Guide to Child Custody Laws in Indiana
The state of Indiana allows for many types of custody arrangements to be agreed upon by parents or issued by judges. Understanding the child custody laws in Indiana can make you more confident in your court case, and can make it easier for you to do more research into the laws that matter to you. This guide will explain some of the basic terminology used by the courts, as well as several of the child custody laws in Indiana that are likely to have an impact on your custody case.
Mediation and Parenting Plans
Custody battles in a courtroom are hard on everyone, especially the children caught in the middle. Because this kind of custody dispute is seen as generally not being in the best interests of a child, child custody laws in Indiana encourage parents to come together to draft a parenting plan that will be acceptable to both of them.
In some cases, developing a parenting plan with your ex-spouse may be fairly simple, especially if you already agree about some aspects of child custody. If you are having trouble negotiating a compromise, though, the judge in your case may order you to go to mediation. A neutral, third party mediator will then help you concentrate on the areas where you disagree and work to make a compromise happen.
While most people talk about “sole custody” or “joint custody,” there are two types of custody that can be either shared by both parents or given exclusively to one. The first of these types of custody is legal custody. Child custody laws in Indiana allow legal custody to be awarded to either or both parents, based on the best interests of the child.
Legal custody refers to which parent is allowed to make decisions for their child about religion, education, healthcare, and so on. In a case where sole legal custody is granted to one parent, that parent no longer has to consult with the other parent about these decisions. Child custody laws in Indiana state that if the parents have joint custody, they must work together to come to these decisions.
Physical custody can be divided by both parents equally, or may be given primarily to the mother or the father. Physical custody simply refers to where the child is living. While some parents prefer to very evenly divide the child's time, for other parents, this simply isn't feasible, especially if the parents live some distance from each other. In these cases, primary physical custody will be granted to one parent, and the other will have parenting time assigned.
Parenting Time (“Visitation”)
Parenting time, which until recently was called visitation, is specifically called for by child custody laws in Indiana. Usually, visitation will consist of unsupervised visits, sometimes overnight or for an extended period of time during school breaks. Child custody laws in Indiana do specify that a child's visitation should be supervised for at least one year if the non-custodial parent committed an act of domestic violence in front of the child.