Children are a blessing and knowing that I and my colleagues in the General Assembly do our best to give all Hoosier children the best opportunities we can so that they can grow up in a safe and caring environment. This past session we were able to pass several key pieces of legislation in order to protect children and hopefully ensure that they are well cared for.
It is unfortunate that our servicemen and women sometimes find themselves in difficult situations involving divorce and child custody as they are being deployed. Their commitment to protect our nation should not hinder the good intent of our child custody laws.
With that in mind, legislation was passed that gives the courts in Indiana the power to expedite a child custody hearing if a military parent is being deployed. The courts will also be able to accept testimony from them electronically if they have already been deployed.
In addition, while a military parent is deployed they can request that the court delegates their allotted parenting time to another person that has a close and substantial relationship with the child. The delegated person’s parenting time would then be terminated once the military parent is able to return home.
This legislation will help to ensure that special considerations are given to the men and women making sacrifices for us and our nation; and also that the best interests of the child are being met.
We also made some updates to the Indiana’s child support laws. Last summer the Child Custody and Support Advisory Committee met to discuss the inconsistencies in our child support laws both in Indiana and compared to other states’. It was found that after a child turns 18 no child support was required to be collected unless they were under a specific order from a court to collect support money up to age 21. To help correct this the child support age, not including support for educational needs was changed to 19.
This will help Indiana to save money in collections, and will also make the state more competitive when applying for federal grant monies.
Finally, we passed legislation to create a summer study committee to look into issues at the Department of Child Services (DCS). The committee will be reviewing DCS’s progress and improvements made, best practices in child welfare from across the country, hearing status reports from DCS ombudsmen and also reviewing the child abuse and neglect hotline that is run by DCS.
While we still have a long road ahead to further protect Hoosier children, this legislation is a big step in the right direction.
In other news, an announcement was made by Dubois Strong and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation that Indiana Furniture will be expanding in Dubois County. Indiana Furniture has been in the manufacturing business for more than 100 years and is a very well established and respected organization. Helping to create jobs in our community continues to be a top priority for me as your state representative and I’m very pleased that Indiana Furniture has decided to expand their operation here. I look forward to the positive effects that the jobs they create in the near future will have both in our community and to our local economy.