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Indiana Child Custody
Child Custody in Indiana

Based on the Indiana Code Title 31 - Article 17, Chapter 2-8 through 2-13, "[t]he court shall determine child custody and joint legal custody and enter a custody order in accordance with the best interests of the child factors. There is no presumption favoring either parent."

Indiana courts enter a custody order based on the child's best interests. The court considers the age and sex of the child, the wishes of the child's parents, the wishes of the child if he or she is 14 years of age or older, and the relationship of the child and the parents, siblings and other relatives. The court reviews the child's ability to adapt to new situations, such as a change of home, school or community, and the mental and physical health of all parties, and any evidence of past violence or abuse.

As governed by Indiana child custody laws, the state's family courts have jurisdiction over child custody issues. Like other jurisdictions, Indiana courts encourage divorcing parents to cooperate in the divorced parenting of their children. Cooperation between parents reflects their willingness to continue the care, love, and support with their child after divorce. If divorcing parents are unable to come into amicable terms, the courts decide the terms and conditions of child custody. Under child custody laws in Indiana, the courts consider a number of factors to determine whether joint custody is realistic and attainable.

Joint Custody Preference

Indiana law expresses a preference for parents to share as equally as possible in the custody of a child in a divorce case. The court awards joint custody to parents if it finds that it works in the best interests of the child. Courts may award joint custody that is not physical joint custody, which limits the contact of the non-custodial parent to phone and letters only.

Indiana courts consider the suitability of each parent for custody, their ability to cooperate in the care of their child, the wishes of the child and the child's relationship with each parent. The court considers the distance between each parent's residence and if it's in close proximity to share joint custody of their child.

Either a sole custody or joint custody may be awarded to parents. Joint custody is deemed favorable. This type of custody promotes a continuing child-parent relationship where both parents share responsibilities and rights of raising their child. However, this may not always be possible in the event that the child's welfare is at risk with one of the parents.

Third Party Custody

In some cases, a third party, or someone other than a child's biological parents, gains custody of a child. Indiana child custody laws also consider a de facto custodian. If the child is in the care of, or has been cared for by, a third party, that person may participate in the custody proceedings as de facto custodian. With the court's discretion, the de facto custodian may be awarded with custody of the child. This happens when the court determines that a third-party custodian is better suited to care for the child than his or her parents.

Parental Conduct

In addition to finding a parent unfit because of substance abuse or abuse or neglect towards a child, the courts also consider the conduct of both parents during the course of the marriage, and the impact of parental behavior on the child.

Visitation

The Indiana courts have full discretion when determining visitation between children and parents. The courts can establish visitation between one or more parent, even if both parents agreed upon a no-visitation policy.

Upon awarding joint custody to a child's parents in Indiana, the court determines the activities that are applicable to parenting time. Indiana courts require parents to keep each other informed about changes in personal situations, such as moves or changes in the amount of parenting time.

The child and custodial parent may be entitled to private communications that do not require the other parent to be involved, and both parents may have access to telephone calls with the child during reasonable hours and duration, without interference from the other parent. The court may require a parent to respect the private residence of the custodial parent and to be punctual to exchanges of the child.

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