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FAQ: Child Custody In Indiana

The issues of child support and child custody are usually among the most difficult for parties to resolve during a divorce.  Each parent typically has strong feelings about how a child should be raised, and those opinions may not always be consistent with the other parent’s opinions.  These stakes are raised in the divorce context, as each parent’s time with the child will be diminished.  If you are a parent going through a divorce, it is important that you understanding the laws regarding parenting time and obtain legal advice as to how they apply in your situation.

What result is the court ultimately trying to reach?

When child custody and parenting time are involved, the court will try to reach a result that is in the best interest of the child.  Any dispute between the parents regarding child custody and parenting time should not be seen as a competition to see who will “win,” but a determination of what arrangements will ultimately be best for the child.

How is custody determined?

There are two types of custody in Indiana:  legal custody and physical custody.  If a parent has legal custody, he or she can make major decisions on behalf of that child.  Parents can share legal custody, or one parent may have sole legal custody.

Physical custody refers to where the child is physically located.  If the child lives primarily with one parent, that parent would have primary physical custody.  The other parent would typically have parenting time based on the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines.  Parents may also share physical custody of a child, and the child would spend equal time with each parent.

Does my child have a say in who he or she lives with?

The court has the ultimate determination regarding custody until the child is 18.  However, once your child reaches the age of 14, the court would give consideration to his or her wishes when making that determination.

How is parenting time determined?

If one parent has primary physical custody of a child, the court will utilize the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines to determine how much parenting time will be granted to the other parent.  The guidelines are not rules; instead, they provide guidance to the court and can be adjusted based on the unique needs and circumstances of each family.  However, if the court or the parties award less parenting time to the noncustodial parent than is recommended in the guidelines, the court must explain in writing in its order why that deviation is necessary or appropriate.  In addition, while the guidelines are used in most cases, they will not be applied if the court has concerns about the child’s physical health or safety.  In cases where the parents live a long distance apart or need to have fewer contacts with each other due to ongoing conflict, the court will also take those circumstances into consideration when entering an order about parenting time.

How does the child’s age affect parenting time?

The guidelines recommend that parenting time be allocated differently depending on the child’s age.  When the child is an infant or toddler, the guidelines recommend that the noncustodial parent see the child more frequently but have fewer overnight visits.  As the child ages, the child can spend longer blocks of time with the noncustodial parent.  The noncustodial parent may also be given extended parenting time during school vacations.

The information above does not constitute legal advice, and you should talk with an attorney to understand how the law applies in your situation.  The attorneys at Woods Kyle, LLP can guide you and advocate for you throughout the child custody process.  If you are thinking about filing for divorce or are dealing with a child custody situation, call (317) 738-9564 to set up a confidential consultation.