Updated: 2020-06-23 by
Indiana courts use the "best interests of the child" standard to make child custody decisions. Specifically, judges refer to Indiana Code Section 31-17-2-8 which says:
The court shall determine custody and enter a custody order in accordance with the best interests of the child. In determining the best interests of the child, there is no presumption favoring either parent.
How Courts Make Child Custody Decisions in Indiana
Indiana law directs the court to consider the following list of specific factors when deciding what is in the best interests of a child:
- 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 years old
- the child's relationshiop with parents, siblings, and any other person that may significantly affect the child's best interests
- the child's adjustment to home, school, and community
- the mental and physical health of all everyone involved
- evidence of a pattern of domestic or family violence by either parent
- evidence that the child has been cared for by a custodian other than a parent
- any designation that the child's parent or custodian made in a power of attorney
The law gives Indiana judges a lot of flexibility to establish parental rights and responsibilities based on the best interests of the child. In addition to the guidelines listed above, the court may consider any other factors the judge finds relevant to the situation.
Court Should be Your Last Resort
Going to court to get custody of a child will be stressful for you and, worse, tough on the children. Also, because judges have so much flexibility to make custody decisions, it leaves the family vulnerable to the biased opinions of individual judges. For these reasons and more, a court case is something to pursue only if all other options—like negotiation and mediation—have failed. Take advantage of all the resources available to you for creating a parenting plan before subjecting yourself and your kids to a court battle.
Studying the law. This article summarizes the key factors courts use to make custody decisions in Indiana. That said, family law is a complicated subject and laws do change. We recommend that you read the full version of Indiana Code Section 31-17-2-8, available from the Indiana State Legislature.
Working with a lawyer. If you’re working with a lawyer, mediator, or both, ask them for help understanding how Indiana law applies to your specific circumstances.
Finding your local family court. In Indiana, family law cases are handled in the county superior courts. Be sure to take advantage of the self-help resources your court offers.
You may also be interested in:
Know the basics of how to get custody of a child in Indiana, from the best interests of the child to child custody mediation and going to family court.
Know how joint physical custody and joint legal custody work in Indiana so you can create the best parenting plan for your family.
Answers to common questions about Indiana custody enforcement, including whether police will enforce a custody order.