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Child Custody and Parental Alienation in Indiana 

Parental alienation in Indiana refers to a situation where one parent deliberately tries to distance their child or children from the other parent, potentially damaging or destroying the relationship between the child and the other parent. This can happen through various means, such as bad-mouthing the other parent in front of the child, limiting contact, or manipulating the child’s perceptions. The recognition of parental alienation and its treatment under the law can vary significantly between jurisdictions; and while Indiana law does not have a specific statute that explicitly addresses “parental alienation” by name, the concept can still play a significant role in child custody decisions. 

If you’re currently facing a matter of child custody that involves parental alienation in Indiana, do not hesitate to contact the Indiana child custody attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP. Our team knows the laws surrounding child custody and change of custody and are available to help you understand the legal landscape of your specific situation. To speak with a custody lawyer today, call 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation. 

What You Need to Know About Child Custody in Indiana

Understanding Parental Alienation in Indiana 

Experts in psychology and family law often describe parental alienation as a complex form of child abuse that involves deliberate efforts by one parent to isolate the child from the other parent without justification and aims to disrupt the child’s ability to maintain a healthy and loving relationship with the alienated parent. It is characterized by a set of behaviors that can be covert or overt, including negative comments about the other parent, limiting contact between the child and the other parent, and creating situations that force the child to choose one parent over the other. 

Recognizing actions that may constitute parental alienation in Indiana is not always a simple task, especially given the context of the relationship between the two parents. However, there are some behaviors that a person may begin to recognize over time that could be considered parental alienation. The most common behavior is making derogatory remarks about the other parent in front of the child. This could mean blaming the parent for the family’s separation or financial difficulties, or simply making unfounded accusations against the parent. Another common behavior is interfering with the child’s communication with the other parent, like restricting phone calls, or limiting their physical contact with the other parent.  

In some cases, parental alienation in Indiana may even come in the form of emotional manipulation. For example, this could include convincing the child that the other parent does not love or care for them; or creating false narratives about the other parent’s behavior or character. In other instances, a parent may emotionally manipulate a child by forcing them to choose between parents or making them feel guilty/disloyal for showing affection towards the other parent.  

Signs of Parental Alienation from Children 

Recognizing parental alienation behavior from another parent is a challenging task. However, recognizing the signs of parental alienation from a child is even more difficult. That said, there are a handful of behaviors that a child may display if they’ve been subjected to parental alienation in Indiana.  

Unfounded Hostility Towards the Alienated Parent: The child exhibits unexplained anger, rejection, or hostility towards the targeted parent, often parroting the alienating parent’s words without having a clear understanding of the situation. 

Rejection of Contact: The child refuses or is reluctant to visit or spend time with the alienated parent for no justified reason, sometimes expressing extreme resistance or distress at the idea. 

One-Sided Support of the Alienating Parent: The child strongly aligns with the alienating parent and may reject any suggestion or evidence that contradicts the negative image portrayed of the alienated parent. 

Rejection of the Alienated Parent’s Family: The alienation extends to the family of the alienated parent, with the child refusing to maintain contact with relatives they previously had a good relationship with, such as grandparents, aunts, and uncles. 

Borrowed Scenarios: The child’s explanations for disliking or hating the alienated parent sound rehearsed or based on scenarios they did not directly experience, indicating they’ve been coached or influenced by the alienating parent. 

Independent Thinker Phenomenon: The child insists that their negative feelings towards the alienated parent are entirely their own idea, even when it’s clear they are reflecting the alienating parent’s influence. 

Absence of Ambivalence: The child’s perception of the alienating parent is exclusively positive, while their view of the alienated parent is entirely negative, displaying a lack of the normal ambivalence seen in healthy relationships. 

Child Custody and Parental Alienation in Indiana 

The topic of parental alienation in Indiana most often surfaces in the arena of child custody. In some situations, one parent may seek a change of custody if they believe the other parent actions may qualify as parental alienation. In other situations, during an original custody proceeding, one parent may allege that the other parent has sought to alienate them from the child and should be considered as an act of abuse that is not in the best interest of the child. Regardless, parental alienation is a complex legal issue and can be a significant factor in child custody matters.  

Child Custody Proceedings in Indiana 

Child custody proceedings in Indiana are conducted to determine which parent(s) will have legal custody over a child and to craft a parenting time schedule in the best interest of the child. These proceedings are overseen by a family court judge. This means each parent directs their argument to the judge, not the other parent. Generally, this creates a less adversarial atmosphere and prevents the parents from arguing with one another.   

At this proceeding, both parents (and/or their family law attorneys) may present their case to the judge. Typically, each parent’s argument will aim to demonstrate that their side of the case is in the best interest of the child. To do so, they’ll look to satisfy each factor listed in the best interest of the child checklist located in Indiana Code 31-17-2-8.  

Best Interest of the Child Factors  

  • The age and sex of the child 
  • The wishes of the child’s parents 
  • The wishes of the child, with wishes of children 14 or older carrying more weight 
  • The child’s relationship with their parents and any siblings 
  • The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community 
  • The mental and physical health of the child and parents 
  • Evidence of violence by a parent 
  • Evidence that a de factor custodian cared or cares for the child 

Upon hearing each side’s case, the judge will then issue a child custody order. When determining this order, one major factor that the judge will consider is the ability of each parent to encourage a loving and continuing relationship between the child and the other parent. Given this, actions determined to be parental alienation in Indiana could negatively impact that parent’s case in custody proceedings, often in a very serious way.  

Change of Custody and Parental Alienation 

After a court has issued a child custody or parenting time order, it shall be enforced until a modification has been granted by the court. However, if one parent feels that some form of parental alienation has occurred, they may seek to modify the order by petitioning the court that presided over the original order.  

Per Indiana Code 31-17-2-21 courts may NOT modify a child custody order, unless (1) the modification is in the best interests of the child; and (2) there is a substantial change in one or more of the factors listed in the best interest of the child checklist. In situations involving parental alienation in Indiana, the petitioning parent’s child custody lawyer would likely assert that the responding parent’s actions, since the original order was issued, constitute parental alienation; harm the interaction and interrelationship between the petitioning parent and the child; and ultimately, do not serve the child’s best interests.  

It’s important to understand that, generally, courts are not inclined to modify custody orders. In fact, courts will often only do so when the child’s safety is endangered, or their emotional development is being impaired. In situations involving parental alienation, emotional development may certainly be impaired; but the petitioner will need to show substantial evidence to prove that this is the case. To do so, they’ll likely need to gather witness testimony – possibly from extended family, teachers, friends, neighbors, medical professionals, counselors, etc. – and documented evidence that parental alienation has occurred, has been ongoing for a significant amount of time (i.e. six or more months), and has had a negative impact on the child.  

Investigating Claims of Parental Alienation in Indiana 

Once a parent has submitted a petition and evidence to the court alleging parental alienation in Indiana, the court may order an investigation and report concerning custodial arrangement for the child. Under Indiana Code 31-17-2-12, the investigation and report may be made any of the following entities:  

  • The court social service agency 
  • The staff of the juvenile court 
  • The local probation department 
  • The department of child services 
  • A private agency employed by the court for this purpose 
  • A guardian ad litem or court-appointed special advocate appointed for the child 

When preparing the report, the investigator will be able to consult with any person who might have information about the child and the child’s potential custodian arrangements. Upon an order from the court, the investigator may refer the child to professional personnel for diagnosis; and may also consult with or obtain information from medical, psychiatric, or other expert persons who have served the child in the past without obtaining consent of the parent or child’s custodian. Once the report is complete and meets certain statutory requirements, it may be received as evidence in the hearing set for the matter and may not be excluded because it is hearsay. 

Facing Acts of Parental Alienation in Indiana? 

If you’re currently being alienated from your child by the other parent, the best action you can take is to retain experienced legal counsel. Filing a petition for a change of custody due to parental alienation in Indiana involves a careful and comprehensive assessment of family dynamics, the behavior of both parents and the impact the potential alienation is having on the child’s well-being. Therefore, having a skilled and experienced Indiana child custody lawyer by your side will be invaluable as you fight to protect your child and your parental rights in Indiana.  

The Indiana family law attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP are hands-on, skilled litigators with extensive experience handling matters related to custody modification in Indiana. They will vigorously fight for you and your parental rights and be your advocate from beginning to end. To begin working to rebuild your relationship with your child, contact our firm today at 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.  

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Child Custody and Parental Alienation in Indiana
Article Name
Child Custody and Parental Alienation in Indiana
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This article discusses the topic of child custody and parental alienation in Indiana.
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Keffer Hirschauer LLP

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