Effective July 1, 2013 the Indiana legislature has added a new code section that adds additional rules for parties in a guardianship action to apprise the court of if the Child has been the subject of reported child abuse or neglect, and allows the Courts to seek this information, during a guardianship proceeding.
Senate Act 202 add the following new sections to the Indiana Code: I.C. § 29-3-2-7 Under the Probate Act and Guardianship of an incapacitated person (which a minor child is by law)1; I.C. § 31-14-13-12 and I.C. § 31-14-14-6 Under the Paternity Act (which is the controlling law with respect to children born out of wedlock)2; and I.C. § 31-17-2-26 and I.C. § 31-17-4-11 Under the Dissolution of Marriage sections determining custody and parenting time for children born of a marriage that has now been dissolved3.
The new sections added to the Indiana Code all read the same under each act, and states as follows:
(a) If a person files a petition to establish or modify guardianship of a minor, any person who:
(1) is a party to the guardianship proceeding; and
(2) has knowledge that:
(A) a party to the guardianship proceeding has been determined to be a perpetrator of a substantiated report of child abuse or neglect;
(B) the child named in the petition has been the subject of a substantiated report of child abuse or neglect;
(C) the child named in the petition has been determined to be a child in need of services under IC 31-34; or
(D) the child named in the petition has been involved in an informal adjustment under IC 31-34-8; shall submit to the court in writing under seal that a party to the guardianship proceeding is a person described in subdivision (2)(A) or the child named in the petition is a child described in subdivision (2)(B), (2)(C), or (2)(D).
(b) A court reviewing a petition to establish or modify a guardianship may request information from the department of child services regarding a petition or proceeding described in subsection (a)(2). The department shall provide a response under seal to the court's request for information not later than ten (10) days after the department receives the court's request for the information.4
The new code provisions specifically require any person requesting to be the guardian of a minor child, or a person who otherwise is a party to a pending court action for guardianship of a minor child to tell the court if he or she has knowledge of any other party to the action or the child themselves, having previously been involved in an investigation, report, or otherwise of child abuse or neglect. It seems the legislature wants the courts to place special consideration on the persons seeking a guardianship, or the natural parents who may or may not be able to take proper care of the children, and the children, if they were previously involved in a matter dealing with child abuse or neglect. Therefore, the court may take this information into consideration when deciding if a guardianship is appropriate and who is the appropriate guardian for the child.
We hope that this blog post has been helpful in understanding the upcoming changes in the law related to guardianships of a minor child. All guardianship cases are different, and to fully understand the best course of action in your situation, you may want to consider consulting with an attorney. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. practices throughout the state of Indiana. This blog post was written by attorney, Lori Schmeltzer.