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Overview of a Father’s Rights in Indiana

In Indiana, a father’s rights include child custody and visitation, decision-making, financial support, and legal representation. Thankfully, in most cases, family courts promote the concept of “joint legal custody,” where both parents retain decision-making responsibilities, and a robust parenting time schedule that reflects the importance of a child maintaining a healthy relationship with both parents. That said, if a court believes that the child’s best interests are not being served, a father’s rights in Indiana may be modified or terminated. Given this, it is crucial that fathers whose relationship with their child is subject to a custody order understand their parental rights in Indiana and how to best protect them when they are challenged by the court or other parents. 

Whether you are a father seeking legal guidance or another impacted family member, the Indiana father’s rights lawyers at Keffer Hirschauer LLP are available to assist you. Our firm strongly believes that, in most situations, it is in a child’s best interest to have a positive, intimate relationship with their father. Given this, we passionately provide our clients with robust and effective legal representation during child custody battles and other proceedings related to family law.  

To best protect your parental rights in Indiana, contact our firm today at 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation. 

Keffer Hirschauer LLP: Indiana Family Law Attorneys

Understanding Custody and Visitation Rights 

In Indiana, there are two main types of custody: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody refers to where the child lives, while legal custody involves decision-making authority over the child’s upbringing, including education, health care, and religious instruction. When parents separate or divorce, they are encouraged to create a parenting plan. This plan should outline each parent’s responsibilities and detail the custody arrangement, including the division of time the child spends with each parent. Indiana encourages parents to work collaboratively to develop a plan that supports the child’s best interests and is in line with the recommendations set forth by the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines. If parents cannot agree, the court will intervene and establish a plan based on the child’s best interests. 

Indiana courts operate under the principle that it is in the best interests of the child to have both parents actively involved in their life, unless evidence suggests otherwise. So, when it comes to crafting a custody order, they must consider the factors outlined in Indiana Code 31-17-2-8, otherwise known as the best interest of the child checklist:  

  • The child’s age and gender 
  • The parents’ wishes 
  • The child’s preferences, with children 14 years and older receiving more consideration 
  • The relationship and dynamics between the child and the parents, any siblings, and anyone else with an impact on the child’s best interest 
  • The adjustment of the child to home, community, and school 
  • The physical and mental health of all parties 
  • Any evidence of domestic violence by either parent 
  • Any evidence of care having been provided by another party 

There are several different types of custody arrangements in Indiana, but courts tend to favor joint custody arrangements. This allows both parents to share legal and/or physical custody of the child. While this type of custody arrangement doesn’t always mean each parent gets equal time with the child, it does encourage both parents to participate in raising the child. Sole custody, on the other hand, may be ordered by a court when one parent is deemed unfit, or it’s in the best interest of the child. This gives one parent both physical and legal custody, limiting the other parent’s involvement based on the court’s judgment, which could include supervised visitation. 

Understanding Custody Support Obligations 

Child support is designed to cover a range of expenses, including housing, food, education, and medical care. In the state of Indiana, both parents are obligated to provide financial support for their children, and understanding how Indiana’s child support laws apply is critical for those seeking to protect their father’s rights in Indiana.  

The Indiana Child Support Guidelines and Rules uses the Income Shares Model for calculating child support. This model considers both parents’ income, the number of children, and the time each parent spends with them. The aim is to ensure that the child receives the same proportion of parental income that they would have if the parents were still together. 

  • Income Considerations: The court will consider all forms of income, including wages, commissions, bonuses, and even potential income if a parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed. 
  • Additional Expenses: The calculation may also factor in health insurance premiums, significant medical expenses, educational costs, and childcare expenses that are necessary for the custodial parent to work. 

The Indiana Child Support Guidelines provide a detailed formula for calculating support amounts. Fathers can use the state’s online child support calculator to estimate their potential payments. That said, navigating child support can be complex, particularly when dealing with changes in financial circumstances or disputes over the amount of support. Fathers are advised to seek the counsel of an experienced child support attorney in Indiana who can provide guidance specific to their situation, ensuring that their financial contributions are fair and equitable while adequately supporting their children’s needs. 

Unmarried Father’s Rights in Indiana 

For unmarried fathers in Indiana, establishing and maintaining parental rights can present unique challenges. Unlike married fathers, whose paternal rights are automatically recognized at the birth of their child, unmarried fathers must take specific legal steps to secure their rights. Understanding these steps is crucial for being actively involved in your child’s life and making decisions that affect their well-being. 

The first and most crucial step in securing your rights as an unmarried father is to establish paternity in Indiana. This is essential because paternity forms the legal basis for claiming custody, visitation rights, and the obligation to support the child financially. In Indiana, there are two primary ways to do this: 

  • Voluntary Acknowledgment: At the time of the child’s birth, both parents can sign a paternity affidavit at the hospital. This document legally acknowledges paternity and is the simplest way to establish it. 
  • Court Order: If the mother does not agree to sign a voluntary acknowledgment, the father can file a petition in court to establish paternity. This process may require genetic testing to prove biological ties to the child. 

Once paternity has been established, unmarried fathers have the same legal rights to seek custody and visitation as married fathers. However, the mother is presumed to have primary custody until a court order says otherwise. Unmarried fathers seeking custody or visitation must petition the court, demonstrating their involvement in the child’s life and their ability to provide a stable environment. 

  • Joint Custody: Indiana courts encourage joint custody arrangements, promoting the child’s welfare through active involvement from both parents. 
  • Visitation: If joint custody is not possible, the court will consider granting visitation rights that allow the father to maintain a relationship with the child. 

It’s important to understand that unmarried fathers are also responsible for supporting their children financially. After paternity is established, the court can order child support based on the income shares model used in Indiana. This ensures the child receives support proportional to both parents’ income, regardless of their marital status. 

Unmarried fathers may face challenges in asserting their rights, especially if the relationship with the mother is contentious. Without a formal acknowledgment of paternity and custody rights, fathers may find themselves with limited access to their children. It is crucial for unmarried fathers to: 

  • Document their involvement: Keep records of all interactions and contributions towards the child’s upbringing and welfare. 
  • Seek legal advice: Consulting with an experienced Indiana family law attorney with experience handling Indiana paternity cases can provide critical guidance through the legal process of securing custody, visitation, and child support. 

Need to Speak with a Father’s Rights Attorney Today?  

In today’s society, where the structure and dynamics of families are continuously evolving, the importance of ensuring fair legal representation in family law matters cannot be overstated. Father’s rights lawyers in Indiana play a pivotal role in this arena; advocating for fathers who strive to secure their rights and maintain meaningful relationships with their children amidst legal disputes. 

If you currently find yourself in a situation where your rights as father in Indiana are under threat, the best thing you can do is contact a father’s rights attorney from Keffer Hirschauer LLP. With everything that is at stake, there is no reason for you to handle this situation all on your own. Our Indiana family law attorneys stand ready to provide you with sound legal guidance tailored to your specific circumstances and help you navigate the legal system. So, if you need an attorney who is willing to aggressively fight for you and your parental rights in Indiana, call 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form to set up a free, confidential consultation with our team today. We are ready to be your advocate and defender.  

Article Name
Father's Rights in Indiana
This article provides a comprehensive overview of Father's Rights in Indiana
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Keffer Hirschauer LLP

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