Indiana Child Custody Lawyer
The Indiana child custody lawyers at Stein Law specialize in representing parents seeking custody of their children. This contentious issue can be decided through mediation, parent coordination, or the court. The deciding factor is always the best interests of the child.
The best interests of the child are paramount in Indiana child custody cases. In most cases, both parents want what is best for their children, but they may be unable to agree on what that is.
The Indiana child custody lawyers at Stein Law know how to dissipate a heated situation and help parents reach an agreement outside of court. When this is not possible, our attorneys can prepare a strong case to demonstrate why your preferences provide the best scenario for your children.
What determines custody in Indiana?
Indiana child custody law requires the family court to award custody according to the best interests of the children. To make this determination, the court must consider the following:
- The child’s age and gender
- The wishes of the parents
- The child’s wishes, which carry more weight if the child is 14 years old or older
- The child’s relationship with the parents, siblings, or other relevant individuals
- The child’s adjustment to the home, school, and community
- The mental and physical health of the parents and children
- Whether a history of domestic abuse exists
- Whether the child has been cared for by a third party that should be considered for custody
Can a third party receive custody?
The court may award custody to a third party if the child lives under the care of the third party. This may include grandparents, relatives, or other caregivers. In addition to the factors considered for parents, the court will consider the following:
- The wishes of the third party
- The extent of the care provided by the third party
- The parent’s reason for placing the child with the third party
- Whether the placement was made for the purpose of allowing the parent to seek
employment or attend school
- Whether such a placement would serve the best interests of the child
Child Custody Investigations
A parent or the court may seek the advice of outside professionals, which could involve a home study of any party being considered for custody. These professionals might include:
- A social service agency
- Juvenile court staff
- A local probation department
- A private agency employed by the court
- A guardian ad litem appointed by the court
- Professional personnel whether or not they are employed by the court
The court may consult mental health professionals or others who may have relevant information about the child or refer the child for a mental health evaluation.
The Indiana court system encourages parents to come to an agreement about custody outside of court but will order an arrangement if such an agreement is impossible. To facilitate an agreement outside of court, the court may order mediation or parenting coordination. The parents can also opt for these.
The court may order mediation when it deems appropriate and determines that the parties have the resources to pay for mediation services.
Mediation is a discussion or series of discussions between the parents and a qualified impartial third party known as a mediator. The mediator’s job is to facilitate communication between the parents by encouraging positive dialogue and ensuring both parents consider the other’s views.
The court may order parent coordination in cases involving a higher level of conflict. A court-appointed parenting coordinator will facilitate a series of discussions with the parents to reach a mutually agreeable resolution.
The parenting coordinator’s role is more comprehensive than a mediator’s role and includes the following:
- Managing conflicts
- Redirecting the focus of the parties to the needs of the children
- Educating the parties on how to make decisions for the best interest of the
- Assisting the parties in the development of a parenting plan
- Submitting written recommendations to the court
Types of Custody
The Indiana family court system has wide discretion when awarding custody to ensure that a child’s best interests can be served in all types of scenarios.
The parent awarded legal custody makes decisions about the child’s upbringing as determined by the court. Legal custody is separate from physical custody and can be awarded to both parents jointly. If one parent is awarded legal custody, that parent may be known as the custodial parent.
Physical custody defines where the child lives. The time a child spends with each parent is known as parenting time. When one parent has the majority of the parenting time, that parent may be referred to as the custodial parent.
A custody award may be sole or joint, depending on the best interests of the child. A joint custody determination does not require equal parenting time. When awarding joint custody, the court must consider the following:
- The ability of the parents to cooperate in promoting the welfare of the
- Whether the child has a close relationship with both parents
- The physical distance between the parties awarded custody
How does domestic violence and substance use impact parenting time in Indiana?
If a non-custodial parent has been convicted of a crime of domestic violence that was committed in the child’s presence, a rebuttable presumption is created that the non-custodial parent should be supervised during parenting time for a period of one to two years following the conviction.
The court may require the parent to complete an intervention program as a condition for receiving supervised parenting time. If the custodial parent dies while the non-custodial parent requires supervision, a temporary custodian will be appointed until a permanent custody arrangement can be established.
If a parent has a history of illegal drug use during the past five years, the court may order the parent to undergo regular drug testing at the parent’s expense as a condition of receiving parenting time.
When can a custody order be modified?
The custody order can be modified only when both of the following are true:
- The modification would serve the child’s best interests
- There is a substantial change in circumstances that arose after the current custody arrangement was established
All parties to the custody arrangement must keep the other parties informed of their physical addresses and contact information. The court can make an exception if this would jeopardize the safety of the parent or child.
A parent who wishes to relocate more than 20 miles away or move to a location that results in the child changing schools must file a Notice of Intent to Move. The other parties may respond by objecting or agreeing to the move. The parties must enter into a new custody arrangement either by agreement or order of the court.
When approving or denying the relocation, the court will consider the following:
- The hardship, expense, and feasibility of the non-relocating party to continue the relationship with
- Whether the relocating parent has established a pattern of attempting to circumvent the
relationship between the child and the other parties
- The reason for the relocation
- The reason for the objection to the relocation
- The best interests of the child
Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines
According to the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines, parents are encouraged to adopt their parenting time plan outside of court by agreement. A signed agreement becomes enforceable when adopted by the court. If parents are unable to form an agreement outside of court, the Indiana Supreme Court guidelines may be adopted.
Minimum Parenting Time Guidelines
The Indiana Supreme Court recognizes that frequent, meaningful contact with both parents is usually in a child’s best interests and has thus established minimum parenting time rules to apply except when such contact with the non-custodial parent is deemed detrimental.
The guidelines vary by the age of the child. Visitation with infants and young toddlers is more limited. Once the child turns three years old, the guidelines provide non-custodial parents with the following visitation schedule at a minimum:
- Alternating weekend visits with the non-custodial parent from 6 pm Friday until 6 pm Sunday
- One mid-week visit
- A split holiday schedule
- A split summer vacation schedule
Custodial parents are also obligated to offer the non-custodial parents the first opportunity to babysit when childcare is needed in
order to afford the parent an opportunity to enjoy additional parenting time.
Shared parenting may be an option for low-conflict parents who are able to share the parenting responsibilities on a daily basis in a way that makes the child feel at home in both parental home environments.
How much child support will the court order?
Child support is typically paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent. It is governed by the Indiana Child Support Rules and Guidelines. The court considers the following when awarding child support:
- The income of both parties
- Work-related childcare expenses
- Cost of maintaining health insurance for the children
- Extraordinary health care expenses
- Extraordinary educational expenses
- Any other expenses borne by a parent related to work, school, or the
education of a child, including travel expenses
Each parent receives a parenting time credit based on the number of overnight stays per year. In no case may the court award more than 35 percent of the weekly adjusted gross income as child support, or 50 percent for a combined child support and alimony award.
A child support order may be modified if a substantial and continuing change of circumstances occurs, such as a change in income, disability status, or expenses relating to the child.
Rights of Custodial and Non-Custodial Parents
After custody arrangements have been established, the non-custodial parent has an unconditional right to the court-ordered parenting time, and the custodial parent has the right to receive child support.
Can I withhold visitation if the other parent fails to pay the required child support?
Child support and visitation are separate issues, and it is against the law to withhold visitation without approval from the court. The Indiana Department of Child Services enforces child support obligations by issuing the following sanctions:
- Wage garnishment
- Interceptions of tax refunds, lottery winnings, and insurance settlements
- Credit bureau reporting
- Suspension of licenses, including for driving, professional activities, hunting, and fishing
- Vehicle liens
- Bank account garnishments
- Denying or revoking passports
- Coordinating with other federal and state agencies
Withholding visitation could result in being held in contempt of a court order.
What if the other parent fails to provide my court-ordered parenting time?
If a parent fails to deliver the child according to the court-ordered schedule, you can file a motion for a finding of contempt of court. The court may issue any of the following orders:
- A finding of contempt of court
- A sentence of community service against the violating parent
- An order to resume parenting time as previously ordered
- An order for the non-compliant parent to pay attorney fees and court costs
Indiana grandparents have a right to seek visitation as a result of any of the following:
- The death of the related parent
- A grandchild born out of wedlock
Grandparents may seek custody if they are a qualifying third party or in the event both parents are deceased or declared unfit.
How much does an Indiana child custody attorney cost?
The cost of an Indiana child custody lawyer is individually determined. Cases that can be resolved easily outside of court cost less than contested cases. Our firm charges by the hour with an upfront retainer. In certain cases, the court may order the other party to pay these costs.
How can an Indiana child custody lawyer help?
If you are facing a child custody situation, a lawyer can ensure your case is presented in the most favorable light in a court of law. The family law attorneys at Stein Law handle the following types of custody cases:
If the other parent has retained an attorney, you could be at a severe disadvantage if you are not also represented by an attorney.
Contact an Indiana Child Custody Attorney at Stein Law Today
The family law attorneys at Stein Law have the experience and sensitivity to handle even the most complex and contested custody cases. Contact Stein Law today to speak with a child custody lawyer.
Floyd County Office
Downtown New Albany
810 E. Market St.
New Albany, IN 47150
Clark County Office
Bolt & Tie Building
1400 Main St. Suite 154
Clarksville, IN 47129