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 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 the modification of custody. This blog provides a brief overview of the modification of a custody order and the process behind the same.
Indiana Code section 31-17-2-21 provides the procedure for custody modification. Pursuant to this statute, two requirements must be met to modify a custody order. First, the modification must be “in the child’s best interests.” Second, there must be a substantial change in one of the child custody factors. Courts look at eight different factors when determining custody and what is in the best interest of the child. Those factors are1:
- 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.
Therefore, when going to modify an existing custody order, 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. The court can also consider any other relevant evidence of a substantial change in circumstances.
The tricky part for individuals in modifying custody is how to prove it is in the “best interests of the child” and show there has been a “substantial change” to one of the factors. Determining how to do 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.