Dissolution of marriage (a.k.a. divorce) is often one of the hardest transitions for a separating couple or family. Smith Legal expertly and compassionately counsels and supports clients through every stage of this transition to ensure the very best outcome. With over 15 years of substantial experience in high-conflict divorce litigation (as well as amicable matters), Smith Legal strives to help clients find practical solutions in even the most difficult situations.
Smith Legal confidently handles high-assets, complicated marital estate distributions involving pre-marrital assets, pre-nuptial agreements, inheritance, closely-held companies, self-employment, military benefits, pensions, qualified domestic relations orders, tax shelters, trusts, stock options and more.
Scott Smith of Smith Legal LLC is an experienced domestic relations mediator, highly sought to mediate dozens of cases per year for other attorneys and their clients.
Custody in Indiana comes in 2 forms: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to decision-making authority over children, whereas physical custody is less defined, but typically refers to the parent that is the primary residental caretaker and often the recipient of child support.
The court presumes that joint legal custody is appropriate in that both parents are presumed to be fit to make decisions in a child's best interest. Legal custody pertains to making decisions related to a child's education, medical treatment, religious upbringing and major life activites. The Courts, by statute, presume that although the parties are dissolving their marriage, both are capable to cooperate and act in the best interests of the children. This legal presumption is rebuttable, which can result in one party holding sole legal custody.
The determination as to legal custody involves a complicated analysis requiring sound, candid and experienced representation.
A parent's actual time with their child is referred to as parenting time, once referred to as visitation. Parenting time arrangements vary greatly from family to family as a consenquence and necessity due to differing work schedules, activities and lifestyles.
Parenting time is governed by the
Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines (IPTG). While the IPTG provides a number of default rules, parties have discretion to agree and courts have authority to order a wide range of parenting time arrangements.
Parenting time is determined by the undefined standard of the "best interest of the child." Only overnight parenting time is credited towards child support.
A child support obligation is primarily based on the respective incomes of the parties and is derived from the Indiana Child Support Rules and Guidelines. While determining the income of the parties may be straight foward, commonly the calculation involves complicated detailed analysis such as: self-employment, irregular income, bonuses, fringe benefits, under-employment, unemployment, imputation of income, incentives, dividends, interest, military pay, lottery winnings, deferred income, trust benefits and tax free compensation...just to name a few potentially challenging situations.
Smith Legal expertly handles all of these difficult income calculations to ensure child support is correctly determined.
Child support also includes credits for work-related child care, overnight parenting time, post-secondary education expenses and health insurance premiums.
In addition to child support, other child-related contributions must be accurately identified and fairly calculated, including: extra-curricular activity expenses, extra ordinary medical or education costs, income tax credits, tax benefits and post-secondary educational (college) costs.
CONTEMPT / ENFORCEMENT
A party's failure to follow a court order is remedied through a contempt action. A contempt finding by the court requires a party wilfully disobeying a court order.
Contempt is the primary means to pursue enforcement of a court order and to obtain relief from the court. Typically the courts only provide relief to the extent necessary to ensure the offending party abides by the court's order moving forward. Contempt relief can include attorney fees, modification of orders and even jail time.
Until or unless orders of a court are modified, orders must be followed.
One dispute resolution process, required by most Indiana tribunals, is mediation. Mediation aims to conclusively resolve all contested issues between parties by agreement. The benefits of mediation far outways the risks, costs and uncertainties of litigation.
Scott Smith of Smith Legal is a highly-regarded mediator, often mediating and resolving multiple cases monthly. Scott, as a successful and experienced litigator, is very familiar with the judges and their preferences and tendencies, thus resulting in reliable insight and recommendations for settlement terms.
The entire legal system is ultimately aimed at resolving disputes. Unlike court, mediation allows the parties to determine their own fate in a confidential process, by compromise and agreement. A mediated agreement, once approved, is enforceable by court. The value of resolution, without the costs, stress and uncertainties of litigation, is immeasurable.
Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution process that has blossomed and grown for many reasons, but primarily because mediation works. Mediation, unlike arbitration and trial, empowers the parties, not a third party, to make the decision – to decide one’s own fate. Through mediation, parties can talk openly about options for solving the issues, ultimately choosing to settle or not.
With mediation suites located in historic
SmithHouse, the mediation process takes place in a unique setting where parties can be separated to first and second stories, each with separate restroom facilities, private and comfortable accommodations, Wi-Fi access, free coffee and soft drinks and lunch and/or dinner as may be necessary. SmithHouse allows easy access to Noblesville businesses, the Hamilton County Judicial Center and government offices. Dowtown Indianapolis is only 40 minutes.
MODIFICATION OF PARENTING TIME, CUSTODY AND/OR CHILD SUPPORT
Often times a modification of a court's order is necessary due to a change in circumstances. Whether it is a modification of a child support obligation due to increased or decreased income or a custody or parenting time order due to changed circumstances, Smith Legal specializes in effectively ensuring such a modification is accomplished. Indiana statutes require certain criteria to be met to justify a modification and Smith Legal is very knowledgeable in these requirements.
Most courts require mediation prior to a hearing on any modifications of prior orders. Thus, working with Scott Smith, a registered and highly-experience mediator and litigator, ensures that the proper facts are identified and best strategy is employed to effectuate a proper and beneficial modification for Smith Legal's clients.
Modification of custody is primarily governed by statute, requiring a change in specific circumstances and a best-interests-of-the-child analysis. Parenting time modifications are based solely on the best interests of the child. Finally, modification of child support necessitates either a substantial and continuing change in circumstances or a time frame of 12-months and a 20% or greater change in the child support obligation making the prior order unreasonable.