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How courts decide child custody matters

On Behalf of | Oct 18, 2023 | Child Custody

Child custody is one of the most important and sensitive issues that parents have to deal with when their relationship ends. In this blog post, we will go over some of the basics.

Types of custody

First, not that there are two major categories of custody under Indiana law: legal and physical custody. The term “legal custody” refers to a parent’s right and responsibility to make major decisions about the child’s welfare, such as education, health care, and religion. The term “physical custody” refers to the time each parent has with both children. Custody can be either sole or joint.

Presumption of joint legal custody?

In Indiana, courts may often order joint legal custody, absent evidence that the parties are unable to work together to make legal custody decisions, are unable to communicate to advance the children’s welfare, or have generally made child-rearing a battleground. The court may also consider whether there is evidence of domestic violence, substance abuse, mental illness or other factors that would impair the ability of the parents to work together on legal custody issues.

However, an award of joint legal custody does not mean that the parents will have joint physical custody.

Factors that courts consider

When deciding on child custody, Indiana family law courts consider the best interest of the child as the primary factor. The court will look at various factors that affect the child’s physical and emotional well-being, including the age and sex of the child, and the wishes of the parents and the wishes of the child, if the child is at least 14. Courts look at the child’s adjustment to home, school and community, and the mental and physical health of all individuals involved. The judge can also look at the evidence of domestic violence or abuse by either parent or any other person, evidence of substance abuse by either parent or any other person and any other factor that the court finds relevant.

Custody decisions are extremely complex and fact-sensitive. If custody is disputed in your case, you should seek counsel from an experienced family law attorney and discuss the facts of your particular case.