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What Happens During a CHINS Case?

A children in need of services (CHINS) case has several types of hearings during the course of the case. The purpose of this post is to provide a brief description for each type of hearing. As will become evident, when parents are involved in this type of case, they will be in the courtroom frequently, along with many other people, to determine the care and custody of the child.

A detention hearing is the first hearing when the Department of Child Services has requested to file a petition alleging that a child in need of services. The detention hearing is to take place within forty-eight (48) hours of the child’s removal from its parents. The purpose of the detention hearing is to decide whether DCS has probable cause to file the petition. If the court decides that DCS has probable cause to file the petition alleging that the child is need of services, then DCS may place the child somewhere other than with the parents.

A factfinding hearing is usually the next hearing in a children in need of services case. At this hearing the court decided the question whether the child actually meets the statutory definition of a child in need of services. The difference between this hearing and the detention hearing is mainly the burden of proof. Whereas the detention hearing only requires probable cause (a very low standard) to keep a child in the custody of DCS, DCS must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt (the same standard used for criminal jury trials). If the court decides that DCS has not met its burden, the case is dismissed.

If the court decides that the child is in need of services, the next hearing is typically the dispositional hearing. The purpose of this hearing is to decide what outcomes need to be reached for the court to dismiss the case. In other words, the court will decide what goals the parents and children must meet so that the care and safety of the child may be ensured in the future. The duration of the case, in large part, is dependent upon how quickly parents and children can reach these dispositional goals.

After the dispositional hearing, the court will hold review hearings on a periodic basis. Sometimes the review hearings may be scheduled every three months. The Indiana Code requires that the review hearings take place at least once every six (6) months. For each of these hearings, DCS will submit a written report to the court concerning the progress of the parents and child. The court appointed special advocate (CASA) may also submit a report concerning the case. These review hearings are a great opportunity for the court to hear the concerns of parents, especially if parents do not believe their DCS caseworkers or other service providers are not treating the parents fairly.

The last type of hearing is a permanency hearing. At this very important hearing, the court decides whether the future permanency plan for the child should remain reunification with parents. The court may decide that a guardianship or adoption is more appropriate for the child. Obviously, the stakes are great when a permanency hearing is on the docket. It is important that the court fully understands each party's situation so that the court may make the best decision possible for the child. 

Who is Involved in a Child in Need of Services Case?

As discussed last week, a child in need of services (CHINS) case arises when it becomes essential that a court get involved in a child’s care. The mere existence of a court case involving the child is disruptive to a family’s normal activities. But a CHINS case involves much more than going to court. This is because so many various people are involved in a single CHINS case. Since it is a child’s well being at issue, the stakes are high, and so having several people involved in a case is important. But at the same time, each involved person has his/her own opinion. Consequently, the CHINS case can become quite complex.

Of course, the parents are involved in the CHINS case. Sometimes, a father and mother are together, and they can work together to “get back on their feet”. Other times, father and mother are not together. When this happens, sometimes a custody battle may emerge out of the CHINS case.

Attorneys are involved in CHINS cases. Each parent is entitled to legal representation during a CHINS case. If a parent is destitute, the court may appoint an attorney to represent him/her. It is important to have representation to understand a parent’s current situation and assist in articulating issues to the court.

The Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) is involved in CHINS cases. DCS has its own attorneys and case workers. The DCS attorneys are responsible for filing the verified petition that a child is in need of services and other subsequent motions and progress reports. The DCS case workers are responsible for assisting the parent’s and child’s progress toward their goals.

Service providers are also involved in the CHINS case. These people offer services to the parents and children. The types of services run the gamut. The services may include substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment, home based case management, etc. Often it is the practice of DCS to determine what the needs of the family are and then to refer services to meet the needs of the family.

A judge is involved in a CHINS case. A judge will be the decision maker throughout the case. The judge will determine whether a child is in need of services, what dispositional goals must be met for the case to close, and whether those goals have been met. The judge will read various court filings to make these determinations.

A court appointed special advocate (CASA) is involved in a CHINS case. Usually, there is a county director of the CASA program who will be at almost all of the CHINS hearings. For most CHINS cases, CASA will have a volunteer to assess how a child is doing and to make his/her own report to the court. CASA is important because CASA serves like somewhat of a neutral party in a CHINS case.

All of the above people are involved in any given CHINS matter. Obviously, with so many various people involved, there can be a multitude of opinions about what is best for a child. Given the multitude of opinions, it is important that all parties cooperate with one another to do what is best for the child, and when parties reach an impasse, the parties need to advocate for their positions before the court and have the court make an informed decision.

What is a Child in Need of Services Case?

These days the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) is often caught up in the news. Most of the attention centers around children in need of services (CHINS) cases and termination of parental rights (TPR) cases. Today the Law Office of Thomas A. Vick begins a series of blog posts regarding CHINS cases.

According to the Indiana Code, a child, who is under the age of eighteen (18), is a “child in need of services” if the following is found to be true:

"(1) the child’s physical or mental condition is seriously impaired or seriously endangered as a result of the inability, refusal, or neglect of the child’s parent, guardian, or custodian to supply the child with necessary food, clothing, shelter, medical care, education, or supervision; and

(2) the child needs care, treatment, or rehabilitation that:

(A) the child is not receiving; and

(B) is unlikely to be provided or accepted without the coercive intervention of the court."

Indiana Code § 31-34-1-1.

That is a lot of words to explain a conceptually simple matter. Simply put, a CHINS case arises when a family needs government assistance to take care of a particular child. For example, such a need might arise from a parent's substance abuse, a child's special needs, a parent's mental health, or a child’s uncontrollable behavior. While the specific facts of any given case may vary greatly, the most common factual scenario, as we are in the throes of the opioid epidemic, is a parent's substance abuse. The Indiana Department of Child Services is charged with the duty of representing the State of Indiana when a child is a "child in need of services".

Although DCS is well-intentioned, sometimes DCS gets it wrong. DCS might get it wrong for a multitude of reasons. Perhaps a DCS caseworker believes that a parent is abusing substances when that is just simply not the case. Perhaps an allegation of abuse, which is not based in fact, has been made to DCS. These are just a couple examples of how DCS sometimes might get it wrong. That is why it is important to have an attorney represent a parent in a CHINS case.

Press Release: Law Office of Thomas A. Vick Wins Appeal!

In a unanimous opinion by the Indiana Court of Appeals, Judge Mathias wrote the following:

"Vick stated in part during the hearing on the motion to set aside default judgment: 'Now, the idea of somebody looking at a complaint, seeing the summons, seeing that their company, of which they are president, is named in the complaint, responding to the complaint by a letter to opposing counsel and then not doing anything to follow up on that, I don't think that's excusable neglect.' Tr. p. 23.

We agree."

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Press Release: Law Office of Thomas A. Vick Wins $6.8 Million Judgment

The Law Office of Thomas A. Vick won a $6.8 million judgment in a personal injury case on May 30, 2017.

Mr. Vick represents the plaintiff in Genia Wamsley v. Tree City Village, New Generation Management, Inc. and Matthew Joseph. The case is before the Honorable Judge Matthew D. Bailey of the Decatur County Superior Court. The Cause Number is 16D01-1609-CT-410.

Genia Wamsley was shot by her neighbor Matthew Joseph on March 7, 2016 while sitting on her couch in her apartment in Greensburg, Indiana. The shooting garnered attention from local and state media outlets.

Starting a Nonprofit Organization: Apply for State Sales Tax Exemption

Once the all important IRS Determination Letter (the letter stating your organization is now recognized as a tax exempt entity) has been received, it is now time to apply for the Indiana state sales tax exemption.

The application for the sales tax exemption is NP-20A. It is a very simple application, consisting of a single page. The form asks for basic information regarding the organization, such as contact information, the predominant purpose of the organization, and whether the organization will sell personal property for more than 30 days in a year. There are only four check-the-box questions in the main section of the form.

The NP-20A serves a dual purpose. Not only is it used for applying for tax-exempt status, but it also is a request for an Indiana Taxpayer Identification Number. Once the hard work of getting federal tax-exempt status is done, Indiana makes it very easy to finish the job.

Nonprofit Organizations: Applying for Tax Exempt Status

After the previous steps, as described in prior blog posts, it is now time to apply for tax exempt status. This process can be done in one of two ways. An organization may apply for tax exempt status using the 1023 form or the 1023EZ form. If your organization meets the requirements for 1023EZ, this step is a no brainer. You do the 1023EZ because of its simplicity.

An organization may use the 1023EZ, if it meets certain criteria. These criteria include but are not limited to (1) the organization is not expected to gross more than $50,000 in the next three years; (2) it is not a foreign entity; (3) it is not a successor to a for-profit entity; (4) it is not a school, church, or hospital; (5) it is not a 509(a)(3) supporting organization; (6) it is not classified as a private operating foundation. Organizations that are ineligible to apply with 1023EZ are relegated to 1023.

Form 1023 is a time consuming document for even attorneys to complete. The IRS estimates it will take at least 15 hours to learn complete 1023. That does not include the nearly 90 hours of necessary record keeping time. Plus, the IRS requires that particular schedules be completed depending on the nature of the nonprofit organization. Each schedule can take between 30 minutes to 2.5 hours. Sometimes multiple schedules need to be filled out. Thus, the process can end up being a weeks long affair for someone unfamiliar with the forms.

On the other hand, the 1023EZ is much more efficient in getting the request for tax exempt status before the IRS. The IRS estimates that the 1023 will require approximately 9 hours of time to complete. Obviously, this still requires a significant amount of time, but is much more manageable.

Each application for tax exempt status, whether the 1023 or the 1023EZ, requires a user fee to accompany it. The user fee for the 1023 is $850. The user fee for the 1023EZ is $400. From a simple cost perspective, the 1023EZ is the preferable way to go.

Starting a Nonprofit Organization: The Organizational Meeting

The articles of incorporation have been submitted. The bylaws of the organization have been drafted. What happens next for a nonprofit organization?

The next step is to hold an organizational meeting. An organizational meeting can cover a multitude of topics, but there are at least two topics of critical importance: (1) selecting officers for the organization; and (2) adopting the bylaws.

The organizational meeting involves the board of directors who now have the power to name officers and adopt the bylaws. Minutes of the meeting need to be kept. There may be discussion as to who would be best qualified to serve as President or Treasurer. The board of directors also might discuss what other offices might be useful in addition to the statutory requirements of President, Secretary and Treasurer.

The organizational meeting is an exciting one. Sometimes it is the first instance of the organization's coming together in pursuit of its charitable purposes. When the organizational meeting is well planned, usually clients leave the meeting confident that their charitable purposes will be achieved. 

Starting a Nonprofit Organization: Drafting Bylaws

The next step in starting a nonprofit organization is to draft bylaws. The bylaws will be the rules that the organization follows. The bylaws will cover a multitude of topics. Here is a list of some of the topics that the bylaws will cover:

  • The location of principal office
  • The tax exempt purposes of the organization
  • Whether the organization will have members
  • The rules governing the board of directors, such as how many director will serve and how long each will serve
  • The rules governing meetings of the board of directors
  • The rules about the officers of the organization, such as the responsibilities of the President or Treasurer

This is just a taste of the decisions that must be made regarding the bylaws of the organization. The IRS will look for specific provisions in the bylaws in order to provide tax exempt status. It is best to talk through all of these decisions with a nonprofit attorney. 

Starting a Nonprofit Organization: Drafting and Submitting Articles of Incorporation

The first step to starting a nonprofit organization is simple: you must incorporate! You must form a nonprofit corporation.

Starting a corporation, whether for-profit or nonprofit, may seem like a daunting task. But the actual paperwork is quite simple. What comes after the formation of the corporation is what is most daunting.

To form a nonprofit corporation, one must draft articles of incorporation and submit them to the Indiana Secretary of State. The Secretary of State will then review the document, and if it meets with approval, a nonprofit corporation will be formed.

While this process is simple and can be done online, it is important that an attorney prepare the articles of incorporation because of the challenges that may come later. If the nonprofit corporation will seek tax exempt status from the IRS, which is almost always the case, the articles of incorporation will need to have particular language regarding the purposes of the corporation and the distribution of assets upon dissolution of the corporation. If the articles of incorporation do not contain this particular language, the IRS will likely not grant tax exempt status.

How Do I Start a Non-profit Tax Exempt Organization?

Non-profit organizations do a lot of good, and more and more are forming every day. They are a great way of doing charity and making a positive impact on the community. If you have an idea to do charity in your community, a nonprofit tax-exempt organization may be the right fit for you. To form a nonprofit, the following steps are necessary:

  • Draft and Submit Articles of Incorporation
  • Apply for and Receive Federal Employer Identification Number
  • Draft Bylaws of Organization
  • Hold Organizational Meeting
  • Apply for Federal Tax Exempt Status
  • Apply for Indiana Sales Tax Exempt Status

These are some of the steps necessary to form a nonprofit and receive its tax exempt status. In later posts, we will delve into the details of each step. Stay tuned.

 

 

Temporary Total Disability Payments in Workers Compensation Cases

You were injured at work, and now your injury has resulted in time off work. What do you do?

For injuries in the workplace, the Indiana Code offers some relief. The Indiana Workers Compensation statute mandates that employers with five or more employees to carry workers compensation insurance. This insurance, if it complies with Indiana law, will provide benefits to the employee.

These benefits include temporary total disability payments. These payments amount to 2/3 of the weekly gross income of the employee. While these payments can be a nice benefit during the recovery period after the injury, they do not begin immediately. The employee must be unable to work for a period of 7 days before payments begin. Once payments begin, they will continue until the employee has improved. More specifically, the employee must reach "maximum medical improvement," which only comes after a doctor has evaluated the employee.

(This post is for information purposes only. Contact an attorney regarding your potential workers compensation case.)

Medical Treatment in Your Workers Compensation Case

You've been injured at work. Seriously injured. And you do not know how you are going to get medical treatment. You do not make much money in the first place, and now you are facing the possibility of major medical services.

What do you do?

Fortunately, the Indiana Workers Compensation Act is employee friendly in this area. Under Indiana law, your employer is required to pay for your medical treatment at no cost to you.

IC 22-3-3-4 states, "After an injury and prior to an adjudication of permanent impairment, the employer shall furnish or  cause to be furnished, free of charge to the employee, an attending physician for the treatment of the employee's injuries, and in addition thereto such services and products as the attending physician or the worker's compensation board may deem necessary."

Be sure to speak to a workers compensation attorney concerning your injury as every case is different. But you should expect for your employer to help you out with obtaining your necessary medical treatment.

Why You Need A Power of Attorney

Many people may think that a will is all they need for their estate planning. For certain purposes, those people may be correct. A will may fit their needs for the transfer of assets at death. But unfortunately, often other matters must be taken care of prior to death.

For example, an elderly man has a wife, a son, and a daughter. The wife passes away. The man owns  and the elderly man is unable to care for himself due to Alzheimer's disease. The man has a will from 20 years ago, but no power of attorney. His children take care of him, but they begin having trouble handling his affairs because nobody is authorized to do so.

What are the children to do?

When an individual is not of sound mind, he is unable to execute a power of attorney authorizing another to act upon his behalf. The answer is the children must seek a guardianship for their father.

Obtaining a guardianship on the back end is much more complicated than executing a power of attorney on the front end. The process of seeking a guardianship includes petitioning the court, putting certain individuals on notice of the guardianship petition, a court's appointing a guardian ad litem to represent the incapacitated individual, attending a hearing, and obtaining a court order. Then after the guardianship is obtained, the guardian must periodically report to the court as a protection of the incapacitated individual.

In contrast, a power of attorney may be executed in the same signing ceremony as a will. The power of attorney may grant an individual the same powers of a guardianship, but going to court will be unnecessary. In fact, the individual executing the power of attorney may decide how their designated representative will become authorized to act and what limitations such representative will have in acting on the individual's behalf.

In sum, a power of attorney is a much more convenient, and cost efficient means of taking care of one's property and person.

Don't Make Them Pay Taxes Too Quickly On Your Retirement Plan

Perhaps the best kept secret about qualified retirement plans, such as IRAs and 401(k)s, is the flexibility of their beneficiary designations.

Once an individual reaches age 70 1/2, he must begin withdrawing Required Minimum Distributions from his retirement plan. If he has not withdrawn all of the money from the retirement plan by the date of his death, the beneficiary designation form will determine not only who will receive the money. The beneficiary designation form will also determine how quickly the recipient will have to withdraw the money and thus how quickly the tax will be paid on the funds.

Depending on the circumstances, it may be possible to extend the period of time in which the beneficiary must withdraw Required Minimum Distributions by naming a much younger individual beneficiary. The effect of this decision is that the Required Minimum Distributions will be withdrawn at a much slower rate. Thus, taxes will become payable at a much slower rate. The net effect will likely be that the beneficiary receives a greater amount of money over the course of the distribution than had the beneficiary received the money in one lump sum upon the death of the owner of the retirement plan.

Every situation is unique. Excruciating attention to detail is required to arrive at the proper outcome. But with proper estate planning, an individual can help his beneficiaries take full advantage of his retirement plan.

Why IRAs are Fabulous!

Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs) are fabulous retirement strategies. But they are fabulous estate planning devices as well. This is the beginning of a series of blog posts regarding the benefits of having an IRA.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of having an IRA is the preferable tax treatment the IRA receives.

There are basically two types of IRAs: traditional and Roth. If it is a traditional IRA, then the money placed into the account is tax deferred. That means you don't pay taxes on such money until you take the money out. If you have a Roth IRA, you pay taxes on the money you place into the account, but the money grows "tax free"--you don't pay taxes when the money is taken out!

Because the stock market historically rises over time, when you allow your money to grow "tax deferred" or "tax free" in a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA for a substantial period of time, you are choosing a path that is quite likely to result in more money after Uncle Sam is "all said and done" with his slice of the pie.

This is primarily a retirement reason for investing with an IRA. But the estate planning strategies enter into the picture when you fill out your beneficiary designation form.

More on that in the next post.