In Indiana, there are several types of child custody, including legal and physical, joint, primary, and sole; of these, sole custody (also known as full custody) can be the most difficult to obtain. Because the court approaches child custody cases with a presumption that both parents have equal rights and responsibilities for raising the child, grounds for full custody must be compelling. Here, then, is important information divorcing parents should know about how to get full custody of a child:
What is “Full Custody?”
“Full custody” is a common term for sole custody. When a parent is granted full custody, that parent assumes total legal and physical control, bearing all parental decision-making responsibilities regarding the child’s best interests and wellbeing. These major life decisions might, for example, include health and medical care, schooling, and religion.
Keep in mind, however, that it is possible for a parent to have full “legal” custody, covering decision-making rights and responsibilities, but have joint “physical” custody in which the other parent is also responsible for the physical care of the child a significant part of the time.
How is Custody Determined?
In Indiana, the court’s child custody decree is based on the child’s best interests. Period. This determination is based on many factors, including:
- The wishes of the parents
- The wishes of the child, particularly if the child is 14 years old or older
- The fitness of each parent to raise and care for the child, including whether they have a demonstrated history of responsible parenting
- The relationship between the parents, including their ability to communicate and cooperate with one another
- The relationship between the child and the parents, siblings, etc.
- Where the parents live in relation to one another; and where they plan to reside in the foreseeable future
- The physical and emotional environment in each parent's home
- The child’s assimilation to the home, school, and community
- The physical and mental wellbeing of all parties
In Indiana, there is no predisposition to automatically award custody to the mother.
Because it is common for full custody petitions to be contested, triggering a “custody battle,” it is important for the parent seeking full custody to clearly state to the court why joint custody would not serve the best interests of the child.
What is the Process for Getting Full Custody?
No parent should ever petition the court for full custody in an attempt to punish the other parent or to avoid interaction with that parent. When possible, the parents should discuss and agree on the best legal and physical custody arrangements. In most cases, joint custody is presumed to be best for the child because children tend to do better during their developmental years when able to spend significant time with both parents. When the parents can come into court in agreement for joint physical and/or legal custody, this indicates to the court that they plan to work together to serve the best interests of the child.
Obviously, however, individual circumstances may lead one parent to present grounds for full custody. These grounds might include arguments or evidence that the non-custodial parent has been absent; has abused or neglected the child or the custodial parent; abuses drugs or alcohol; or has been in trouble with the law.
Because grounds for full custody can be complex to present and prove, an experienced child custody lawyer can normally make the process easier.
Seeking full custody is not always easy. It requires convincing the court, with clear and compelling arguments, that one parent should not be granted a more even distribution of rights for rearing the child. An experienced child custody lawyer can provide the guidance and direction necessary to establish grounds for full custody and achieve that outcome. Here are some other important points to keep in mind regarding how to get full custody of a child in Indiana:
- The court will decide child custody cases in the best interests of the child
- Notwithstanding compelling reasons otherwise, joint custody is normally presumed to be best for the child
- Determining the child’s best interests is based on many factors, including the wishes of the parents, parental and sibling relationships, home life, and the physical and mental wellbeing of all parties
- When possible, parents should discuss and agree on the best legal and physical custody arrangements for the child
At Ciyou & Dixon, P.C., we are child custody lawyers with decades of collective experience informing and assisting clients throughout the State of Indiana in how to get full custody of a child.
To learn more about how to establish grounds for full custody and petition the court to grant that arrangement, contact us today at 317-972-8000.
This blog post provides general educational material about how to get full custody of a child. Being an educated legal consumer can help you make the most of the legal experience in meeting your legal objectives. This information is presented by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who practice throughout the State of Indiana. It is not a solicitation, nor is it intended to provide specific legal advice. It is an advertisement. Information contained herein is subject to change.