As we all know, life happens, and circumstances change. That custody order you once had may seem to become impractical as time goes on. Maybe you moved to Indiana to be closer to your child and now you want more time. Or maybe you were once on hard times but now feel you are able to offer your child more than when the custody order was put in place. Whatever the reason may be, Indiana has established a specific statutory code to deal with modification of custody in paternity matters. This blog provides a brief overview of modification of a custody in paternity matters and the process behind same.
Indiana code section 31-14-13-6 provides the procedure for modifying custody in a paternity action. Pursuant to this statutory code section, two requirements must be met in order to modify a custody in a paternity matter. First, the parent seeking a modification of custody must show that “modification is in the best interests of the child.” Second, the parent seeking modification must show there has been a substantial change in one of the factors that courts consider in making an initial custody determination. These factors include1:
- The age and sex of the child;
- The wishes of the child’s parents;
- The wishes of the child, with more consideration given if the child is at least 14;
- The interaction and interrelationship of the child with the child’s parents, siblings, and other person’s who may have a significant impact on the child’s life;
- The child’s adjustment to school, home, and community;
- The mental and physical health of all individuals involved;
- Evidence of a pattern of domestic or family violence; and
- Evidence the child has been cared for by a de facto custodian.
In short, in order to modify an existing custody order in a paternity matter, you must show it is in the best interests of the child, as well as show a substantial change to one or more of the factors listed above.
As you may have noticed, there is no specific time period that an individual must wait before seeking a custody modification in a paternity action. However, this does not mean an individual will always have grounds or a basis to seek a modification of custody. This is due to the language found in Indiana Code section 31-14-13-9. Specifically, Indiana Code section 31-14-13-9 provides that “[t]he court may not hear evidence on a matter occurring before the last custody proceeding between the parties unless the matter relates to a change in the factors relating to the best interests of the child.” In short, this means that the basis for seeking a custody modification cannot be based on circumstances or evidence that was presented at a prior hearing. Instead, there must be something new that has occurred justify modification of custody.
It can be tricky for individuals in custody modifications to prove it is in the “best interests of the child” and show there has been a “substantial change” to one of the factors above. Determining the best approach in accomplishing this can be tough due to the fact sensitive nature of these types of cases. However, it is a requirement in order to achieve modification as the statute puts a requirement on judges to consider all of the factors listed above. One important thing to keep in mind is that the basis for your modification cannot be based on evidence that occurred before the current custody order that is in place.
Child custody modifications can be a trying time for individuals. These types of proceedings are extremely fact sensitive, leading to confusion among many. Not to mention, these are very personal and emotional matters for people. When issues become so serious that modification of custody may be necessary, it may be helpful to seek the assistance of an attorney to help navigate through the process. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. attorneys practice throughout the State of Indiana and understand the significance of custody modification and planning for the same. This blog post is written by Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. advocates and is not intended as specific legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.