Child custody proceedings tend to be confusing and emotional times. Whether it be an initial custody proceeding or a modification of a pre-existing custody order, the process always seems to be draining on all involved parties. A lot of this can be attributed to the confusion surrounding initial custody determinations. However, you can relieve some of the emotional burdens by understanding the basic workings of child custody in Indiana. In this blog, we provide a brief overview of what you should know about child custody in Indiana.
The first thing to know about child custody in Indiana is that it is divided into two distinct categories: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody simply means the physical care and supervision of a child. Thus, when a court awards physical custody, they are determining who should physically care for the child. Legal custody, on the other hand, determines who can make major decisions in the child’s life, such as religion, schooling, and medical care. Thus, when a court awards legal custody, they are determining who will make the major decisions in the child’s life. The important takeaway is to be aware that custody of a child encompasses both physical and legal custody.
The next thing to know is that custody in Indiana can be awarded either solely or jointly, for either physical or legal custody. As you may assume, sole custody means that an individual has total control over the child, whereas joint custody means custody of the child is shared between two individuals. However, just because a parent is awarded joint physical custody does not necessarily mean that the parent will be awarded joint legal custody or vice versa. Remember there are two components to child custody, and either of these components can be awarded jointly or solely.
With an overview of the different types of custody, we can now turn to the governing law for custody proceedings. Specifically, in Indiana, statutory code dictates that a trial court is to make a custody determination in accordance with the best interests of the child(ren). In determining what is in the child’s best interests, a trial court judge is required to consider several different statutory factors, which include: (1) The age and sex of the child; (2) the wishes of the parents; (3) the wishes of the child, with more consideration given to the child’s wishes if the child is at least fourteen (14) years of age; (4) the interaction and interrelationship of the child with: (A) the child’s parents; (B) the child’s siblings; and (C) any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interest; (5) the child’s adjustment to the child’s: (A) home; (B) school; and (C) community; (6)the mental and physical health of all individuals involved; (7) evidence of a pattern of domestic or family violence by either parent.1
Finally, In Indiana, like most of the country, there is no presumption for either parent in an initial custody determination. While this may seem like a no-brainer, historically speaking, it wasn’t so as courts routinely sided with one parent over another. However, the statutory code in Indiana now makes clear that the trial court shall make no presumption favoring either parent in making an initial custody determination. Yet, while there is no presumption favoring either parent in an initial custody determination, this is not the case when it comes to modification of a pre-existing custody order. When it comes to modification of custody, the burden is on the parent who is seeking a modification to prove there has been a substantial change of circumstances and a modification of custody is in the best interests of the child. The reasoning is that Indiana Courts presume that stability is in the child’s best interests, and don’t want children to be subject to constant change. As such, Courts require a parent seeking a modification to show it is necessary for the child’s best interests.
Child custody proceedings can be a trying time for individuals. Not to mention, these are very personal and emotional matters for people. If you are in a child custody case, it may be helpful to seek the assistance of an attorney to help navigate through the process. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. attorneys handle all types of child custody cases throughout the State of Indiana and understand the significance of 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.