For the most part, domestic law, including child custody laws, are similar amongst the fifty (50) states. That said, there are differences that can be significant. For instance, Indiana does not have common-law marriage. Texas does. In Indiana, you cannot get alimony. In California, the court can award alimony. Perhaps the biggest difference between Indiana and sister states insofar as custody laws are concerned is with child support for the high-income earner. At a point, the Indiana Child Support Rules and Guidelines level out and there are only small differences in weekly child support to be paid with more income. This background noted, this blog will cover the current child custody laws in Indiana.
In Indiana, there are two (2) types of child custody determinations that a court must make in every divorce (or paternity) case; the court must decide who gets physical and legal custody. The presumption in Indiana is that one (1) parent will get sole physical custody based on the considerations the court weighs in the Divorce Act and the other parent will get Indiana Parenting Time Guideline time at a minimum. However, a parent will not be limited in physical custody and will receive Indiana Parenting Time Guideline time at a minimum unless it can be shown the parenting time will pose a risk to the child’s physical health or emotional development. Under the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines, with a child three (3) years of age or older, this time is one night a week, every other weekend, alternating holidays and one-half of the summer. The non-custodial parent will get a weekly child support order as determined by the Indiana Child Support Rules and Guidelines. This is ordinarily paid from an income withhold order issued to the employer.
The court makes every decision about child custody in the children’s best interests. The presumption of sole physical custody is rebuttable. For this reason, it is very common for a judge to hear the evidence and award the non-custodial parenting time in excess of Indiana Parenting Time Guideline time. In addition, there is a trend toward joint physical custody. The court can order joint physical custody so long as it is in the children’s best interests. With joint physical custody, one parent is still designated as the “custodial parent” for purposes of allowing the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines to work on how alternating parenting time operates. With younger children, it may be that week-on, week-off parenting time works because the children have no school obligations and is in the children’s best interests. With school-age children, the parents typically exercise joint physical custody on a rotating basis of days, such as 3-2-2-3 or 5-2-2-5.
The second type of custody is legal custody. Legal custody has nothing to do with whose care the child will be in and spend the night with on any given day. Instead, legal custody is who makes the decisions about the children’s health, religion, and education. Legal custody may be sole or joint. There is a statute in the legal custody statutory scheme that tends to reflect joint legal custody is favored. However, an award of joint legal custody does not require a court to award joint physical custody. Physical and legal custody decisions are made by a court based on what is in the children’s best evidence from the evidence the court receives. With legal custody, it may be apportioned so that one parent has sole legal custody to make educational decisions, with the parents sharing joint legal custody on medical and educational decisions. Again, all custody decisions are made based on what is in the children’s best interests.
These are the child custody laws in Indiana. We hope you find this information helpful if you are contemplating divorce. An educated legal consumer can help his or her counsel gather evidence and present the best case possible. This blog post was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Associates, P.C. who handle domestic law throughout Indiana. This blog is provided for general educational purposes. It is not intended to be relied upon for any legal issue or matter. The blog is not legal advice. It is an advertisement.