Some of the essential questions to ask a lawyer about child custody include queries about physical and legal custody and other critical issues related to child custody cases, such as child support and custody modifications. Asking your lawyer such questions will help you better understand your case and what to expect and prepare for the child custody proceedings. Your lawyer will help you understand the laws that apply to your case and how you can use them to your advantage.
What Are Questions to Ask a Lawyer About Child Custody?
Here are the important questions you should ask about the child custody process in Indiana.
What Is the Difference Between Physical Custody and Legal Custody?
One of the most important areas to ask your lawyer about is the forms of custody available. It is essential to have a thorough knowledge of the available custody options. Physical and legal custody are the two basic forms of child custody in Indiana.
Physical custody refers to where a child resides. On the other hand, legal custody describes how the major decisions in a child’s life, such as schooling, medical care, and religion, are handled.
Next, you should know that either of these types of custody can be given solely or jointly. Sole custody means one parent is given total control, whereas joint custody means the parents share custody of the child to some degree.
Questions About Physical Custody
There are a number of questions that you can ask your family law attorney to help you understand physical custody much better.
What is Sole Physical Custody?
Sole physical custody means children reside full-time with one party.
What Is Joint Physical Custody?
A joint physical custody arrangement involves children spending equal time living with each parent.
What Is Primary Physical Custody?
One party may have primary physical custody, meaning that the child resides most of the time with that parent. When one parent has primary physical custody, the other parent is granted parenting time. The parent with primary physical custody of the child is known as the custodial parent, while the other parent is referred to as the noncustodial parent.
What Is Parenting Time?
In Indiana, each parent is generally entitled to spend time regularly with his or her child. Parenting time is the actual time a parent spends with a child.
Can the Court Order No or Supervised Parenting Time?
The court tries to facilitate parenting time even when a parent has problems like anger management issues and substance abuse. In such cases, the court may order supervised parenting time until the parent’s situation changes. A grandparent or another trusted person may supervise the visitation. A judge may also order the presence of a private or social service agency during visitation to ensure the child’s safety.
Nevertheless, the court may order no parenting time if it determines that it is not in the child’s best interests for a parent to exercise parenting time.
What Is a Parenting Plan?
A parenting plan is a child custody plan that outlines the parenting time that divorcing or divorced parents will have with their child or children. The court prefers parents of a child develop a parenting plan on their own after negotiating their schedules and considering the child’s unique needs.
If the parents agree, they should both sign the written plan and have it approved by the court. The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines assist courts and parents in developing parenting plans. If the parents are not agreeable, the court will determine and include the parenting time each party should have.
Can a Parent Deny Parenting Time if Child Support Has Not Been Paid?
Exercising parenting time has no legal correlation with child support payment. Therefore, a parent has no legal right to deny the other parent parenting time with the child for not paying child support. However, you can file a contempt of court action in the court where the child support order was originally issued to make the obligor pay.
Can Grandparents Seek Visitation Rights?
Family relatives like grandparents, aunts, and uncles can seek third-party custody in Indiana when neither of the biological parents can take care of the child, or their actions may put the child in harm’s way. Grandparents can pursue visitation rights in Indiana in certain situations if it is in the child’s best interests, the child was born to unmarried parents, the parent’s marriage has been dissolved, or the father or mother is deceased.
Can a Child Choose the Parent to Live With?
A judge cannot base his or her decision on your child’s wishes if the child is under the age of 14. Once the child reaches 14, the court can give the desires of the child special consideration when making the custody determination.
Questions About Legal Custody
If a judge grants you legal custody of your child, you can make decisions on behalf of your child.
What Is Joint Legal Custody?
Most parents have joint legal custody of their children in Indiana. Parents who share joint legal custody have an equal say in important matters involving the child, such as medical treatment, which religious faith the child should join, and where he or she should go to school.
In some situations, one parent may be given sole legal custody. If a party has sole legal custody, that party makes all the important decisions relating to the child.
Can a Parent Have Legal Custody Even if He or She Does Not Have Physical Custody?
Just because a parent was not awarded physical custody does not mean that he or she will not be given legal custody. The court can award parents shared legal custody even if one parent receives sole physical custody.
What Factors Determine How Courts Decide Custody?
Courts base their custody decisions on what is in the best interests of a child. To determine the child’s best interests, the courts analyze several factors, including:
- The wishes of each parent
- The child’s interrelationship and interaction with his or her siblings and parents
- The child’s individual needs
- Home, school, and community and adjustment factors
- Evidence of family or domestic violence by either parent
- Proof of a de facto custodian having cared for the child
Each parent’s physical and mental health impact child custody determinations as well.
Are Courts More Likely to Favor the Mother?
Historically, several states were inclined to award the mother custody. However, today, in most of the country, including Indiana, the laws do not favor either parent based on gender. The court must base its custody decisions on the best interests of the child.
In some cases, fathers do not request custody rights because of the assumption courts favor mothers over them. That is not the case. Fathers have just as much right to child custody, so they can fight for it. Indiana family law attorneys work with any parent to help them fight for child custody, regardless of gender.
Which Party Pays Child Support?
The state considers the gross weekly income of each parent, how much time the noncustodial parent spends with the child, health care costs, daycare costs, and other factors in establishing the party that should pay child support.
What Happens When Your Spouse Wants to Move With the Children?
In Indiana, an individual subject to parenting time wishing to relocate with the children must file a notice of intent to relocate, except for a few very limited situations provided by Indiana law, and serve it upon the other parent. He or she must file and serve the notice no later than 30 days before the day of your intended move. The notice must contain detailed information about the move and new location.
You can file a motion to object to the relocation of your child. Do not wait too long before filing a response to a proposed move, as you could forfeit the right to object.
What Is a Temporary Custody Order?
When parents cannot agree on long-term custody agreements, courts can issue temporary child custody orders to govern the period between the separation and divorce of the spouses. The temporary orders remain in effect until the final divorce decree is issued. The final Decree of Dissolution will include permanent custody arrangements.
Can You Modify Child Custody?
Indiana courts try to keep custody modifications to a minimum to provide children with continuity and stability. However, the circumstances of the parents’ or the children’s needs may change over time, making it necessary to modify the custody agreement.
If both parents agree to a custody modification, they must have the changes approved and their custody agreement officially changed by the court. If you want to make changes to a custody or parenting time arrangement and the modification is contested, you will need to file a motion to modify the arrangement and the court will schedule a hearing on the motion. How to initiate this process and what the court will require of you for a modification are other questions to ask a lawyer about child custody.