When a couple with children separates, the court will approve a parenting agreement that specifies custody arrangements. Generally, one parent will be classified as the custodial parent, while the non-custodial parent is granted parenting time. As time passes, one or both parents may want to modify the agreement for several reasons. However, under Indiana Code 31-17-2-21, courts will only consider a modification if:
- It is in the best interest of the child; and
- There is a substantial change in a factor or factors impacting the best interest of the child.
What are possible reasons for a custody modification?
It may be difficult to determine whether a change in circumstances meets the criteria listed above. Here are a few reasons a court may consider a change in custody:
- Drug or alcohol abuse by the custodial parent.
- Custodial parent suffers from mental illness and is not seeking adequate treatment.
- Custodial parent neglects or abuses the child.
- There is domestic violence in the custodial parent’s home or the custodial parent’s home is no longer safe for the child.
- Custodial parent negatively impacts non-custodial parent’s relationship with the children (parental alienation).
- Custodial parent experiences significant change in income.
- Custodial parent is relocating.
How can I file for a modification?
If both parties agree to a modification of child custody, the parties may enter into an agreement which addresses the modification and file the agreement with the court for approval. The court may ask both parents to appear at a hearing to explain how the modification will serve the best interests of the child.
If one parent does not agree to the modification, the parent seeking the modification will have to file a petition with the court. The court will then review the petition and schedule a hearing, giving both parents a chance to provide evidence to support their case regarding the necessity of the modification.