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Anderson, IN Child Custody Attorneys
Whether you and your child’s other parent are going through a divorce or have never been married, there will come a time when you need a more solid parenting plan. Having your child full-time while the other parent visits can sometimes work until the visits become too sporadic, the other parent shows up without notice, or the other parent does not return your child when you expect. You may be on the other side of the situation. If your child lives with their other mother or father, you may find it difficult to get enough time with your son or daughter.
Wherever you are at the moment, a child custody attorney can help you move forward with a more stable parenting plan. For help with your child custody issues, contact GDS Law Group, LLP online, or call us at 765-313-7092
to schedule a free case consultation.
Indiana Child Custody Basics
When you and your child’s other parent cannot decide on a custody arrangement yourselves, then the matter goes before the court. The court will make a decision regarding child custody and parenting time based on what is in the child’s best interests.
Legal custody refers to which parent has the right to make major decisions for the child, such as medical, educational, and religious decisions. One parent may be granted all legal custody, or parents may share legal custody. Per Indiana Code (IC) §31-17-2-13 – 15, Joint legal custody is common, though not guaranteed. For joint legal custody, the judge will consider each of your fitness to make these decisions, whether the child has a close relationship with one or both of you, and whether you and your child’s other parent are willing and able to communicate and cooperate. If you or your child’s other parent have been found to be neglectful or abusive to a child, or one of you has a substance abuse issue, then the judge may award only one parent legal custody to protect the interests of your child.
Physical custody refers to who has the right to have the child live with them. Physical custody does not have to be divided similarly to legal custody, though it may. Many parents share joint physical custody of their child.
Parenting Time (Visitation)
Not all parents split their child’s time equally. When the division of physical custody is not even, then one parent has primary custody. This is also known as being the custodial parent. The parent who has less than 50 percent of physical custody is granted parenting time, often referred to as visitation, and is known as the non-custodial parent.
If you are getting a divorce, or you and your child’s parent were never married, then you should speak with our child custody lawyers in Muncie, Indiana. We have years of experiencing handling child custody matters, whether they are friendly or contentious.
Child Custody Mediation
Medication is the process through which you and your child’s other parent sit down together and talk through the issues surrounding how you raise your son or daughter, and where they live. A neutral third party, the mediator, will guide the conversation and keep it from getting too heated.
Per IC §31-17-2.4-1, Indiana courts will often require that you and your child’s other parent try to determine a parenting plan through mediation. This can be frustrating when you know you and the other parent do not see eye-to-eye. If you believe it will be a waste of time, a child custody lawyer can try to help you avoid this step. A judge can choose not to order mediation if they believe it will not be helpful. If the court requires it anyway, then your lawyer will prepare you for the mediation process and help you practice speaking calmly and clearly.
Best Interests of a Child
When your child custody dispute heads to court, you should understand how a judge will decide a parenting plan. Based on IC §31-17-2-8, the judge is required to determine the custody arrangement in accordance with best interests of your child. There is no presumption in Indiana that a mother or father is best suited to care for a child. Even if you are fighting for custody of an infant who is breastfeeding, there is not an inherent presumption that your child should remain primarily with their mother.
The law dictates that the judge consider all relevant factors, including:
- Your child’s age and sex
- The wishes of both parents
- Your child’s wishes (which are given more consideration if your child is at least 14 years old)
- Your child’s relationship with you and their other parent
- Your child’s relationship with their siblings
- Your child’s relationship with any other significant person, such as a step-parent, grandparent, or other member of your households
- How your child has adjusted to their homes, schools, and communities
- The mental and physical health of everyone involved
- Any evidence of domestic abuse by you or the other parent
- Evidence that your child has been cared for by a de facto custodian
It is just as important to realize the factors not on this list that may or may not be considered by court. Whether or not you and your child’s other parent were ever married is not a factor. The judge’s decision will not be swayed based on the presence or lack of a legal marriage.
Other factors not present are your incomes and living situations, which make a great deal of difference. A judge will want to place a child in a safe, healthy, and loving environment. If you or your child’s other parent cannot offer that type of living situation, it could influence who is given a majority of physical custody. Depending on your child’s age and sex, they may also require privacy. If you or the other parent’s home does not offer enough privacy, this could result in being granted only some parenting time.
If you have any questions regarding will and will not matter to a judge during a custody dispute, contact a child custody attorney at GDS Law Group, LLP right away.
Rights of a Custodial Parent
A custodial parent has more than 50 percent of physical custody of the child. Typically, a child predominantly lives with the custodial parent and then spends shorts periods of time with their other mother or father.
The custodial parent typically has legal custody. Based on IC §31-17-2-17, the custodial parent has the right to determine the child’s upbringing, including their health care, religion, education. That being said, the court has the power to limit the custodial parent’s legal authority and grant some or equal decision-making power to the non-custodial parent.
If you are your child’s custodial parent or you wish to be, contact our Indiana child custody attorneys. We will thoroughly prepare to fight for you to maintain legal custody and a significant percentage of physical custody of your child.
Rights of a Non-Custodial Parent
Per IC §31-17-4-1, if you are not granted child custody, you have a right to reasonable parenting time. The only time your right to spend time with your child will be limited is if you present a danger to your child’s physical health or emotional development.
Once a child custody order is place, you have the right for it to be maintained. The custodial parent cannot dictate when you do or do not see your child. They cannot arbitrarily or unilaterally change the day, times, or locations for parenting exchanges. They cannot dictate what you do during your time with your child. If you are having any trouble enforcing your parenting time arrangement with your child’s other parent, then you should speak with a child custody attorney immediately. It can be difficult to manage a contentious situation, particularly when you have such a small amount of time with your child already. We will guide you through this situation, and if the other parent’s behavior does not improve, we can discuss more serious steps, such as returning to court.
Asking for a Modification of a Previous Child Custody Order
Under IC §31-17-2-21, a court will not modify a child custody order at any time. You must show a modification is in your child’s best interests and that there has been a substantial change in one or more factors the court considers when assessing the child’s best interests.
You must overcome this standard before a judge will even consider your argument regarding why and how the child custody arrangement should change. This can be challenging if you have never asked for a modification before, or if you find court intimidating.
It is far better to ask for the help of a child custody lawyer in seeking a modification. At GDS Law Group, LLP, we will file the petition in such a way that it is appropriate for the court to hear the matter and, if the facts warrant it, adjust the parenting plan.
Other Custody Matters
In some situations, child custody moves beyond just you and the other parent. Other custody-related issues we often see include:
If you and the other parent are unable to take care of your child, you may need to speak with a child custody attorney about third-party custody or guardianship. You may need a family member or close friend to take care of your child for a period of time. If this is a long-term or potentially permanent situation, then you and your child’s guardian may have questions regarding adoption, which we are here to answer.
If you or your child’s other parent want to move to another state or a significant distance away within Indiana, you should speak with an attorney. Relocation can be a major issue, and if you do not handle it properly, you may lose the ability to move with your child, or the other parent may move your child across the country.
We know how important it is to grandparents to be involved with the grandkids. At GDS Law Group, LLP, our child custody attorneys have experience in grandparent visitation matters, which are outline in IC §31-17-5. If you are a grandparent who wants to maintain a relationship with your grandchild, contact us today. If you are a parent who is worried about a grandparent’s influence, we are also here to help you protect your child.
Let a Child Custody Attorney Help You
As a parent, you want to maintain the best possible situation for your child. You want them to grow up feeling safe. You also want them to grow up without feeling constant tension between you and their other parent. This generally requires forming a parenting plan that works best for your child and sticking with it until circumstances necessitate adjustments.
Our experienced child custody lawyers at GDS Law Group, LLP are here to help you and your family get on stable footing. Contact us today to discuss your parental rights and legal options, including forming a parenting plan with the other parent, going through mediation, or fighting for what you believe is right in court.