What Will Happen With The Kids?
It’s one of the first questions many couples ending a relationship ask. Indiana courts must determine physical and legal custody of any minor child. That is, where will each child spend his or her days and nights (physical custody), and who will make decisions regarding each child’s education, health care, religious upbringing and other major decisions (legal custody).
Parents frequently have joint legal custody — meaning they both have a say in the important decisions that must be made — and may share physical custody. One parent typically receives primary physical custody and the other parent is allotted “parenting time,” which is generally a set schedule of days and nights he or she will care for the children. Indiana law requires judges to act in the child’s best interests. The courts support the continued involvement of both parents unless unusual circumstances warrant something other than that.
How The Court Decides
As with all other family law issues, the lawyers at Wagner, Crawford & Gambill in Terre Haute seek to resolve child custody concerns without the need to litigate. Ideally, the court’s role in your child custody matter will be to review and authorize an agreement that is worked out between you and your child’s other parent.
Neither parent is presumed to have an advantage over the other in terms of obtaining custody. If the parents cannot reach an agreement, a judge applies these eight factors to determine what is in the child’s best interests:
- The age and sex of the child
- Both parents’ wishes
- The child’s wishes, especially if a child is over 14-years-old (A judge may meet privately with a child to discuss this)
- The relationship of the child with each parent before the parents’ relationship ended, as well as the child’s relationship with siblings or any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests
- The child’s adjustment to 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 someone other than the child’s legal parents (a “de facto custodian”)