Monday, July 22, 2013

Hoosier Daddy? Paternity - Your Rights vs. Your Responsibilities

How do you ensure you are a part of your child's life?  Can you lose rights to your child if you do nothing?  These are very important questions for Hoosier men.  The answers are complicated but will be addressed in a somewhat general fashion in this blog post.

Father's Rights, Birth CertificateIf you sign a paternity affidavit at the hospital, you will be placed on your child's birth certificate.  This documents that you have admitted paternity.  It provides you with some measure of assurance that you will be able to be a part of your child's life.  It does not, however, ensure that you may have parenting time (visitation) at certain times if you and the child's mother do not see eye to eye in the future. It also does not institute any formal child support obligation upon you.  You will have no actual custody or parenting time rights to your child solely because you have signed the affidavit and have been listed as the father on the birth certificate.

In order to cement your role and establish parenting time, attempt to obtain custody, and establish child support, you must file in court to establish paternity, parenting time, child support and custody. In a paternity action, the mother will be presumed to have sole custody of the child, and you may have limited parenting time, to begin with, depending on the age of the child and your prior interaction with the child.  However, you may argue for joint custody, or sole custody, should either apply in your situation.  Joint custody provides you with more say in your child's upbringing regarding things like school, religion, and medical decisions. Various factors would go into a determination about whether or not a judge will grant you joint or sole custody.  You should seek an attorney knowledgeable in family law with the ability to assist you in analyzing your situation and bringing forth facts and evidence to show why you obtaining joint or sole custody would be in the best interests of your child, the standard the judge must use.

In order to establish custody and parenting time, child support must also be established, resulting in an obligation upon you to pay the child's mother support for certain needs of the child, or vice versa.  There is a child support calculator located at IN.GOV, which would allow you to run some numbers to determine what child support may be, if you know the mother's weekly gross salary, yours, and any daycare expenses and insurance expenses for the child.

With regard to paternity, if you don't use it, you may lose it.  If you were not around at birth, or the baby's mother did not tell you about the baby, and/or you didn't sign the paternity affidavit, if you do nothing within the first two years of the child's life, by law, you lose the right to assert paternity.  If  the baby's mother later agrees to allow you to proceed in a paternity action, you would be able to pursue paternity subsequent to the two years passing, but only with her agreement.  If you signed the paternity affidavit and are on the birth certificate, you may establish custody, child support and parenting time at anytime during the child's life as a minor, as the paternity affidavit tolls the two year right to assert paternity.

Further, if the baby's mother intends to give the baby up for adoption, and you've done nothing to assert paternity, including putting your name in the Indiana Putative Father Registry, you lose the right to challenge the adoption.  Thus, you need to take affirmative action, close in time to the baby's birth, should you desire to be a part of the child's life. 

Being a father is important, as everyone needs their daddy...  Don't wait until it's too late to understand your rights and responsibilities.  To establish full rights to your child, you must be ready to take on the added responsibilities of child support, when applicable.  In order to fully understand and obtain the best situation for you and your child, contact an attorney who talks straight, listens to you, learns who you are, and applies that information in court to fight for you and your child's future or continued relationship!

*Nothing written or stated in this blog is meant to be legal advice forming an attorney/client relationship.  The statements are the opinion of the blogger only.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Same Sex Marriages in Indiana: The Indiana Lawyer

Dissolution of same-sex marriages a legal puzzle for lawyers, judges | The Indiana Lawyer

This article in the Indiana Lawyer refers to my DOMA post from June 26, 2013.  Check the article out, and feel free to check out my blog site, which contains legal information on various topics. I am very happy to be mentioned in the Indiana Lawyer.

Legal Talk: Straight Up -- A Kokomo Lawyer's Blog: I Fought the Law and the Law Won...

Legal Talk: Straight Up -- A Kokomo Lawyer's Blog: I Fought the Law and the Law Won...:   Have you or a loved one already been convicted?   Do you believe the conviction was wrongful, but you are unsure what you can do?  An at...

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Who Let the Dogs Out? Part One


constitutional rights, central indiana, criminal caseI recently read an article on Facebook about a kid in Tennessee pulled over at a DUI checkpoint. The kid left his phone on video during the stop, and he politely, but firmly, refused to roll his window down any further than a few inches, and things degenerated from there. He was not asked if he had been drinking, and the officer, in his brash and loud voice, never commented that the kid smelled like alcohol, acted drunk, or had any contraband. In fact, the officer proceeded to force the kid from his vehicle, never tested him for alcohol, let his police dog scratch all over the vehicle (wherever the cop put his hand, which caused improper alerts by a canine trained for sweeps), and then searched his vehicle claiming the dog "alerted", all while another officer is saying something about the kid knowing his rights and being innocent...  The officers, according to the story, found nothing.  See the following link for more details from:  Huffington Post Crime.

This newsworthy article, brings up two very valid questions: when may the cops use dogs in order to search you, your vehicle, or your home?  And, when do the dogs actions warrant that more invasive search?  These are both good questions. Searches with dogs are a very tricky constitutional proposition.  This blog post will focus on the first question, when may the dogs be let out ... that is the initial question! 

The police frequently use their canine sidekicks to obtain a more invasive view into your personal space.  However, as you know, you have a Constitutional right, pursuant to the Fourth Amendment, to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.  So, is using the superior olfactory senses of a canine unreasonable?  Essentially, the answer is, it depends!

Indiana Courts have determined a canine (sniff) sweep is not a search under the Fourth Amendment and its Indiana counterpart. If you have been lawfully detained, and the cops do a canine sweep prior to your lawful detention ending, the courts will say that the canine sweep is fine and not a "search".

However, if your lawful detention has ended, an officer must have something called "reasonable suspicion of criminal activity" in order to subject you to a canine sweep.   For instance, at a traffic stop, an officer must have a reason to lawfully detain you, like speeding, driving left of center or failure to yield, among other things.  If the officer has a canine sweep (sniff) your vehicle while he's got you stopped for the offense, the canine sweep will not be considered a search. However, if the officer had completed your stop, received your information from dispatch, given you a ticket, and then decided to do a dog sweep, the dog's sniff of your vehicle, even if it resulted in a finding of pot or other drugs, will likely result in suppressible evidence, perhaps allowing you to avoid a conviction for the possession of said drug(s).

If the cops have "let the dogs out" on you, you need to have an attorney who knows the law accompanying searches and seizures, as well as the law regarding canine sweeps, in order to determine if procedure was correctly followed.  You will also need to carefully describe to your attorney all circumstances you remember about the stop or detention, as the next step in the analysis may be whether an officer had reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was afoot, and whether the particular canine in question was qualified/trained to do said sweep, actually alerted, and was properly handled at the scene.  These are other areas of the law that are highly subject to interpretation and should be scrutinized in each canine search case, in an effort to ensure your rights are preserved.

*Nothing written or stated in this blog is meant to be legal advice forming an attorney/client relationship.  The statements are the opinion of the blogger only.