What Are the Major Decisions in Joint Custody

What Are the Major Decisions in Joint Custody in Indiana?

In Indiana, there are types of custody. The first is physical custody. Most parents have a general understanding of physical custody as it relates to where the children will primarily reside (and sleep at night). The parent who does not receive physical custody will receive Indiana Parenting Time Guideline time at a minimum. This noted, this blog explores the major decisions or components of legal custody.

The place to start with any legal query, is with understanding the legal meaning of the legal concept at hand. With legal custody, the decisions to be made with joint legal custody are healthcare, education and religious decisions for the children. With legal custody, the court may award legal custody of a child jointly if the court finds that it would be in the best interests of the children. While this statute appears to support joint legal custody awards, there is no companion statute in the physical custody statute. In fact, the statutes covering legal custody make clear that an award of joint legal custody does not require an equal division of physical custody of the child.

In determining whether to order joint legal custody, the court shall determine if it “ . . .is in the best interests of the child [to award joint legal custody], the court shall consider it a matter of primary, but not determinative, importance that the persons awarded joint custody have agreed to an award of joint legal custody. The court shall also consider: (1) the fitness and suitability of each of the persons awarded joint custody; (2) whether the persons awarded joint custody are willing an able to communicate and cooperate in advancing the child’s welfare; (3) the wishes of the child, with more consideration given to the child’s wishes if the child is at least fourteen (14) years of age; (4) whether the child has established a close and beneficial relationship with both of the persons awarded joint legal custody; (5) whether the persons awarded joint custody: (A) live in close proximity to each other; and (B) plant to continue to do so; and (6) the nature of the physical and emotional environment in the home of each of the persons awarded joint custody.”

In many cases, the parents may have significant disagreements, but if these disagreements do not relate to joint legal custody, then it should not have an impact on the court’s order. However, you will have to carefully present this in the evidence so the court understands the disputes of the parties have nothing to do with joint legal custody. This noted, there are some cases where the parent are unable to agree on one (1) of the three (3) considerations in joint legal custody. In these cases, the court may award joint legal custody on the issues the parents agree, but order sole legal custody in one parent where the parties cannot agree. This was the issue in the Gonzales case. Based on the evidence, the court ordered mother making the healthcare decisions for the children, with the father making the education and religious decisions for the children. Mother appealed, but the Court of Appeals of Indiana affirmed the trial court. So, courts can and do parcel out legal custody of the children between the parents if the evidence supports it.

In to jointly share in the decisions in legal custody, you must carefully present evidence to the trial court that the parties can work together on joint legal custody decision. If not, the court may order sole legal custody or apportion legal custody between the parents. This blog post was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Associates, P.C. The blog is written for general educational purposes. It is not intended to be relied upon for any issue or matter. The blog is not legal advice. It is an advertisement.



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