Do Courts Ever Award Joint Physical Custody?

Do Courts Ever Award Joint Physical Custody?

Parents in Indiana can be awarded joint physical custody if it is in the best interests of the child. This is generally granted as shared parenting time and only awarded if it is in the best interests of the child, and the parties agree to the arrangement and/or the court finds that they can cooperate in parenting time scheduling, child rearing practices, and any issues that may arise when raising a child together from different homes.1 This blog explores joint physical custody, or shared parenting time, awards and when they may be appropriate.  

Indiana courts encourage parents to reach their own custody and parenting time agreements; however when approving such an agreement, the courts must consider the best interests of the child, under Indiana Code § 31-17-2-8. 2 The statute requires that the court consider all relevant factors related to the best interests of the child. These factors include, but are not limited to, the age and sex of the child, the wishes of the child and the parents, the child’s relationship with all parties that may significantly affect the child’s best interests, and the child’s adjustment to their home, school, and community. The consideration of some of these factors may lead a court to determine that shared parenting time is appropriate given the unique circumstances of a family. This type of arrangement is made under the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines, which describes shared parenting as an alternate parenting plan.  

When awarding shared parenting time, courts must then consider the factors described in the Guidelines for making an alternate shared parenting time order. Under the Guidelines, “the agreement and cooperation of the parents are essential elements of a successful shared parenting plan.”3  Not all families will meet the requirements of shared parenting time and the judgment of the capacity of parents to share custody, is a complex one. Not only does both parent’s ability and willingness to cooperate and communicate need to be considered, but many factors affecting the health and welfare of the child and both parents must also be explored before awarding shared parenting time. Some of these factors include the child’s awareness of parental conflict, the parent’s attitude toward and treatment of one another, each parent’s level of engagement with the child, shared consideration for the child’s needs, the parent’s conflict resolution skills, and financial resources and stability expected if shared parenting time were ordered.4  

While Indiana law recognizes a parent’s right to establish a home and raise their child as they see fit, our courts have noted that some custody and parenting time agreements may not be in the best interests of the child, as they might be unworkable, ambiguous, and/or cause further need for litigation.5 This means that even if you have reached an agreement allowing for shared parenting time, the court is not required to approve it, and may order custody or parenting time which deviates from your agreement.  

A divorce or break-up can be emotional and cause hurt feelings which lead to unnecessary conflicts that may be stressful for your child. If you and your child’s other parent can work together to resolve these conflicts and cooperate to raise your child together in a consistent and supportive environment, joint physical custody may help your child work through the stress and feel at home whether in your house or his or her other parent’s. However, if you are unable to communicate with your child’s other parent in a way that will allow you to raise your child together as joint custodians, attempting to do so may adversely affect your child.6 

If you are, or will be, involved in a custody case, the attorneys at Ciyou & Associates, P.C. can help you determine the best custody and parenting time arrangements for your unique situation.  This blog was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Associates, P.C.  It is for general educational purposes.  The blog is not intended to be relied upon for any legal matter or issue. The blog is not legal advice.  This is an advertisement. 


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