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Child Custody Factors in Indiana

Indiana has two types of child custody: legal custody and physical custody. Both custody designations can be further divided into sole custody (where one parent has custody) and shared custody (also called joint custody) where both parents have custody.

Overview of Child Custody Factors in Indiana

While it's best to consult with a lawyer (especially in complex cases), you can get with a better understanding of the law by referring to a breakdown of the law written in plain language. See the chart below for a basic overview of child custody factors in Indiana.


Indiana Code Title 31:

Types of Custody

Legal custody: Gives a parent the authority to make important decisions about the child's upbringing, including education, religion, and health care decisions.

Physical custody: Refers to the parent with whom the child lives with most of the time.

Sole legal custody: One parent has the legal authority to make major decisions regarding the child's religious upbringing, education, and health care.

Shared legal custody: Both parents have the authority to make major decisions about the child's upbringing.

Sole physical custody: The child lives with and is under the supervision of one parent and has visitation with the other parent (unless the court determines the visitation isn't in the child's best interests.)

Shared physical custody: The child has periods of residing with and being under the supervision of each parent.

Note: An award of legal joint custody doesn't require an equal division of physical custody.

Best Interests of the Child Factors

The court will base the custody determination using the best interests of the child. When determining the best interests, there is no presumption that favors either parent.

Relevant Factors:

  • The age and sex of the child;
  • The wishes of the child's parent or parents; and
  • The wishes of the child, (with more consideration given to their wishes if the child is at least 14).

The court also considers the interaction and interrelationship of the child with:

  • The child's parent or parent;
  • The child's sibling; and
  • Any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interests.

Other factors include:

  • The child's adjustment to the home, school, and community;
  • The mental and physical health of all individuals involved;
  • Evidence of a patterns of domestic or family violence by either parent;
  • Evidence that the child has been cared for by a de facto custodian;
  • A designation in a power of attorney of: the child's parent; or a person found to be a de facto guardian of the child.

Child Custody Factors: Joint Custody

When the court considers whether shared joint custody is in the best interests of the child, the following factors are relevant:

  • The fitness and suitability of each of the persons awarded joint custody;
  • Whether the persons awarded joint custody are willing and able to communicate and cooperate in advancing the child's welfare;
  • The wishes of the child, with more consideration given to the child's wishes if the child is 14;
  • Whether the child has established a close and beneficial relationship with both of the persons awarded joint custody; and

Whether the persons awarded joint custody:

  • Live close to each other; and
  • Plan to continue to do so; and
  • The nature of the physical and emotional environment in the home of each of the persons awarded joint custody.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Child Custody Factors in Indiana: Related Resources

Discuss Indiana Custody Issues with an Attorney

Knowing the factors that Indiana uses to determine custody marks the beginning of your journey to asserting your custody rights. For specific information about how your case is impacted by the law, get legal help from a skilled Indiana attorney.

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