Indiana Divorce Guide

Child Custody

Indiana courts determine child custody Child custodyand enter an order based on state guidelines in accordance with the best interests of the child. You will be given an opportunity to put together your own Parenting Plan during your divorce. Should you not be able to come to an agreement with your spouse and fail to craft a plan, the court will impose a plan of its own. In either case, the family court will determine what are in the best interests of the child., Courts are instructed to show no bias when awarding primary custody. As part of the Parenting Plan, a Child Visitation Schedule must be detailed. The court will evaluate various factors including the following:

  • The age and sex of the child
  • The wishes of the child’s parent or parents
  • 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
  • The interaction and interrelationship of the child with the child’s parent or parent, the child’s sibling; and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests
  • The child’s adjustment to the child’s home, school, and community
  • The mental and physical health of all individuals involved
  • Evidence of a pattern of domestic or family violence by either parent
  • Evidence that the child has been cared for by a de facto custodian. [31-17-2-8]

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The range of custody arrangements the court may grant include:

Legal custody – granted to one or both parents, the rights and responsibilities to make important, legal decisions foe a minor child (under age 18) regarding education, religious affiliation and health care.Child custody

  • Sole legal custody – granted to only one parent the rights and responsibilities to make important, legal decisions foe a minor child (under age 18) regarding education, religious affiliation and health care
  • Joint legal custody – granted to both parents the rights and responsibilities to make important, legal decisions foe a minor child (under age 18) regarding education, religious affiliation and health care. An award of joint legal custody does not require an equal division of physical custody of the child . The court usually awards one parent the right to be the primary physical custodian
  • Physical custody – defines where and with whom a child lives
  • Sole physical custody –a child lives with only one parent and the other parent has specific visitation rights
  • Joint physical custody – refers to a child that lives with each parent a significant amount of time during the year, and does not suggest the time split should be 50/50. This type of custody requires that the parents put aside their differences and adhere to a schedule

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Joint Legal Custody Guidelines

The court may award joint legal custody if it finds that to be in the best interest of the child. The court can award joint legal custody without awarding joint physical custody of the child. In determining whether an award of joint legal custody would be in the best interest of the child, the court will consider it a matter of primary, but not determinative importance that the persons awarded joint custody have agreed to an award of joint legal custody. Based upon best interests of the child, the court will also consider:

  • the fitness and suitability of each of the persons awarded joint custody
  • whether the persons awarded joint custody are willing and able to communicate and cooperate in advancing the child’s welfare
  • the wishes of the child, with more consideration given to the child’s wishes if the child is at least 14 years of age
  • whether the child has established a close and beneficial relationship with both of the persons awarded joint custody
  • whether the persons awarded joint custody live in close proximity to each other and plan to continue to do so
  • the nature of the physical and emotional environment in the home of each of the persons awarded joint custody
If there is a chance your Ex will try to manipulate you or the kids with the visitation schedule, put an on-line Parenting Plan in place. Nothing stops the game-playing like a schedule in black and white. Simply tell your Ex that in order for the schedule to be changed, it must be discussed and agreed to; otherwise it is not changing.

The court may interview the child in chambers to ascertain the child’s wishes as to his or her custodial arrangements and preferences for who will have child custody.

[Indiana Code – Title 31 – Article 15 – Chapters: 17-2-8, 17-2-8.5 and 17-2-15]

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