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Under Indiana law, a court must determine custody and enter a custody order in accordance with the best interests of the child.
In determining the best interests of the child, there is no legal presumption favoring either parent. In fact, however, more women than men are awarded custody, as is common throughout the United States.
The court must consider all relevant factors, including the following:
(1) The age and sex of the child.
(2) The wishes of the child’s parent or parents.
(3) The wishes of the child, with more consideration given to the child’s wishes if the child is at least fourteen (14) years old.
(4) The interaction and interrelationship of the child with:
(A) the child’s parent or parents;
(B) the child’s sibling; and
(C) any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests.
(5) The child’s adjustment to the child’s:
(B) school; and
(6) The mental and physical health of all individuals involved.
(7) Evidence of a pattern of domestic or family violence by either parent.
(8) Evidence that the child has been cared for by a de facto custodian, and other than either parent.
Joint legal custody may be awarded only if the court finds it is in the best interests of the child. This is actually a broader window for joint custody than many states, which require that joint custody of any kind is by agreement only. Nonetheless, joint custody in Indiana does not cover specific parenting time arrangements. Therefore, the parties may have joint legal custody, but one parent may still have substantially more or less parenting time than the other.
Indiana Parenting Time guidelines were established on the premise that it is the best interests of children to maintain frequent, meaningful and continuing contact with each parent. The guidelines are based on the developmental stages of children. In other words, what is appropriate for parenting time for a pre-schooler is quite different from that of a teenager.
The guidelines contain commentary stating that parenting time of a non-custodial parent is not limited to a minimum established under order of the court. In other words if a non-custodial parent can spend more time with a child, this should be encouraged by the custodial parent in most situations. The guidelines do emphasize flexibility on the part of both parents.
The guidelines do not apply to situations involving violence, substance abuse, risk of flight with a child, and other situations that pose a significant risk to the child. In all other cases, the parenting time guidelines are presumed to apply and govern the administration of parenting time issues.
Child support in Indiana is based on a formula derived from a consideration of both parent’s income and the number of days per year children spend in the household of each parent. While the formula itself yields a very objective result, determination of income can be treated as a more subjective exercise. Thus, it becomes very important for both parents to think carefully about the resources that are available and the particular needs of the children that need to be covered. Child care expenses and health insurance for the children are both factored into the formula. Extraordinary educational expenses can also be included in the factors from which support is finally determined.
If you are facing a divorce with children or conemplating any action that would trigger an impact on custody, parenting time or child support in your life – visit Thompson Legal Services or contact Andrew Thompson for an assessment of your situation today.