Sunday, November 11, 2007

Paternity - use of caseworker for custody issues - 31-14-13

Indiana's paternity law differs a bit on custody matters from custody matters. Not so much on the substantive law but on some additional points.

For example, Indiana Code 31-14-10-2 allows the use of a juvenile court probation officer or caseworker for custody evaluations. No such provision applies to custody cases arising out of a dissolution of marriage. Now, Marion County has its Domestic Relations Bureau but that is by local rule that all custody issues go there for evaluation. Nothing similar exists in Hamilton, Tipton, Hancock, Madison, Delaware, Grant, Howard, Hendricks, Boone or Henry Counties. Although, Delaware County did have a strong CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) program.

Finding this statute reminds me how easy it is to slip into a rut of custom. I am quite sure that I never paid any attention to this statute - if I ever noticed the statute before - until now. I have never seen it used by anyone be they other attorneys or courts. For the most part (see the Marion County and Delaware County exceptions above), when a party requests a custody evaluation the party doing the evaluation is a private entity who is paid by the party requesting the evaluation. The last time I requested anything similar in a Madison County paternity case, it was a request for a CASA. I was told that there were none available - all those volunteers were overwhelmed by the number of CHINS (Child In Need of Services) cases. I would expect a similar response under this statute but that all the juvenile probation officers were unavailable due to their juvenile court duties.

We once able to get a welfare home study report but those now cost a fee. I am not sure if that cost also applies to juvenile probation officers.

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