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How is child custody determined in Indiana?

On Behalf of | Jun 1, 2023 | Family Law |

If you are a parent who is going through a divorce or separation, you may be wondering how child custody is determined in Indiana. This refers to your parental rights and responsibilities.


Indiana law recognizes two types of custody: legal custody and physical custody.

Legal custody refers to the decision-making rights of the parents on matters such as education, health care, religion and extracurricular activities.

Physical custody refers to what parent the child will live with most of the time. Both types of custody can be either sole or joint, depending on the agreement of the parents or the order of the court.

Child custody factors

The main factor that courts consider when deciding child custody is the best interests of the child. This means that the family law court will look at various aspects of the child’s life, like the age and sex of the child, the wishes of the child and the parents and the relationship of the child with each parent and other family members.

The judge will also look at the physical and mental health of the child and the parents, and the adjustment of the child to home, school and community. In addition, they factor in the stability and continuity of the child’s environment, the cooperation and communication between the parents and the presence of any domestic violence, abuse, neglect or substance abuse. The court may also appoint a guardian ad litem or a court-appointed special advocate to represent the child’s interests and make recommendations to the court.

Parenting plans

In some cases, parents may be able to reach an agreement on child custody without going to court. This can be done through mediation, where a neutral third party helps the parents negotiate a parenting plan that outlines the terms of custody and visitation. A parenting plan may include a schedule of when the child will be with each parent, methods of exchanging the child between the parents, a way of making major decisions about the child and a process of resolving future disputes about the child.

If the parents can agree on a parenting plan, they can submit it to the court for approval. If the court finds that the plan is in the best interests of the child, it will enter it as a court order.

However, if the parents cannot agree on a parenting plan, or if one parent does not follow it, they may have to go to court for a custody hearing. At the hearing, each parent will present evidence and arguments to support their case for custody. The court will then make a decision based on the best interests of the child.