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Common Questions about Parental Rights in Indiana 

Parental rights in Indiana refer to the legal rights and responsibilities granted to parents concerning the care, upbringing, and well-being of their children. These rights typically include child custody and visitation; decision-making; financial support; and legal representation. In Indiana, however, parental rights can be subject to modification or termination by the court if the child’s best interests are not being served. Given this, it’s vital that every parent understand their parental rights in Indiana and how to best protect them if they are challenged.  

If you or a loved one is facing a legal matter regarding parental rights, it would be best to speak with an experienced attorney. The Indianapolis law office of Keffer Hirschauer LLP employs several highly regarded and skilled Indiana family law attorneys, who possess the experience and knowledge required to protect your rights and the rights of your children. If you’d like to speak with one of our attorneys practicing family law today, call 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation. 

* The information in this post is not intended as a substitute for professional legal advice or to solicit representation; nor does it form an attorney-client relationship. If you are facing a family law case in Indiana, want to learn more about Indiana family law, or seek representation, please contact Keffer Hirschauer LLP for a free and confidential consultation at (317) 751-7186.  

What are Parental Rights in Indiana? 

Parental rights in Indiana typically refer to four distinct rights and responsibilities that parents have regarding the care and up-bringing of their children – custody and visitation; decision-making; financial support; and legal representation. The specific details and regulations surrounding parental rights can be found in relevant statutes, case law, and official resources provided by the Indiana government. However, here are some general definitions of these topics and how they relate to parental rights.  

  • Custody and Visitation: Parents have the right to seek custody of their children, which involves physical and legal responsibility for their care and upbringing. After a divorce, child custody can be shared jointly by both parents (joint custody) or granted solely to one parent (sole custody). Noncustodial parents generally have the right to visitation or parenting time with their children unless circumstances exist that may endanger the child’s well-being. 
  • Decision-Making: Parents have the right to make important decisions regarding their child’s upbringing, including matters related to education, healthcare, religious practices, and extracurricular activities. In cases of joint custody, both parents often share decision-making authority, while sole custody grants decision-making power to the custodial parent. 
  • Financial Support: Parents have a legal obligation to provide financial support for their children, irrespective of their marital status. Indiana child support is typically determined by the court and considers factors such as the parents’ income, the child’s needs, and the custody arrangement. 
  • Legal Representation: Parents have the right to seek legal representation in matters related to their parental rights, such as custody disputes or modifications of custody arrangements. An attorney can assist in navigating the legal processes and protecting the parents’ interests. 

What is the difference between Legal and Physical Custody in Indiana? 

Legal custody and physical custody are two distinct concepts of parental rights in Indiana that relate to different aspects of a child’s care and upbringing. When a parent is granted legal custody in Indiana, they have the right and responsibility to make important decisions about the child’s upbringing, welfare, and major life choices. It typically includes decisions related to education, healthcare, religious upbringing, and extracurricular activities. It’s important to understand that legal custody can be granted solely to one parent (sole legal custody) or shared jointly by both parents (joint legal custody).  

  

In contrast, physical custody (or parenting time) refers to where the child currently resides according to the parenting time schedule. It encompasses the day-to-day care, routine activities, and physical presence of the child. The parent with physical custody is responsible for the child’s immediate daily needs, including providing food, shelter, and direct supervision. Physical custody can also be granted solely to one parent (sole physical custody) or shared jointly by both parents (joint physical custody). In joint physical custody arrangements, the child spends significant time with both parents, and they may have an equal or shared schedule for the child’s residential time. 

In Indiana, legal custody and physical custody are separate considerations, and they can be awarded differently by the court. For example, one parent may have sole physical custody, meaning the child primarily resides with them, but both parents may share joint legal custody, allowing them to make decisions together. The specific terms and arrangements of legal and physical custody can vary depending on the circumstances of each case and the best interests of the child, as determined by the court or through mutual agreement between the parents. Therefore, it’s always best to consult with an Indiana child custody lawyer to better understand the landscape of any legal matters related to this topic.  

What is a Noncustodial Parent?  

When a custody order determines that a child shall live with one parent more than 50% of the time, that parent is referred to as the custodial parent. Conversely, the other parent would be referred to as the noncustodial parent and would still retain some Indiana parental rights and responsibilities. These can vary depending on the circumstances and court orders, but some examples include:  

Parenting Time/Visitation: A non-custodial parent has the right to scheduled parenting time or visitation with their child. This promotes regular and meaningful contact between the parent and child, which is most often in the best interest of the child. Parenting time arrangements can be established through court order or by mutual agreement between the parents, and noncustodial parents may seek a modification of parenting time if there is a disagreement between the two parties.   

Information Access: Noncustodial parents have the right to access certain information about their child as a means of staying informed about the child’s well-being, progress, and any significant events or changes. This can include school and medical records, among other important documents.  

Financial Responsibility: In most cases, noncustodial parents are still obligated to provide financial support for their child. This responsibility is typically fulfilled through the payment of child support, as determined by the Indiana Child Support Guidelines.  

Communication: Noncustodial parents have the right to maintain regular communication with their child. This includes phone calls, emails, video chats, or other means of communication, as agreed upon or ordered by the court. Furthermore, the custodial parent should not unreasonably interfere with this communication unless there are legitimate reasons, such as concerns for the child’s safety or well-being. 

Parental Involvement: Non-custodial parents have the right to be involved in their child’s life and to participate in their upbringing. This may include attending school functions, extracurricular activities, and other important events in the child’s life, to the extent allowed by the parenting time schedule and court orders. 

It’s important to note that the specific rights of a non-custodial parent can vary depending on the circumstances, court orders, and the best interests of the child. The court’s primary consideration is always the well-being of the child, and the rights of the non-custodial parent should be exercised in a manner that promotes the child’s best interests and maintains a healthy parent-child relationship. 

What is the Best Interest of the Child Standard? 

Indiana Code 31-17-2-8 states that courts shall determine custody and enter a custody order in accordance with the best interests of the child by considering all relevant factors, including the following: 

  • The age and sex of the child 
  • The wishes of the child’s parent or parents 
  • The wishes of the child, with more consideration given to the child’s wishes if the child is at least fourteen (14) years of age. 
  • The interaction and interrelationship of the child with the child’s parent or parents; sibling; and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests 
  • The child’s adjustment to the child’s home, school, and community 
  • The mental and physical health of all individuals involved 
  • Evidence of a pattern of domestic or family violence by either parent 
  • Evidence that the child has been cared for by a de facto custodian 
  • A designation in a power of attorney of the child’s parent or a person found to be a de facto custodian of the child 

Decision-Making: a Parental Right in Indiana 

When a parent has sole custody, they have the legal authority to make important decisions regarding the child’s upbringing. Furthermore, they may make decisions without needing to consult or obtain consent from the noncustodial parent. However, when a noncustodial parent shares joint legal custody with a custodial parent, it is their parental right in Indiana to participate in any major decisions affecting the child’s life. This could include matters related to education, healthcare, religious upbringing, and extracurricular activities.  

In addition, courts may be more likely to consider a noncustodial parent’s preference they’re more directly involved with the matter at hand. For example, selecting the child’s school may be a decision that a custodial parent makes since the child lives with them more than 50% of the time. However, if the noncustodial parent cares for the child on weekends, then a court may permit them to have more of a say in which church or place of worship the child attends during the weekend.  

Every custody order is unique, as they’re crafted to fit the needs of each specific situation. Therefore, if you have questions or concerns about a parent’s role in decision-making, it’s best to consult with an experienced family law lawyer in Indiana.  

What is Child Support in Indiana? 

Indiana child support is an ongoing, court-ordered financial obligation that one parent must provide to the other parent for the care and well-being of their child/children following legal separation or divorce. The goal of child support is to ensure that the child’s financial condition is the same post-divorce or separation as it was when their parents were still together.  

In most situations, the non-custodial parent is responsible for providing the child support payments. However, if a noncustodial parent is not able to keep up with a child support obligation, it will become past due. In situations like these, the parent may be charged interest on the missed payments at a rate of 8% per annum.  

How Does Child Support Work in Indiana? 

Financial support is a parental right in Indiana that most parents are obligated to meet via a child support order. Generally, when a court makes a child support order in Indiana, they determine who must pay child support and to what extent by using the child support formula located in the Indiana Child Support Rules and Guidelines. The child support calculation considers the following factors: 

  • The number of the parties’ children  
  • Each parent’s gross income  
  • Each parent’s child support obligations to other children  
  • Spousal maintenance obligations  
  • Work-related childcare costs  
  • Health insurance premiums for the children  
  • Post-secondary educational expenses, if applicable  
  • The number of parenting time overnights allocated to each parent  

Using the costs or numbers associated with each of the items above, the amount of child support is determined by reference to the Guideline Schedules for Weekly Support Payments and then making a final calculation using the Indiana Child Support Worksheet. The final calculation of child support in Indiana computes the total amount required to support the parties’ child or children and allocates each parent’s child support obligation based on his or her proportionate gross income and child-related expenses paid. 

Parents who would like to estimate their potential weekly child support payment can do so using the Child Support Calculator.  However, any further questions about one’s financial obligations as a parent would be best answered by an Indiana child support lawyer who understands the intricacies and nuances of Indiana family law.  

Legal Representation as a Parental Right in Indiana 

It is a parental right in Indiana to secure legal representation in matters pertaining to child custody, visitation, and other related family law issues. This means that parents have the right to retain legal counsel, be represented by legal counsel in court, and have an attorney present for any negotiations, mediation, or settlement discussions. In addition, parents have the right to utilize an attorney as they prepare legal documents like petitions, motions, and legal briefs.  

While it’s always recommended to retain legal counsel, it is not mandatory. In Indiana, parents may represent themselves in court. This is referred to as appearing “pro se,” and it’s more common than most would imagine. However, anyone interested in securing the best possible outcome in a legal proceeding would be wise to seek the assistance of a qualified family law attorney, as they possess the knowledge and experience necessary to navigate the complexities of Indiana family law and protect the parent’s rights effectively. 

 Want to Speak with a Family Law Attorney Today?  

If you or a loved one is amid a legal proceeding that is eroding their parental rights in Indiana, the family law attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP are available to assist you. The laws regarding child custody, support and visitation can be multi-layered and difficult to understand, leaving many people confused about their parental rights. Thankfully, our Indianapolis attorneys have a strong understanding of Indiana family law and are passionate about championing the rights of parents. To speak with an attorney today, call 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation. 

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Common Questions on Parental Rights in Indiana
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Common Questions on Parental Rights in Indiana
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This article addresses some of the most common questions about parental rights in Indiana, including ones on legal and physical custody, decision-making, child support, and legal representation.
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Keffer Hirschauer LLP

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