Thursday, October 16, 2008

Indiana Legislature to Hear Joint Custody

15 October 2008
The Indiana Child Custody and Child Support Legislative Advisory Committee met for the final time this session and addressed a number of issues. The main issue that the committee heard was about a directive from the federal government regarding Title IV-D.

Currently under Indiana law in a paternity action the Non-Custodial Parent is required to pay at least 50% of the cost of the delivery of the child regardless of income. Federal Title IV-D guidelines, however, require that orders for financial support of the child, which includes reimbursement of medical care expenses for the child’s delivery, be based upon the parents income. The federal government didn’t provide any guidance on how to meet their directive.

The committee placed the responsibility of drafting a proposal on the state director of the Title IV-D program. The title IV-D agency will have to work quickly though as the State of Indiana is currently working on the four-year review of the Indiana Child Support Guidelines.

The subject of Shared Parenting was again raised. Testimony had been presented on this subject at the previous meeting by a variety of members of the community. The Committee decided to pursue presumptive joint legal custody of children of divorce during this legislative session.

The Committee heard testimony from one member of the community during this meeting. Stuart Showalter, Legislative Liaison for Indiana Shared Parenting, presented testimony of the subject of domestic violence and child custody. Mr Showalter presented written materials to the committee members and then spoke briefly about that issue. His testimony included personal accounts of his experiences as a victim of domestic violence and also the false allegations made against him.

During the discussion period some members acknowledged that attorneys use false allegations of domestic violence as a divorce strategy to gain custody of the children. There was agreement that the use of protective orders based on false allegations is widespread and that judges issue these with no evidence. Judge Vorhees noted that when she sees a protective order application prepared without the assistance of the victim’s advocate she approaches it with doubt because that generally suggests that the victim’s advocate did not feel it had merit. Mr Showalter suggested that there be a third-party filter prior to any petition for an ex parte order reaches a judge.

There was clear agreement among the Committee that the issue of false allegations of domestic violence needs to be addressed and that those who use that strategy be punished. One concern raised was how does the Indiana Legislature amend their laws to meet these needs but still stay in compliance with federal mandates such as VAWA. Mr Showalter was asked to further study that issue and to keep pursuing a remedy for this problem.

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