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Family Law

We offer numerous services under the "Family Law" category. These include, but are not limited to, divorces, establishment of paternity, child custody and parenting time, child support, adoptions, and guardianships.

One of the aspects of our practice that is important to consider is that our goal is to help our clients reach the best solution for their situation. This also includes attempting to reach the best solution that is in the best interests of their minor child. We strongly believe that attempting to resolve conflicts amicably is best for everyone involved, including the child(ren). This can be done through negotiations between parties and attorneys, or through mediation. Most local rules, including LaPorte, St. Joseph and Elkhart Counties, require an attempt to resolve issues prior to holding a contested hearing. We strongly support these rules and prefer to work with our clients through means other than allowing a judge make the decision of what is best for the parents and their child(ren). When parents come together and try to resolve what is best for their families, they can create plans that work for them. When the judge hands down a decision after a contested hearing, we never know what he or she will rule. The decision may be something that neither party wants and, while the court believes based upon the little information it has, that its ruling is in the best interests of the child(ren) it very well may not be. Both parents may feel disappointed and frustrated by the court's decision. This is why Hildebrand Law believes that the parents, not the court, will make the best decisions for their family.

 

So here at Hildebrand Law Office we will first help you resolve your conflicts amicably. However, if we must go to court, we will fight hard to protect your rights in your case. We will research, prepare, and litigate your case for you, seeking the best outcome possible.

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Below are more detailed descriptions on the services our office offers in these fields.

Currently our office is only accepting cases that are either uncontested or both parties are willing to actively work towards an amicable resolution

Types of Services:

Divorce

Divorces are the most common type of Family Law matters we deal with. These vary in length, from as short as a couple months to a year or more. We can assist you if you are looking to file a divorce or you have already been served by your spouse. We can can assist you if you are in the middle of the process and realize that legal assistance would be in your best interests. We always recommend that if your spouse has an attorney, it is in your best interests to retain counsel as well to protect your rights.

 We also offer flat fee services for Uncontested (undisputed) Divorces. These generally refer to cases where you and your spouse agree on the terms of the divorce and want to make sure the paperwork is completed properly to avoid issues in the future. We do recommend at the very least having an experienced attorney assist with drafting your marital settlement agreement. Way to often these are not properly drafted by pro se litigants and it leads to unforeseen conflict when the agreement left open terms that should have been resolved, agreement was vague and left open different interpretations, and other unfortunate and unnecessary conflict.

Post-Divorce Litigation

Post-divorce litigation is, unfortunately, much more common than we would hope for. Most of the time, these types of cases involve modifications of custody, parenting time, and child support. However, sometimes these cases involve enforcing settlement agreements that may be vague or one party simply refuses to abide the agreement. In addition to modifications, the  enforcement of child support and parenting time orders is also extremely common.

Sometimes post-divorce cases last longer than the initial divorce case lasted. Oftentimes there is ongoing conflict that never ceased after the Decree was issued. Unfortunately, these cases can be extremely frustrating and ongoing.

We do note though, our goal is first to avoid post-divorce litigation by making sure the settlement agreement is fair, is within the parties' ability to meet the expectations, and  is written to avoid vagueness.

However, when post-divorce litigation is necessary, we work you to make sure your rights under the divorce agreement are upheld throughout this process. We work hard for our clients to enforce their rights and to make the necessary changes to the prior order.


Paternity

 

Paternity cases are cases where the parents were never married to each other. Oftentimes when the parents relationship ends, there are issues similar to divorce cases, but without the divorce. The primary focus of these cases is to determine custody, parenting time, and child support that allows the parents to co-parent within the structure of a court order.

Our office recommends that even if the parties remain in a relationship, they open a paternity case with the court and enter an agreement. This is necessary to establishing father's rights even if he listed on the birth certificate. Unfortunately, even when the parties signed the paternity affidavit, the Father cannot enforce any rights unless there is a court case that establishes his rights and responsibilities. When the parents are not married, the mother automatically has custody of the minor child. If the parties remain in a relationship, it can be as simple as opening the case, stating that the parties are cohabitating, that they have joint legal and joint physical custody of the child, and there is no child support order based upon the co-habitation. No other involvement of the court is necessary unless the parties separate. 

When parties cease cohabitation or never cohabitated, again it is important to establish each parents rights and responsibilities regarding their children. Unfortunately, even when the parents want to keep their personal situations out of court, when there is no order from a court laying out what is expected of each parent, one or both of the parents may try to limit one parents parenting time, or refuse to contribute to the financial obligations of raising a child. When there is a court order, this provides the parents with a structure that benefits all parties, including their children. These orders can allow for flexibility while also including guidelines to be followed in the event the parents do disagree.

Guardianship

Guardianships can be established for both minors and incapacitated adults. These cases can be relatively simple when establishing guardianship of a minor and there is consent from the parent(s) and also for an incapacitated adult that is completely incapable of self care, as noted by a physician, and all interested parties consent. However, these cases are much more complicated when attempting to obtain guardianship over a minor against the wishes of the parent(s) or the alleged incapacitated adult disputes the claims of the petitioner. The allege incapacitated may deny that he or she is incapable of managing his or her own self-care and finances. There may also be a dispute when potential guardians do not agree on who should be appointed. Again, the uncontested guardianships are relatively simple but there are also situations that may arise leading to a more complicated case.

Adoption

Adoption cases, like guardianships can be both simple or complex. The simplest cases are Adult Adoptions. In these cases, the adoptive parent(s) are adopting a person over the age of eighteen (18) and the only consents necessary are the petitioner(s), the person to be adopted, and any spouse of the parties. .

More commonly, adoption cases involve adopting minors. These cases are more complex even in stepparent adoptions. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that you retain an attorney to manage the case for you. Indiana law has strict requirements that must be completed in order for the court to grant an adoption. 

The adoption process is especially complex if the biological parent or parents contest the adoption. In these cases it is necessary first to prove that the consent is not required under Indiana law. Secondly, if you meet that requirement, you must prove that the adoption is in the best interest of the child(ren).

When deciding to move forward with an adoption, It is also important to remember that an adoption is permanent. Once a person has adopted a child, your obligations become the same as if the child was your biological child. In the event that the legal parents separate, their rights and responsibilities will remain the same as if the child was their own biological child. This includes issues of custody, parenting time, and child support. Another consideration is that the responsibilities of the biological parent are also extinguished. This includes any child support that you may be due from the biological parent. Child support obligations terminate once the petition for adoption is granted. However, if there is a past due child support obligation, that will remain owed in spite of the adoption

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