When a couple decides to end their relationship and they have children together, they often have to deal with Indiana child custody issues. Going through a court case regarding child custody in Indiana can often be an emotional process and one that can leave one or both parent dissatisfied with the outcome. This is generally due to the fact the Indiana family law court systems are primarily interested in what is in the best interests of the children and their overall well-being during this trying process and period of great change in their lives.
Child Custody Laws in Indiana
Whenever the Indiana family court system is presented with a child custody case, it will handle the case on an individual basis. No two Indiana child custody cases are the same, which is why each is evaluated differently. Although this is true, all judges will begin their evaluation process under the assumption that keeping both parents involved in the child’s life is in their best interest. Because of this, it will often begin by looking at the possibility of arranging a joint custody agreement for the parents.
Types of Child Custody in Indiana
Joint custody is the ultimate goal for the Indiana family court system, as this is the best way to keep both parents equally involved in the child’s life. Joint custody can mean a number of different things, including sharing physical custody of the child, sharing legal custody, or sharing a combination of both physical and legal custody. When deciding on a joint custody agreement of any kind, the judge will look at a long list of factors to make a decision, including some of the factors listed below:
- The parents willingness to co-parent the child
- If the parents have already created or expressed interest in creating a co-parenting plan
- If the parents are living geographically close enough to one another to make a joint physical custody agreement feasible for both parents
- If the parents have shown they have the ability to communicate well with one another
- If the parents have shown a willingness to foster a positive relationship between the child and the other parent
- If either of the parents have shown any pattern of abusive behavior or have been cited for abuse in the past
What Determines Child Custody in Indiana
Should a joint physical custody arrangement not be possible, the family court system will then look into other child custody options. One of these options includes one parent having physical custody of the child and the other parent being granted visitation rights. Judges take the decision of who will be the custodial parent very seriously, as this is the parent who will be in charge of caring for the children the majority of the time. The judge will look at both parents, their ability to providers for the child, and a number of other factors when making their final decision.
The list of factors the judge will consider when making a decision about a custodial parent is very lengthy in order to ensure the best possible decision is being made for the child in question. The judge will look at the parent’s ability to be a caregiver, their morals, attitude, and many other facets of their personality. Some of the additional factors a judge will look at when making a final decision will include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Each parent’s ability to financially provide for the child
- Each parent’s ability to physically provide for the child
- Each parent’s willingness to invest in the child’s educational needs
- Each parent’s willingness and ability to invest in the child’s medical needs
- Each parent’s ability to provide for the child for their overall well-being
- Each parent’s ability to make good decisions when it comes to the child’s medical needs, educational needs and social needs
- Each parent’s willingness and ability to follow the custody agreement as it is outlined by the judge
In addition to looking at these factors, Indiana courts will also consider the desires of the parents as well as the desires of the child involved. If the child is over the age of 14, their desires will be given special consideration since the court often considers children of this age to be able to make sound decisions for themselves. In some cases, the judge will speak to the child without his or her parents present in order to get a true feel for who the child would prefer to reside with without the influence of either parent.
Child Custody Modification in Indiana
As time goes on, the needs of the child and the circumstances of the parents may change – when this occurs, it often means there needs to be an adjustment or modification made to the Indiana child custody agreement. Even if both parents agree to the modification, they must still go through the Indiana court system in order to have the modification approved and officially changed in their custody agreement. If the parents do not agree to the modification, the parent requesting the change will be responsible for proving the change is needed and that the modification will benefit the child in some way.
Proving a modification is needed is often difficult to do – too many changes to a child’s lifestyle or schedule can be damaging to their mental and emotional health which is why the state of Indiana tries to keep modifications to a minimum. In order to have the modification approved, the requesting parent will need to prove the following:
- There was a significant change in the parent’s/child’s circumstances that makes the modification necessary to support the child’s well-being
- The modification being requested will benefit the child in some way, such as offering them better educational opportunities or social opportunities
- The disruptions the child will encounter during the modification will be offset by the benefits the child will experience.
Child Custody and Relocation in Indiana
Relocation and modification requests are handled in generally the same way – even if both parents agree to the relocation, they will still need to go through the court system in order to have the request approved and included in their Indiana child custody agreement. If one parent is contesting the relocation, it then falls on the parent who wishes to move to prove that the relocation is needed and will be beneficial to the child in some way. Once all of the evidence to support the move has been presented, the judge will then consider the following factors in order to make the best possible decision for the child:
- Age/gender of the child
- Reason why the relocation is being requested, such as a better job, better educational opportunities, or living closer to immediate family members/support system
- Why the other parent is contesting the relocation
- The relationship between the child and the requesting parent
- The relationship between the child and the contesting parent
- The cost and availability of alternate communication methods between the child and the contesting parent should the relocation be approved
- The benefits the child will experience as a result of the relocation, such as better educational opportunities, better social environment or being closer to supportive family members