In Indiana, all determinations regarding child custody focus on one thing: serving the best interests of the children involved. While this “best interests of the child” standard applies in most states around the country, each state has its own list of factors for assessing a child’s best interests, and Indiana is no exception.
Under Indiana law, the following seven factors guide all determinations as to parents’ child custody rights in connection with a divorce:
Let’s look at a few of these in a little more detail:
The parents’ wishes regarding child custody, while relevant, are not determinative when it comes to awarding custody rights. This is important. It means that, even if you and your spouse agree on a custody arrangement or parenting plan, this does not necessarily mean that your plan will earn the court’s approval. Indiana’s joint custody law makes this clear: “[T]he court shall consider it a matter of primary, but not determinative, importance that the persons awarded joint legal custody have agreed to an award.”
That said, when negotiating a parenting plan or working through the collaborative divorce process, divorcing parents and their attorneys will generally be able to arrive at a joint custody arrangement that gives adequate consideration to the other relevant factors.
In Indiana, the child’s wishes are a relevant factor regardless of age, though “more consideration [is] given to the child’s wishes if the child is at least fourteen (14) years of age.” At any age, however, similar to the parents’ wishes, the child’s wishes are not determinative.
This is another important factor, because it can affect parents’ decisions regarding relocation following a divorce. If a child has spent his or her entire life in the family home, has made friends with neighbors and is actively involved at school, a judge may decide that it is in the child’s best interests not to move with a relocating parent.
Many people believe that the mother is more likely than the father to get sole custody, or more likely to have primary physical custody in a joint custody arrangement. However, this is not the case in Indiana. Under Indiana custody law, “there is not a presumption favoring either parent.” Once again, it is the child’s best interests that control, and both parents have the potential to receive sole or primary custody if the factors discussed above weigh in their favor.
When seeking custody in connection with a divorce, your choice of family lawyers matters. With more than a decade of legal experience, Joshua R. Hains is an attorney you can trust to fight for the custody rights you desire. To discuss your situation in confidence, call Hains Law, LLC at (317) 688-1305 or get in touch with us online today.