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What Legal Rights Does a Non-Custodial Parent Have?

While divorce is difficult and often incredibly emotional, its effects go far beyond the separation of two adults who no longer wish to be married. When minor children are involved, decisions about custody must be made. Decisions are made based on the best interests of the child. And unless a parent has serious problems that could endanger the child, the courts typically favor the involvement of both parents in raising their children.

Most often, parents share custody in Indiana. The parent with whom the child spends more time is typically considered the custodial parent. The other parent is the non-custodial parent.

The term “non-custodial” can be confusing. It might lead some non-custodial parents to think that they don’t have legal rights when it comes to their children. But that is far from the truth. Non-custodial parents have custody and parenting time rights in accordance with their custody agreements, just as custodial parents do.

Understanding Indiana Child Custody Arrangements

To understand your rights as a non-custodial parent, first it’s necessary to know how child custody works in Indiana. There are two basic types of custody in the state: legal custody and physical custody.

Legal Custody

Legal custody involves the right to make important decisions about minor children, including regarding healthcare, education, religious upbringing and other things. Parents may share legal custody or one parent may have sole legal custody.

Physical Custody

Physical custody gives parents the right to make day-to-day decisions for children when children are living with them. Often parents in Indiana share physical custody. Even though physical custody is shared or “joint” (to use another common term), it doesn’t necessarily mean that the child lives with each parent for an equal amount of time. How much time each parent has with the child is based on the parenting-time agreement.

Determining Child Custody in Indiana

Indiana Law IC 31-17-2-8 states that custody is determined based on the best interests of the child. Custody decisions can be made between parents, if they agree, and then approved by the court. When parents can’t agree, judges determine custody arrangements. In any case, custody arrangements are always based on the best interests of the child.

When judges are tasked with making custody determinations, they consider a number of factors. Some of them include:

  • Ages of children
  • Health of children
  • Parents’ wishes
  • The wishes of children (usually relevant in children over 14)
  • Relationships with parents, siblings and others
  • Parents’ physical and mental health
  • Whether domestic violence has been an issue
  • Any factor the judge believes is relevant.

Legal Rights of Non-Custodial Parents in Indiana

Parents in the non-custodial role are often concerned that they will be a lesser participant in the lives of their children. This isn’t true. Non-custodial parents in Indiana have significant rights. And if the non-custodial parent has joint legal custody, the rights afforded to both parents will be very similar.

Non-custodial parents who share legal custody have the right to equally participate in making important long-term decisions for children. If you are a non-custodial parent, you also have the right to view your child’s medical and education records. Ideally, the custodial spouse will share this with you regularly. However, if this is not the case, you can work with your attorney to ensure access.

Non-custodial parents have the right to parenting time. Rules for parenting-time schedules are outlined in the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines. You have the right to spend time with your child in accordance with the schedule and without interference by the other parent. If that isn’t the case and the other parent is interfering with your time with your child, you should consider contacting an attorney who handles parental time cases to look out for your interests.  

Additionally, you have the right to ask for a modification to your custody agreement if you believe the situation under which it was developed has changed. That said, your reason for the modification must be significant. Acceptable reasons for change include relocation, job change with schedule change, or a warranted change from supervised to unsupervised visits. Modifications can also be made as children get older. Their preference for living with one parent over the other may be considered.

How Can a Non-Custodial Parent Lose Visitation Rights?

Parenting time, which is sometimes known as “visitation” rights, can be revoked if a judge believes this action is in the best interest of children. Here are some reasons why a non-custodial parent could lose their rights to parenting time:

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

The issues above clearly put children in danger. If the custodial parent believes any of these situations exist, goes to court, and proves them, the non-custodial parent’s rights may be revoked when it comes to parenting time or, in some cases, supervision during parenting time may be ordered. Of course, custodial parents may also lose rights if it’s proven they’ve been neglectful or put the child in danger.

What Legal Responsibility Does the Non-Custodial Parent Have?

With all rights come responsibilities. Like custodial parents, non-custodial parents are responsible for supporting their children financially and ensuring their well-being. Depending on the situation, non-custodial parents may be responsible for paying child support.

When your children are with you as the non-custodial parent, you’re responsible for making sure their basic needs are met, including a secure home and healthy food. You’re responsible for adequately supervising them yourself or making sure they have responsible childcare if necessary. You’re also responsible for making sure the child is able to maintain an independent relationship with the other parent. In short, you’re responsible for making sure your child’s best interests are upheld. And you’re responsible for adhering to your custody and parenting-time orders and not infringing on the other parent’s rights.

Protecting Your Children and Your Rights

Our Skilled Attorneys at Church, Langdon, Lopp, Banet Law Firm Can Help

If you believe your rights are being violated by the custodial parent or if you are seeking a modification of the custody order, reach out to an experienced child custody lawyer in Indiana for help. The attorneys at CLLB Law are well-versed about the legal issues in child custody cases including types of custody, parenting plans, and child support. We are proud of our proven reputation for providing clients with high-quality, personalized service that protects both them and their children. Contact our child custody attorneys at 812-725-8224 to schedule a consultation.

What Legal Rights Does a Non-Custodial Parent Have?

While divorce is difficult and often incredibly emotional, its effects go far beyond the separation of two adults who no longer wish to be married. When minor children are involved, decisions about custody must be made. Decisions are made based on the best interests of the child. And unless a parent has serious problems that could endanger the child, the courts typically favor the involvement o[...]