Family figures and gavel

Family Law FAQs

Jay Lauer Attorney at Law  July 8, 2024

Family law is a branch of law that deals with matters related to family relationships, including divorce, child custody, alimony, and adoption. It aims to protect family members' rights and responsibilities and ensure fair outcomes in disputes. 

Family law often intersects with areas like estate planning regarding the guardianship of minors. Its primary goal is to provide legal solutions that are in the best interest of children and to ensure family members' rights are protected. Mediation and alternative dispute resolution are commonly encouraged in family law to minimize conflict and find amicable solutions. 

Family law can be a confusing and emotional topic. Understanding the basics can make a big difference whether you’re dealing with a divorce, custody battle, or adoption process. I’m here to answer some of the most common questions people have about family law and to guide you through tough times. 

How Does Divorce Work? 

Divorce is the legal process of ending a marriage. It has several steps, such as filing a petition, serving the papers, and negotiating terms. Most states have residency requirements before you can file for divorce. The court considers factors like property division, spousal support, and child custody in a divorce case. 

In some cases, spouses may be able to agree on the terms of the divorce through mediation, which can streamline the process and reduce legal costs. If an agreement cannot be reached, the case may go to trial, where a judge will make the final decisions on contested issues. 

What Is Child Custody?

Child custody refers to the legal rights and responsibilities of parents toward their children. There are two types of custody: physical and legal. Physical custody determines where the child will live, while legal custody involves decision-making power over the child’s upbringing, education, and healthcare. 

Legal and physical custody can be awarded jointly or solely to one parent, depending on the best interests of the child. Courts assess various factors when determining custody arrangements, including the child's age, the parents' living situations, and the child's preference if they are old enough to express a reasoned opinion. 

How Is Child Custody Determined?

Courts determine child custody based on the best interests of the child. Factors include the child’s age, health, emotional ties with parents, and the ability of each parent to provide for the child. In Indiana, joint custody is often preferred, but the court can grant sole custody if it is in the child’s best interest.  

Courts may also consider any history of domestic violence or substance abuse as this can impact the child's well-being. Each parent's willingness to support the child's relationship with the other is also considered. 

What Is Alimony?

Also known as spousal support, alimony is financial assistance provided by one spouse to the other after a divorce. It aims to help the lower-earning spouse maintain a similar standard of living as they had during the marriage.  

The amount and duration of alimony depend on factors like the length of the marriage, each spouse’s earning capacity, and contributions to the household. Alimony can be temporary or permanent, depending on the circumstances of the divorce.  

Temporary alimony is usually awarded during the divorce process to help the lower-earning spouse transition to single life, while permanent alimony may be granted in cases where the marriage was long-term and there is a significant income disparity. 

How Is Alimony Determined?

The court considers several factors when determining alimony, such as the length of the marriage, the financial needs and abilities of each spouse, and the standard of living during the marriage. In Indiana, alimony is not guaranteed and is usually awarded on a case-by-case basis. 

In Indiana, the court will also consider the spouses' age and health, as well as their contributions to the marriage, including homemaking and childcare. Additionally, any preexisting agreements or prenuptial agreements can influence the final determination of alimony. 

What Is Child Support?

Child support is financial assistance provided by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent to help cover the costs of raising a child. This includes expenses like food, clothing, education, and healthcare. The amount of child support is determined by state guidelines based on the parent’s income and the child's needs. 

How Is Child Support Calculated in Indiana? 

In Indiana, child support is calculated using a formula that considers both parents’ income, the number of children, and the amount of time each parent spends with the child. The court can also consider other factors, such as the child’s needs and any special circumstances.  

In Indiana, deviations from the guideline amount can be made if there are special circumstances, such as extraordinary medical expenses or the child's educational needs. 

The court may also factor in the cost of health insurance premiums and childcare expenses when determining the final support amount. Adjustments can also be made if there is a significant change in circumstances, such as a parent's job loss or increased financial obligations. 

What Is Adoption?

Adoption is the legal process of establishing a parent-child relationship between individuals who are not biologically related. It has several steps, such as home studies, background checks, and court hearings.  

Adoption provides the child with legal rights and benefits, just like a biological child. In many states, adoption records are sealed to protect the privacy of all parties involved. 

What Are the Types of Adoption?

There are several types of adoption, such as domestic adoption, international adoption, and foster care adoption. Domestic adoption involves adopting a child within your country, while international adoption involves adopting a child from another country.  

Foster care adoption involves adopting a child who is in the foster care system. Another option is relative or kinship adoption, where a family member adopts a child, often to keep them within the extended family. 

In Indiana, prospective adoptive parents must meet certain requirements, such as being at least 21 years old, completing a home study, and passing background checks. The court also considers factors like the stability of the home environment and the ability to provide for the child’s needs. 

What Indiana Family Laws Should I Know?

Like other states, Indiana has its own set of laws and regulations regarding family law. Here are a few examples: 

For instance, Indiana is a no-fault divorce state, meaning you do not have to prove wrongdoing to get a divorce.  However, the court may consider fault while determining financial matters like alimony. 

Indiana law requires prospective adoptive parents to meet certain requirements, such as being at least 21 years old, completing a home study, and passing background checks. The court also considers factors like the stability of the home environment and the ability to provide for the child’s needs. 

In custody cases, Indiana courts follow the "best interests of the child" standard, which includes evaluating factors such as the emotional bond between the child and parents, the child’s adjustment to home, school, and community, and each parent’s ability to provide a stable environment. 

Contact a Family Law Attorney in South Bend, Indiana

If you’re dealing with a family law issue, Jay Lauer, Attorney at Law, is here to help. With over 40 years of legal experience, he has an in-depth understanding of state family laws and an extensive network in the local court system.  

When you hire him, you get personal, one-on-one consultations, and he is always available to answer your questions. Call today for personalized, expert advice in South Bend, Indiana, Granger, Mishawaka, and Northern Indiana.