The changing tides of “family” have extended the definition of the “conventional family” or “nuclear family”. Many of these shifts have been social in nature, such as adult children living with their parents.
In this blog post, we address a legal reason for a change in what constitutes a “family”, based on advances in technology that have created different scenarios for Indiana trial and appellate courts to review regarding who is a child of a “family”.
For example, a child who is adopted by a couple is legally the child of that marriage, despite the fact there is no genetic tie with the parents. Indiana statues define who is a child of the marriage, including adopted children1. If the parents divorce, they will need to determine custody and child support for the child (ren) of the marriage. It does not matter that the child was not biologically related to either parent. An adopted child is legally a child of the marriage.
Also, children born through the assistance of medicine or technology during the marriage are legally the same as children born of the marriage. This blog focuses on a recent Court of Appeals case where it examined the question of home-grown artificial insemination and the determination of child support and custody.
Specifically, in Engelking v. Engelking, the parties were married in 20012. Based on Father having a prior vasectomy which was unlikely to be reversed, the parties began to research other alternatives for children, including artificial insemination. They decide upon artificial insemination.
A friend of Mother offered her husband’s sperm as the donor, and both Mother and Father agreed. This is unique in the means of impregnation. The parents did research on the internet and purchased the necessary paraphernalia from a sperm bank to assist them in the insemination process.
Ultimately, two (2) children of the parties were born using this method outside of medical reproductive assistance and the friend’s donor sperm. These parents eventually separated, and Father continued to help financially support the Children and exercised parenting time.
Later in 2010, Father filed for divorce and in his petition, stated that he was not the biological father of the children, which would remove him of the obligation of child support. However, Father continued to exercise visitation. The trial court ultimately held that the parents should have joint legal custody, Mother should have physical custody, and Father should have parenting time and pay child support. Father appealed.
The Court of Appeals held that as Father had previously acknowledged the Children were his own, supported the Children, and consented to the method by which they were conceived. Father had argued that both parties had to knowingly and voluntarily consent to the artificial insemination, which he did not. The Court of Appeals found that there was sufficient evidence that the children were legally Father’s and affirmed (agreed with) the trial court.
The constantly changing definition of “family” and the many means of creating a family have set forth new issues for the Indiana Court’s to review. This demonstrates a judiciary responsive to the needs and best interests of the children.
Ultimately, had the parents followed a traditional route to artificial insemination, this likely would not have occurred as the medical and/or legal professionals would have highlighted to the parents this potential future contingency. This also highlights the risk in working outside of established licensed professions.
We hope that this blog post has been helpful in understanding the definition of families and children. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. practices throughout the state of Indiana. This blog post was written by attorney, Jessica Keyes.