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How do Indiana courts decide custody?

On Behalf of | Mar 1, 2024 | Firm News

If you are starting the custody process you probably have many questions about how Indiana courts determine custody.

You and your co-parent are always free to come to your own agreement on custody. Your custody agreement can be filed with the court and be made a court order.

Courts decide custody when you and your co-parent cannot agree. A court typically decides a parenting time plan, which is who your child lives with and when.

A court also determines legal custody, which involves making major decisions for the child, and provisions for vacations, holidays, custody exchanges and communications.

The best interest of the child

The legal standard a court uses when making these decisions is the “best interest of the child” standard. What is best for a child is different in every case.

There are several factors a court examines to decide is in a child’s best interest. Some of these include:

  • The child’s adjustment to their home, school and community
  • The wishes of the parents
  • The mental and physical health of everyone involved

The child’s wishes are also considered, along with the age and sex of the child. Some of these factors may be given more weight depending on the circumstances; no factor is solely determinative of custody.

Can a child choose their custody schedule?

This is commonly seen in cases where an older child clearly expresses a preference of living with one parent over another. Although the child’s wishes are a factor, other factors are also examined, which means a child never truly gets to decide their own custody schedule.

Evidence of prior domestic or child abuse is another factor used when making custody decisions. As with the other factors, this factor alone does not determine custody.

If you are seeking full or primary custody based on abuse, you must prove the abuse through direct evidence. Even then, your co-parent might get some form of supervised custody, which eventually builds up if the custody visits go well.

Just as no child is the same, no custody case is the same. These factors can give you a general idea of what a court looks at when deciding custody.

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