As a parent going through divorce, one of your biggest concerns is how ending your marriage will impact your children. You know it will be difficult for them to adjust to their parents living in two different houses and splitting time between them. Maybe you also know you and your spouse will have a difficult time agreeing on a custody arrangement and you expect the court will have to resolve it.
So, what should you know about how Indiana courts decide child custody?
Physical custody vs. legal custody
First, you need to understand that there are two different types of child custody: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody is the time your children actually spend in your custody or in your ex’s custody. Legal custody is the ability to make decisions on how you raise your children. For example, legal custody includes choosing:
- Where your children will go to school
- Who will care for your children when you are at work
- What type of medical care your children will receive
- What religion will you raise your children in
It’s not uncommon for parents to share joint legal custody for their children, even if they don’t share physical custody.
Indiana courts favor parents sharing both legal and physical custody, as long as there isn’t a history of domestic violence or abuse.
The best interests of the child
When making custody decisions, Indiana courts always consider what is in the best interests of the child. These are the relevant factors when looking at a child’s best interests:
- The age and sex of the child
- The wishes of each parent
- The wishes of the child (with more consideration given to children over age 14)
- How custody will impact the child’s adjustment to home, school and the community
- The mental and physical health of the parents and child
- How the child has been cared for by each parent
Getting help with custody and a parenting plan
You should work closely with your attorney if you decide to bring your child custody dispute to court. Your attorney can help present evidence to show you deserve the level of custody you are seeking. If you and your spouse can agree on a custody arrangement, your attorney can help you craft a parenting plan for the court to review.
In the end, you need to keep in mind that research shows that in most cases, your child benefits from having both parents in their lives and having parents committed to co-parenting well.