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Indiana Child Custody FAQS

Going through a divorce is difficult, and the process is even more stressful and complex when child custody issues arise. It’s always better if parents can work together to make child custody arrangements that suit both parties and the child, but, unfortunately, this does not always happen. Conflicts over child custody often become contentious, and all parties wind up suffering, especially children who are caught in the middle.

A consultation with an experienced Indiana child custody lawyer at Church Langdon Lopp & Banet LLC can help educate you about Indiana divorce and custody laws and clarify issues before they become major problems. To get started, here are some frequently asked questions concerning Indiana child custody laws.

How is child custody determined in Indiana?

Indiana bases child custody on what is considered to be the best interests of the child. The time spent with each parent can be based on the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines or agreement between parents. If parents can’t agree, the court will determine custody and parenting time by weighing factors such as the age and health of the child, the child’s adjustments with home, school, and community, and the child’s relationships with parents, siblings, and grandparents.

What are joint custody and sole custody?

Indiana considers both legal custody and physical custody.

Physical custody refers to where the children are physically located. Parents can have joint physical custody where the children spend equal time with each parent. Alternatively, one parent can have primary physical custody with the other parent having visitation, now referred to as “parenting time.”

Legal custody refers to who controls major decisions in a child’s life, such as health, education, and religion. Parents can share joint legal custody or one party may be given sole legal custody.

Do the courts favor the mother when granting custody?

No, the courts typically favor the involvement of both parents in raising children, so most often, parents share custody in Indiana. The parent with whom the child spends more time is typically considered the primary custodial parent and the other parent is the non-custodial parent, but both parents will likely have joint legal custody when it comes to decision-making.

What is a parenting plan?

A parenting plan is a written document that sets out exactly how parents share rights and responsibilities for raising their child. It explains the parenting time schedule and the legal custody arrangement, including co-parenting rules, and it should fulfill the unique needs of the child and the parents. The plan must be signed by both parties, and filed for approval by the court in order to be enforceable.  It is best if parents create and agree upon the plan while keeping in mind the best interests of the child.

What is a parenting plan calendar?

This is a year-long parenting time schedule which may include a calendar in which the parties have charted an entire year of parenting time. This helps the parents anticipate and plan for holidays, birthdays, and school vacations and special needs of both the children and parents. There is an online calendar to assist parents in creating a schedule at:

What factors go into determining parenting time?

There are many considerations when determining parenting time.  These include:

  • factors related to the child, such as age, temperament and maturity level
  • factors related to the parent, such as mental health, substance abuse, temperament, and willingness to be flexible
  • factors related to the parent-child relationship, such as each parent’s availability, past experience living with the child, and caregiving history
  • factors related to the co-parenting relationship, such as the parents’ ability to be flexible with each other and any history of conflict and/or domestic violence
  • environmental factors such as the proximity of the parental homes, work schedule, and presence of extended family to help with caregiving.

What happens to parenting time when parents live a distance apart?

When parents live a distance apart that requires extended driving time, the parents should agree on a location for the exchange of the child. The cost of transportation should be shared based on factors that include the distance involved, the financial resources of the parents, the reason why the distances exist, and the family situation of each parent at that time.

What if one parent wants to move with the children?

Indiana law requires that if one parent considers a change of residence, a notice of the intent to move must be provided to the court and to the other parent unless the relocation has been addressed by a prior court order or the relocation will be less than 20 miles further away and will not require the child to change schools.  Either way, the relocating parent must provide notice to the other parent, and provide the new address, new phone numbers, and the date of the proposed move

If the move is out of state, the notice of relocation must be filed and served upon the opposing party. This allows the other parent the opportunity to file a motion of objection with the court. The objecting parent must then show that relocation is not in the child’s best interests, and the parent planning to relocate must prove that the move is necessary and is in good faith and not to prevent the other parent from seeing the child.

How is child support determined?

Child support is determined through a formula created by the state. Considerations will be made for factors that include how much money each parent makes, how much parenting time each parent has with the child, and what the child needs. Indiana has specific child support guidelines that can help calculate what payments should be.

If both parents share custody and have similar incomes, there may be no child support obligation, or, alternatively, they can agree not to have a child support order and instead provide for their children’s expenses during their own parenting time.

Can I refuse to allow visitation if child support is not paid?

No, Indiana does not allow custodial parents to interfere with visitation and does not permit visitation being denied based on failure to pay child support. However, if a spouse obligated to do so fails to pay child support, the other spouse may file a contempt of court action in the original court where the divorce and child support orders were issued. In some instances, the court will order jail time for the nonpayment of child support.

What if the other parent refuses to allow parenting time?

If one parent fails to comply with court orders regarding parenting time, the courts may apply sanctions that may include fine, imprisonment, and/or community service.

Can my child decide which parent to live with?

No, it is the courts that make the decision on custody until the child is 18. However, at age 14, consideration is given to the child’s wishes.

What if the child doesn’t want to visit the other parent?

The child is not allowed to decide whether scheduled parenting time takes place. Both parents are responsible to ensure the child complies with the scheduled parenting time, even if the child is reluctant to do so.

Do grandparents have visitation rights?

In Indiana, grandparents may pursue visitation with their grandchildren through the court, which will decide whether visitation rights are in the best interests of the child.

A grandparent may pursue visitation if the child’s mother or father is deceased, if the child’s parents were divorced in Indiana, or if the child was born out of wedlock. A grandparent’s visitation rights survive the adoption of a child by a stepparent or by the child’s grandparent, sibling, aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew.

What is shared parenting?

Shared parenting plans require two parents to be actively involved in day-to-day rearing by having the child spend time in the home of each parent as a resident, not a visitor. If parents can work together, they come up with a shared parenting plan where the child learns, works, and plays in both homes. Successful plans can insulate the child from many losses that result from divorce, but parents must be able to work together and make both homes a home base for the child. Unsuccessful shared parenting can accelerate parental conflicts.

What is a temporary custody and visitation order?

Parents often come up with a custody and visitation arrangement as soon as they separate, which will usually be honored by the courts. When parties can’t agree, the courts may issue a temporary order after a preliminary hearing during which evidence regarding custody and parenting time is presented. The temporary order deciding custody remains in effect until a permanent order is issued in the final decree.

How can I modify a custody agreement?

To modify a custody or visitation arrangement, you must be able to show a substantial change in circumstances that makes the change necessary. Courts will almost always consider a request for modification if there is a showing that the child is endangered by the current custody arrangement. If the modification is contested, there will likely be a contentious hearing and the courts will make a determination.

What if there are conflicts between regular and holiday weekends?

The Holiday Parenting Time Schedule takes precedence over regularly scheduled and extended parenting time. Extended parenting time generally takes precedence over regular parenting time. Regular alternating weekends continue throughout the year.

If a parent misses a regular weekend because it is the other parent’s holiday, it will be lost. If a parent receives two consecutive weekends because of a holiday, that parent shall have the third weekend also.

Can a non-custodial parent lose visitation rights?

Parenting time can be revoked if a judge believes this action is in the best interest of children for reasons that include:

  • Child abuse (physical, emotional, or sexual)
  • Domestic violence in the home
  • Alcoholism/drug abuse
  • Incarceration
  • Inappropriate living conditions
  • Child neglect
  • Threat of kidnapping.

If the custodial parent believes any of these situations exist, goes to court, and proves them, the non-custodial parent’s parenting time rights may be revoked or, in some cases, supervised parenting time may be ordered.

Can a judge order supervised visitation or no visitation?

Yes, a judge may order supervised visitation if there is a risk to the child from unsupervised visitation. If it is not in the best interests of the child for a parent to have parenting time, the court may order no visitation.

What if a custody trial is necessary?

If custody is contested and goes to trial, it becomes extremely contentious as both parties attempt to prove to the court that the child is better off with them instead of the other parent. To make a decision, the court makes inquiries into your role in your child’s life, your health and stability, and your contribution to your child’s upbringing.

What role does a Guardian ad Litem play?

A Guardian ad Litem is appointed by the court help the court learn more information about each parent and their relationship with the child to assist in the determination of custody. The Guardian ad Litem will investigate, and the court will use this information to assist in the determination of what custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child. This plan will be included in the final Decree.

What is the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act?

The Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act 1980 (PKPA) is federal legislation passed to help resolve child custody cases where there are jurisdictional conflict issues, specifically matters that involve the crossing of state lines. The Act allows any state to honor and enforce a custody order issued by another state’s court in order to prevent parental kidnapping and prohibits a second state from exercising jurisdiction when another court is already exercising jurisdiction in a child custody matter.

The goal is to prevent a parent from seeking the intervention of a new court into a custody matter that has already been decided by a court in the child’s home state.

Get Help from Our Indiana Child Custody Attorneys

The skilled and compassionate Indiana Family Law Attorneys at LLC know how important child custody issues are to divorcing parents, and are here to answer all your questions and take appropriate steps that will lead to the best outcome for you and your children.

Do not delay. For skilled and knowledgeable representation regarding any divorce issues, call us today for a consultation.

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