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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.

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Collaborative Divorce: Right for You?

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:

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  1. 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.
  1. 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.

  1. 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.

Mediation During Divorce

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.

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Why is mediation such an attractive alternative?  Let the attorneys at Ruppert & Schaefer count the ways:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Grandparent Visitation in Indiana

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.

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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:

  1. The grandchild’s parent is dead;
  2. The marriage of the grandchild’s parents has been dissolved (in other words, they are divorced); or
  3. 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.

 

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What a Celebration!

Great fun was had by all at our open house last night. Lots of people stopped by and those of us who deal with names and voices on the phone finally got to put faces with them.

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There were a few uneasy moments with the M&Ms in the sun, but overall we think they held up. The only downside is that the evening went by too quickly!  We are grateful for the good friends, clients and colleagues who celebrated with us or sent well wishes.

Divorce and Your Graduate Student

Does your daughter dream about going to medical school? Does your son envision becoming a lawyer? You may know that divorced parents can be responsible for college costs—but what about the costs of graduate school?

 The Indiana Supreme Court recently ruled that divorced parents cannot be forced to contribute to their child’s graduate-school expenses. In Allen v. Allen, divorced parents agreed that the father would be responsible for their daughter’s educational expenses. When that daughter decided to go to dental school, the father asked the Court to order the mother to contribute to the daughter’s dental-school expenses.  The Supreme Court rejected that request:

[I]ndiana is one of the few states that have a statute providing for educational expenses once a child has reached the age of majority. Most states have no law requiring divorced parents provide college expenses, and of the states that do, the majority limit payment of the expenses to a certain age.

 

“We also note that married parents have no legal obligation to pay for their children’s educational expenses beyond high school, let alone graduate school expenses,” [Justice] David wrote.

 

He ended by noting that divorced parents can still agree to pay a portion or all of their child’s graduate expenses, and that agreement can be enforceable by the court.

Even though a court cannot force parents to pay for graduate school, other issues regarding elementary, secondary, and college expenses often arise in the divorce process. The attorneys at Ruppert & Schaefer, P.C. have experience dealing with these issues and are available to discuss them with you. To make an appointment with one of our attorneys, call (317) 580-9295.

 

Divorcing the Family Dog

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Many of the employees at Ruppert & Schaefer, P.C. have pets at home—pets that they love and view as members of the family.  Clients going through a divorce often have questions about who gets to keep a beloved family pet.  Sometimes “pet parents” can come to an amicable resolution. But if you’re going through a divorce and you can’t agree, can a court order you to share “custody” of your four-legged friend? A contributor to the Indiana Lawyer recently recalled such a case:

When two women were divorcing in 2013, a New York judge agreed to hold a rare hearing on their fight over a dog. “Although Joey the miniature dachshund is not a human being and cannot be treated as such, he is decidedly more than a piece of property,” Judge Matthew Cooper wrote. The ruling was one of the first times a court had ever explained reasons for considering pets as more than property, making it influential even though Judge Cooper is a lower-court judge. The couple eventually settled their dispute out of court.

While courts may be hesitant to weigh in on animal issues, parties can frequently negotiate arrangements for their family pets. The attorneys at Ruppert & Schaefer, P.C. have experience dealing with this issue, and we are available to discuss what might be best for you and your furry friends. To make an appointment with one of our attorneys, call (317) 580-9295.