Indiana law separates child custody into two separate categories – physical and legal. Physical custody deals primarily with which parent the child lives with the majority of the time. The parent that the child primarily lives with is called the “custodial parent,” with the other parent being called the “noncustodial parent.” Legal custody involves decisions over the upbringing of the child, such as education, religion, and healthcare decisions.
When custody is at issue, the court is required to make a ruling that is in the best interests of the child or children. That determination is to consider several factors:
- The age and sex of the child
- The wishes of the child’s parent or parents
- The wishes of the child with more consideration given to the child’s wishes as the child is at least 14 years of age
- The interaction and interrelationship of the child with the child’s parent or parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interest.
- The child’s adjustment to the child’s home, school, and community.
- The mental and physical health of all individuals involved.
- Evidence of a pattern of domestic or family violence by either parent.
The court does not favor either parent over the other in custody determinations. The court is required to consider all relevant factors but must include the above factors in its consideration. Once custody is established and awarded to one parent, the other parent is required to show a substantial change in circumstances before custody can be changed. It is up to the judge to determine whether there has been a substantial change in circumstances.
Indiana law recognizes what is called joint legal custody. This concept does not involve where the child lives but decision-making for the child. If the parents have joint legal custody, each parent has a say in major decisions regarding the child, such as religion, education, and elective medical treatment.
The Law Offices of Steven K. Deig, LLC has experienced attorneys on staff to help you with your custody issues.