Indiana adopted the Uniform Child Custody Act in 1977. Under this Act, joint custody is an option for divorced parents; grandparents have visitation rights; and the preferences of children age 11 or older are taken into consideration during child custody hearings.
When it comes to custody arrangements, family courts can consider any factor having to do with the best interests of the child. In addition to the physical and emotional wellbeing of the child, typical factors include the following:
- Parent more likely to care for the daily needs of the child
- Parent more likely to maintain a loving and nurturing relationship with the child
- Parental history, if any, of physical, drug or alcohol abuse
- Parental history, if any, of criminal convictions and/or charges
- Relationship of the child with his or her siblings
- Educational consistency and continuity of the child
By court rule, Indiana has a detailed set of Parenting Time Guidelines that are applicable to all child custody situations except those involving circumstances that the court believes endanger the physical or mental health or safety of the child, such as violence, substance abuse, flight risk, etc. In such situations, the court may order its own parenting times. The Parenting Time Guidelines are “based on the premise that it is usually in a child’s best interest to have frequent, meaningful and continuing contact with each parent.”
Ex-spouses must keep each other informed of their home and work addresses, telephone numbers, and email addresses. Each parent is entitled to have private communications at reasonable times with the child(ren) by phone, mail, and email without interference from the other parent.
With regard to physical parenting time, divorced couples should make every effort to arrive at a mutually agreeable visitation schedule for the non-custodial parent. The parent receiving the child(ren) provides the transportation at the beginning of the period and the other parent provides the transportation at its end. If at all possible, both parents should be present each time the child(ren) is or are exchanged between them.