Each family law matter is unique and, therefore, requires specific legal advice to help reach your desired goals. Custody issues are especially unique and require skilled family law advocates who have worked intimately with renowned child custody psychologists and evaluation experts both locally and out of state to help innovatively resolve your case. Both Steve Fillenwarth and Christine Stolle have worked closely with such experts in litigating and resolving child custody matters.
Legal and Physical Custody:
Indiana differentiates between legal and physical custody of children. The best interest of the child is the standard Indiana courts follow when considering issues of child custody.
Legal custody refers to the right to make important and often long term decisions about your children. Major decisions concerning a child’s upbringing, including the children’s education, health care, and religious training are a few examples of those decisions that fall within the meaning of legal custody. Where the parties share joint legal custody, the parties will share authority and responsibility for the major decisions concerning the children’s upbringing. Where one party is awarded sole legal custody, that parent alone will make these important decisions. There are many factors that must be considered when awarding a parent sole legal custody or awarding both parties joint legal custody. For example, one factor a court may consider is the ability and willingness of the parties to communicate and cooperate in advancing the child’s welfare. Joint legal custody, where the parties share decision-making authority, is not always appropriate in every case.
Physical custody refers to the place in which the children primarily reside. Parents can share joint physical custody which means the children share their time equally with each parent or one parent may have primary physical custody which means the children’s time is divided unequally between the parents, but in a way that meets the needs of that family.
The best interests of the child is the standard the Court considers when awarding visitation, or more commonly referred to as “parenting time” in Indiana.
In determining the best interests of the child the Court must consider all relevant factors, including: 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, the child’s 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; and evidence that the child has been cared for by someone other than a parent.
There is no presumption favoring either parent when awarding custody or parenting time.
A parenting time schedule that can be agreed to by the parties that takes into account the unique needs of the family often work best; however, Indianahas adopted the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines (“IPTG”) which are presumptively applied when one parent has primary physical custody. However, the courts have discretion to deviate from these Guidelines where necessary or appropriate.
If you have a custody related question or would like to retain one of our lawyers from our experienced family law team, please contact us at 317.638.7473. Fillenwarth & Stolle serves clients in the greater Indianapolis and surrounding areas, including Carmel, Fishers, Greenfield, Zionsville, Avon, Brownsburg, Muncie, and Bloomington, and throughout the State of Indiana.