The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines set forth a model for child custody and parenting time. This can be used in these determinations and adjusted to each family’s individual needs and wishes. Whether you and your co-parent are working outside of court to create a parenting plan or are advocating for your needs with a family law judge, you want an Indianapolis child custody attorney by your side. An attorney can help walk you through the custody determination process and make it less stressful.

Family courts, based on the state’s guidelines, assume that it is in the child’s interests to have continued and meaningful time with both parents, except in situations where one or both parents put a child’s emotional or physical safety in danger. In all other situations, the state guidelines are important to work with, as they provide an effective framework for communication and planning out a joint parenting plan.

Indiana Guidelines and a Child’s Basic Needs

Both parents should be able to address and provide for a child’s basic needs. Under the state’s guidelines, this includes the:

  1. Knowledge that parents living apart is not the fault of the child
  2. Ability to grow strong and caring relationships with each parent and receive guidance and care from each parent
  3. Freedom from being put in between parental conflict or being forced to choose one parent
  4. Ability to have a stable and relaxed relationship with each parent
  5. Ability to spend continued and regular time with each parent
  6. Financial support of each parent, regardless of parenting time
  7. Security of physical safety and supervision when with a parent and stable child care when not
  8. Ability to create and maintain strong relationships with other adults in their life without replacing parental relationships

The court considers it to be incredibly important that both parents be able to nurture and care for their child’s basic needs.

Physical vs. Legal Custody

There are two main types of custody: physical and legal custody.

Legal custody refers to the ability of a parent to make important decisions on their child’s behalf. This includes decisions such as where they go to school, where they receive healthcare, and their religious upbringing. In Indiana, the court typically prefers parents to have joint legal custody.

Physical custody refers to where a child primarily lives. Even in shared, or joint, physical custody arrangements, one parent typically has more time with the child. They are considered the primary custodial parent. Time spent with children, once called visitation, is now called parenting time. The court considers joint parenting time and custody to be in the child’s interests in most situations. In some cases, the court will award sole custody if a parent is determined to be unfit.

Current Indiana custody guidelines place a greater emphasis on shared parenting, which requires significantly greater communication and cooperation from each parent. Shared parenting may not be the right option for every custody situation, and the court must determine the ability of each parent to implement shared parenting.

The Standard for Determining a Child’s Interests

Determination of physical custody, legal custody, and parenting time are all based on what is in the child’s interests. The factors for determining a child’s interests are:

  1. The child’s age and gender
  2. The wishes of the parents
  3. The wishes of the child, particularly if the child is 14 or older
  4. The relationships the child has with each parent, any siblings, or other important people in their lives
  5. The connection the child has with their community, home, and school
  6. The mental and physical health of each parent and the child
  7. Evidence or patterns of domestic violence

These factors are used to determine how the state guidelines are implemented or altered for an individual family.


Q: What Do Judges Look for in Child Custody Cases in Indiana?

A: The family court in Indiana determines child custody based on the child’s interests. Except in situations where the child’s physical or emotional health is in danger, the court assumes that joint physical custody is in the child’s interests. The court reviews several factors to determine if joint legal custody is in the child’s interests, including, among other factors:

  • The child’s meaningful relationships with each parent, any siblings, and other important people
  • The mental and physical well-being of the child and both parents
  • Any evidence or history of parental violence

Q: Do I Need a Lawyer for Child Custody in Indiana?

A: It is not required that you work with a lawyer for child custody determinations, but it can be very helpful. Even if you and your co-parent are amicably working out a parenting plan outside of court, this plan still needs to fit the state guidelines for child custody. Additionally, an attorney can help you and your co-parent negotiate the details of the plan, including communication, drop-off requirements, cancellations, and other important parts of a parenting plan.

If you and your co-parent are not able to come to an agreement, you want an attorney by your side to represent your wishes in court.

Q: Who Gets Primary Custody in Indiana?

A: The court assumes that both parents should receive frequent, continued, and meaningful contact with their children and that this is in the child’s interests. For this reason, joint custody arrangements are typically preferred. However, one parent is typically going to have slightly more time due to practical concerns. Whichever parent has more overnights with their child is considered the primary custodian, even in joint custody arrangements.

If one parent is deemed unfit to hold custody, the other parent is likely to obtain primary or full custody, as the state guidelines would not be applicable.

Q: At What Age Can a Child Choose Which Parent to Live With in Indiana?

A: A child can only make a legal decision about where they want to live when they are 18 and no longer a child. However, prior to turning 18, the court will take a child’s wishes into account during a child custody case. Once a child is 14 years old, the court will consider their wishes for custody, but it is not required to listen to those wishes. The court’s standard for custody is still the child’s interests, which are the priority if they conflict with the child’s wishes.

Contact Stange Law Firm

When you and your co-parent are separating, or determining child custody for another reason, it is important to talk through your options with a qualified child custody attorney. An attorney can advise you on whether it is in your family’s interests to create a plan out of court or not. Contact Stange Law Firm today to see how we can help.