Child custody after divorce in Indiana

For parents going through a divorce or separation, questions about child custody and visitation rights often weigh heavily on their minds. In these situations, it can be helpful to know how the Indiana courts handle issues of parenting time and what options are available for parents and children after divorce.

The best interests of the child

As a general matter, judges in Indiana are required to rule on child custody and visitation matters according to the best interests of the child. This means that the child's wellbeing is the judge's primary consideration in any decision about custody or parenting time. To determine the best interests of a child, judges consider a wide range of factors, including:

  • The child's relationship with parents, siblings and other individuals in both households
  • The mental and physical health of the parents and child
  • The wishes of the parents
  • The wishes of the child, particularly if he or she is age 14 or older
  • The presence or absence of a history of abuse by either parent

When parents divorce in Indiana, the court does not automatically assume that either parent is a better suited to have custody of the children. Instead, Indiana courts generally assume that it is in the child's best interest to have a stable, ongoing relationship with both parents. However, this may be achieved in many different ways.

Child custody in Indiana has two separate components: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody refers to living with the child and providing for his or her day-to-day needs, while legal custody refers to a parent's ability to make important decisions about the child's care and upbringing, such as education and health care.

Depending on the circumstances, both types of custody may be shared between the parents, or one parent may be named the primary custodian.

Parenting time for noncustodial parents

When one parent receives primary physical custody of a child after divorce in Indiana, the noncustodial parent is typically entitled to parenting time, often referred to as visitation. To help ensure that noncustodial parents are able to maintain close relationships with their children, the Indiana courts follow a fairly specific set of guidelines when granting parenting time.

The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines apply in nearly all child custody situations involving a noncustodial parent unless extraordinary circumstances such as drug abuse or family violence are involved. These guidelines establish a visitation schedule based on the child's age and other factors, such as the extent of previous contact between the child and the noncustodial parent.

For example, according to the guidelines, the noncustodial parent of an infant under four months should receive:

  • Two hours of parenting time on each of three non-consecutive days per week
  • Two hours of parenting time on every scheduled holiday
  • One overnight per week if the noncustodial parent has regularly cared for the child

The parenting time guidelines provide for schedule adjustments as children grow older. Thus, the guidelines state that a noncustodial parent of a child over the age of three should be scheduled for parenting time on:

  • Alternating weekends from Friday evening through Sunday evening
  • Up to four hours on one evening each week
  • All scheduled holidays

Along with establishing age-based parenting time schedules, the guidelines also address other issues such as how to divide parenting time during summer vacation and who is responsible for transportation between residences before and after scheduled parenting time.

Legal help for Indiana child custody issues

To learn more about parenting time and other child custody issues during divorce in Indiana, contact a knowledgeable divorce and family law attorney in your area.