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Child Custody Lawyers in Indiana

Dedicated Family Law Attorneys

Child custody matters often take center stage in a divorce. Misunderstandings about how custody is determined and the implications of custody orders under Indiana child custody laws can create additional conflict in an already contentious relationship. Alternatively, understanding what having custody means and the difference between legal and physical custody early in the process can ease tensions.

The attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP will manage your child custody matters and help you move forward. Call today for a free consultation with one of our experienced child custody lawyers and to learn how we can help protect your rights as a parent.

Child Custody Lawyers Can Help Protect Your Parental Rights

Divorces involving custody in Indiana can mean bitter battles over who “gets the kids.” Divorcing parents are understandably concerned about who will get custody and what that will mean for their parental rights. Understanding the key elements of custody and parenting time can help you present the best case for the custody arrangement you believe is best for your children.

When fighting for custody, you need an attorney who understands how to advantageously use the factors the court considers in determining the appropriate custody arrangements while the divorce is underway. Issues regarding custody can arise again after the divorce is final if a party asks the court to modify the custody order. Working with one of the child custody lawyers at Keffer Hirschauer LLP, you will be well-armed in fighting for your parental rights at any stage. We are Indiana custody lawyers who are also skilled litigators, and our work shows that we understand how important your children are to you.

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What Is the Definition of Child Custody in Indiana?

The child custody lawyers at Keffer Hirschauer LLP can help you understand the legal concepts related to custody in Indiana. Indiana custody laws basically define parental rights to make decisions about how to raise and spend time with the child. During the marriage, either parent or both parents may make such decisions. After a petition for divorce is filed, the court may enter an order naming one or both parents to have this authority while the divorce is pending. When the divorce is final, the dissolution decree will provide whether one or both parents have the right to make decisions regarding the child’s upbringing.

What Is the Difference Between Legal and Physical Custody?

Indiana custody laws govern several aspects of what people consider “custody.” People think of “having custody” as having the children reside with them, but the law actually distinguishes between who has authority to make decisions about a child’s upbringing and where a child resides or spends time. Courts refer to the decision-making authority about the child’s upbringing as legal custody and to physical custody as parenting time.

Under Indiana Code § 31-17-2-17legal custody means a parent’s legal right to make decisions regarding a child’s upbringing, which includes matters involving the child’s education, healthcare, and religious training. When the court awards legal custody to only one parent, that parent is said to have sole custody, meaning that parent has the right to make all of the decisions that impact the child’s upbringing. That said, the other parent need not consult the sole custodian on routine daily matters such as whether to let the child invite a friend over or what to pack for a school lunch. Alternatively, the court may award the parents joint custody. Joint custodians must work together to make decisions regarding the child’s upbringing.

Physical custody is not a separate concept but, instead, refers to the parenting time schedule. Indiana Code § 31-9-2-88.5 defines the parenting time schedule as when a child is to be in the care of each parent. The parenting time schedule is not necessarily determined by which parent has legal custody. For example, parenting time may be divided equally between the parents even if only one parent has legal custody.

In a divorce, the court uses the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines as a starting point for determining an appropriate parenting time schedule. While one parent may be named as the primary custodian for certain purposes, such as determining the child’s school district, the parenting time schedule may divide the child’s time with each parent in whatever manner deemed to be in the best interest of the child.

Your right to raise and spend time with your children is precious. Let the experienced child custody lawyers from Keffer Hirschauer LLP help you obtain the custody order and parenting time you desire.

How Is Child Custody Determined in Indiana?

Indiana Code § 31-17-2-8 sets the overall standard that a divorce court must consider when making a custody order: the best interests of the child. In other words, the court considers the best interests of the child, not the parents, in determining whether one or both parents will be charged with making decisions about significant matters in the child’s upbringing.

In making a custody determination, originally or in a modification, the court must consider several factors:

  • The child’s age and gender
  • The wishes of the parent or parents
  • The child’s wishes, although more consideration is given to the wishes of children age 14 and higher
  • How the child interacts and relates with each parent, sibling, or other person who could significantly impact the best interests of the child
  • The child’s adjustment to the current home, school, and community
  • The mental and physical health of the parents, the child, and other involved individuals
  • Evidence of domestic or family violence by either parent
  • Evidence that the child has been in the care of a de facto custodian
  • The designation in a parent’s or de facto custodian’s power of attorney

Indiana Code § 31-9-2-35.5 defines a de facto custodian as a person who has been a child’s primary caregiver and financial supporter for a set period of time, depending on the age of the child. If the divorce court determines that one or more children have been in the care of a de facto custodian, then it must also consider the factors listed in Indiana Code § 31-17-2-8.5(b):

  • The wishes of the de facto custodian
  • The extent to which the de facto custodian has cared for, nurtured, and supported the child
  • The intent of the parent at the time of placing the child with the de facto custodian
  • The circumstances under which the parent placed the child with the de facto custodian, including whether the placement was to allow the parent to find employment, to work, or to attend school

Again, when making a custody determination, the court views all required factors through the lens of the best interests of the child.

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The Indiana Child Custody Process

A petition for dissolution, the document filed in court to initiate divorce proceedings, should list the names and ages of the children of the marriage. When the court notes that there is one or more minor children of the marriage, the court is on notice that the divorce must address custody and parenting time. If the parties are in agreement on all custody and parenting time matters, then they may submit their agreement for the court’s review and approval.

If you and your former partner don’t completely agree on custody matters, or if you anticipate a difficult custody battle, engaging a skilled Indiana custody lawyer is critical. Conflicts about custody or parenting time often require court hearings. Under Indiana Code § 31-17-2-10, the court may require the parties and children to be evaluated by third parties such as mental health professionals. An Indiana child custody lawyer who is also a skilled litigator can help you understand what to expect in a custody dispute, determine whether you should engage your own third-party evaluator, and decide how best to move forward to achieve your child custody and parenting time goals.

Modifying Child Custody in Indiana

Your dissolution decree sets out who has legal custody and the parenting time schedule to follow after a divorce. But what if circumstances later change? An Indiana custody lawyer can help you understand the process for modifying child custody in Indiana.

You can ask the court to reconsider or modify an Indiana child custody order by filing a motion listing the reasons you seek a modification. Under Indiana Code § 31-17-2-21, the court may modify a custody order if it finds a substantial change in one or more of the factors used to make the prior custody order and if the requested modification is in the best interests of the child.

If you think changed new or different circumstances make your current custody order inappropriate, the Indiana child custody lawyers at Keffer Hirschauer LLP can help guide you through the process.

How the Child Custody Lawyers at Keffer Hirschauer LLP Can Help

The Indiana child custody lawyers at Keffer Hirschauer LLP are hands-on family law litigators who take your needs and wishes to heart. We will vigorously fight for your custody rights throughout and after your divorce. By choosing us, you receive:

  • Confidential case consultations
  • Results-oriented legal representation
  • Tailored solutions based on your needs and goals
  • Advocacy from a lawyer who has been named as a Top 40 Under 40 by The National Trial Lawyers

At Keffer Hirschauer LLP, our Indianapolis-based child custody lawyers recognize that legal matters pertaining to your children and your rights as a parent are emotional and sometimes overwhelming. By arming our clients with knowledge and unwavering legal support, we strive to make a tough legal issue as easy as possible. Simply put, we stand at your side for the duration of your case.