Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Indiana Family Law: Where the Law Comes From - Part 1

Do you know where Indiana's family law comes from? The answer is: the Indiana General Assembly.

If there is a continual surpise I get from writing this blog, it is how few people understand the role of the legislature. I get gripes, grumbles and outright complaints about the state of Indiana's family law that place the blame and/or remedy solely on the back of lawyers and judges.

Putting the blame on the lawyers and judges is the same as blaming your mechanic for the designs of automotive engineers.  Yes, I realize that puts me in the position of mechanic.  It feels more fitting the older I get.

It is the state legislature that creates the statutes which create the outline of our Indiana family law.  Hoosiers call our legislature the General Assembly.  (Which was created by our 1851 state constitution - see this or for a shorter version, About the General Assembly.)

The General Assembly has an article on how a bill becomes law.   Give How a Bill Becomes a Law a read.

You will find all the laws about family law at TITLE 31. FAMILY LAW AND JUVENILE LAW.

But family law statutes are not the only statutes we need to be concerned with.  The General Assembly also creates the law on court organization.  You will find the following in Title 33 of the Indiana Code:  ARTICLE 28. CIRCUIT COURTS, # ARTICLE 29. SUPERIOR COURTS, ARTICLE 33. COURT SYSTEM ORGANIZATION IN EACH COUNTY, ARTICLE 37. COURT FEES, and ARTICLE 38. JUDGES.

I suggest anyone with complaints about our laws on divorce, child custody, paternity, or parenting time, or child support, contact your local state representative or State Senator.  If you want to find this person, follow this link.

Consider this a good reason to vote.

And for those who might think that the General Assembly always knows what they are doing, I suggest reading Ind. Law - Continuing on with: "Apparently there are all sorts of surprises in the special session budget"; my thoughts from The Indiana Law Blog (and now I will take my tongue out of my cheek).

By the way, for those who want to know why they should a hire a lawyer, this may give you a glimmer of an answer.  It is not enough to read the appropriate articles under Title 31 but know also what is going on in Title 33.

To use another automobile metaphor:  think of Title 33 as the chassis and Title 31 as the engine.

What you might notice missing is any mention of the Child Support Guidelines or the Parenting Time Guidelines or Indiana's Rules of Trial Procedure.  The legislature does not create those documents- those are created by the Indiana Supreme Court.  That is the subject of part 2.


Stuart Showalter said...

Thank you Sam. I will be passing this along. Starting 2010 I will be a registered lobbyist in Indiana. I have such a difficult time getting people to understand that the judges, in most cases, are applying the law. If you don't like it the place to start is the legislature!!!!

Sam Hasler said...

I spoke with a fellow who sounds like he has similar interests to you but in another state. He acted as if he had no interest in the legislature versus complaining about lawyers and judges. Check back in a few days, I am going to have a short run on this and similar topics.

Bob Monday, Ind State Coordinator, Childrens Rights Council said...

I'm looking forward to Part 2. The Indiana Child Support Guidelines review, mandated by the feds to be done at least every 4 years, has just been completed. There are MAJOR changes, some based on Indiana case law (re: incarcerated obligors), some based on new federal requirements (re: insurance coverage). It is posted to the Domestic Relations Committee web site (Google it). Should be signed by the Chief Justice in early Sept, in effect 1/1/2010.

Sam Hasler said...

Bob, I thought I noted the proposed rules but time and work have not made my memory any better. Complaints about the child support guidelines were one of the (several) inspirations for this post and a few more to come). Trying to keep a practice going in this economy does not leave me with much time to keep track of these amendments. Or for most attorneys. We will deal with them when they come into effect.

Sam Hasler said...

I hit publish a bit too quickly - hopefully someone will pick up the slack for the general public in tracking things such as rule changes and publicizing them. Hint, hint.