Hildebrand Law Office
115 N. Williams St., South Bend, IN  46601
Call: 574-303-6578 or 574-323-5126  Fax: 574-303-6578  Email: michellehildebrandlaw@gmail.com
Business Hours are: Monday - Thurday 9:00 am - 4:30 pm. Friday and evening appointments available upon request.
Phone and Skype consultations available upon request

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Family law involves a wide range of legal services. These types of cases include divorce, paternity cases, child support, child custody, and adoption. And each of these categories involves a wide range of circumstances that may or may not apply to you. Below is a brief explanation of these types of matters and what is involved when you are going to court. Regardless of what type of case you have, it is imperative that you seek legal counsel prior to your first hearing. 

While many people in family law cses believe that it is necessary to go to court in a divorce or paternity case, oftentimes it is not necessary to go to court. Here at Hildebrand law, we work with our clients to develop the best course of action for your case. Often the best course of action is to negotiate or mediate an agreement between the parties rather than go to court and let a judge make the decision. The parties themselves are often better at determining what is best for themselves and their children, and with the assistane of counsel and potntialy an impartial mediator, are able to reach an agreement and appearing in court.

Please, if you are facing a custody dispute, seek legal assistance, regardless of whether it is this office or another, immediately, prior to the first custody hearing. What a judge decides at the first hearing can permanently affect your rights.

Divorce - Indiana is a no fault divorce state. What this means, in essence, is an individual cannot successfully challenge a spouse's petition for divorce. What this also means is that when one party is at fault, it generally does not matter when dealing with the property settlement, child custody, and child support. There are some exceptions to this general rule, which include the dissipation of marital property and domestic violence.

Another important note regarding Indiana that may be different from other states when it comes to property distribution is that all property, regardless of whose name it is titled in, who it belonged to prior to marriage, or how it was obtained, is all presumed to go into the marital pot. In addition to all property, all debt is also considered marital debt.  These are then divided in a manner that is "just and reasonable," which is presumed to mean divided equally. However, this presumption can be rebutted based upon the individual circumstances of each marriage. An attorney can represent your interests during your divorce, including rebutting a presumption of equal division.

In addition to typical contested divorces, where parties are not in agreement at the outset of the petition for dissolution of marriage, some couples are in agreement on the divorce and settlement of the issues. These are considered uncontested divorces. At Hildebrand Law we specialize in uncontested divorces. In these matters, the parties can sit down with the attorney, either together or individually, and discuss their situation and agreements. We wil then draft an agreement that works for the two of you. We offer reasonable flat fees for uncontested divorce services.

Paternity - When the parents of a child are not married, different issues can arise. Some cases involve parents who have been in a relationship for a long time and have children they raised together for a period of time. Other cases involve an unexpected pregnancy with soon-to-be parents who are not in and do not want to be in a relationship. These situations can involve questions about paternity, child support, and what an unmarried father's rights are. The way these matters are handled depend on variables such as whether a paternity affidavit was signed, whether the mother is/was on Medicaid for the pregnancy, and the current relationship between the parents.

At Hildebrand Law we can help you with your paternity case regardless of where you are starting from. If you need to initiate a paternity action, whether you are the father or the mother, we can file the initial petition for you. If a paternity action has been filed by the other parent, and you wish to have representation so your rights are protected, we will be there for you. If you and the other parent are in agreement on the issues, we can work with you to file your agreement with court so that it you are protected in the event you and the other parent enter a period of disagreement. 

Regardless of the current status of your relationship, it is important to protect your rights and your relationship with your child.

Child Support - regardless of the marital status of the parents, an obligation exists to support one's child. Whether you and your child's other parent are married and not living together, legally separated, going through a divorce, or never married, your child has a right to a child support order to meet his or her needs. The State of Indiana will also pursue child support from a non-custodial parent. However, the State services only seek to establish child support without taking into consideration the parents individual circumstances. The State also has a high case load and it can take significant time to get into court to establish a child support order. In addition, the State does not deal with custody and parenting time issues. Therefore, there are times when it is beneficial to parents to hire a private attorney to represent his or her interests when establishing child support.
Child Custody and Parenting Time - If you have a child and do not live with your child's other parent, it is important to have a custody and parenting time order in place. This is important even if you and the other parent have agreed on custody and visitation. There is always a possibility that conflict can arise. In the event that it does, having the order in place protects both parents and the child's rights to maintain the current schedule and relationships. What if one parent wants to move with the child? Or one parent gets married to someone else? Or one parent has another child with someone else? These types of changes can affect parenting time. Making sure to have current order in effect can be important to maintaining stability for your child. An attorney can represent you in establishing or modifying a custody order. And if the parties agree, the attorney can put that agreement into an order that is approved by a judge without any conflict between the parties. Establishing a custody order (and child support) does not need to be adversarial.
Adoption - if you are adopting a child, whether it is a step-parent adoption or both parents are adopting the child, it is important to have an attorney represent you in order to ensure the adoption is properly completed. Indiana has strict procedural rules that must be followed to ensure that the biological parents rights have been properly terminated, notice was given to any biological father, if required, and consent was obtained from both biological parents, if required. It is extremely important so there are no issues after the adoption was finalized with a biological parent contesting the adoption.

Father's Rights - at Hildebrand Law office we are a firm believer that both the mother and the father are equal parents. Too often the father must pay child support and has only limited visitation and influence in his children's lives. Children need both parents equally and need to establish strong bonds with both their mother and father. This includes any siblings that result from a new relationship. Children thrive when they are able to have a real relationship with both mother and father, any step-parents, and all their siblings and/or step-siblings. This is best accomplished when the father has joint legal custody and spends more time with his children that the minimum requirements as established by the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines. It is important to remember that these guidelines are supposed to be the minimum time the child spends with the noncustodial parent.

Guardianships - Often times children end up being left with or placed with a person who is not their parent. In these circumstances, the person who is caring for the child needs to be able to care for the child as if he or she were the parent, such as take the child to the doctor, enrolling the child or children in school, etc. In these circumstances, the best option is for the person to be appointed the legal guardian of the minor child. If guardianship is not contested, it is a relatively simple court process to establish the guardianship and it allows the person to properly and legally care for the minor child.

CHINS proceedings (Child In Need of Services) - unfortunately there are times when a parent is investigated by Child Protective Services and the investigation finds that the claims against the parent are substantiated abuse or neglect. When this occurs, you may end up in court with the State claiming that your child is in need of services. When you are being investigated by CPS or if you have had an allegation substanitated, you should hire an attorney to help you through this process. It can be a scary and overwhelming process when you are in fear of, or have already experienced, having your child being removed from your care.