A child custody battle can be an emotionally draining experience for everyone involved. Thankfully, the state of Indiana offers alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms, including collaborative law and mediation, which means you do not necessarily have to go to family court to resolve your child custody dispute. With that in mind, here is some more information about resolving child custody disputes in Indiana.
Indiana’s Family Court System
In Indiana, child custody cases are typically heard in front of a family court judge without a jury. To determine your case, a family court judge will issue a decree (written order) that contains the court’s final decision, which will be based upon the child’s best interests. Some of the important factors that the judge considers in awarding custody include:
- The child’s age and gender
- The wishes of all the key parties involved, including the child (if the child is at least 14 years of age) and the child’s parents
- The interrelationship and interaction between the child in question and the child’s parents, siblings, extended family, friends, teachers, counselors, healthcare professionals and school (The court is often reluctant to separate siblings or move children away from their community ties and extended family.)
- The child’s adjustment to home, community and school.
- The mental and physical health of all parties involved in the custody battle
- Evidence of recurrent patterns of domestic violence by either parent
- Evidence that the child has been raised by a de facto custodian, such as an extended family member
When making custody decisions, a family court judge can request help. For instance, they request reports and information from neutral outside organizations, such as court-appointed guardians, social service agencies and private evaluators. Moreover, if the child is having trouble coping, the judge can order counseling for the child.
Types of Child Custody in Indiana
Under Indiana law, you can get either legal custody or physical custody. The former gives you (the parent) the right to make important decisions regarding your child’s religious upbringing, medical care and education. To put it another way, it gives you the power and responsibility to make important decisions for your child. On the other hand, the latter type of custody (physical) basically defines where your child will reside on a regular basis. At this point, it is important to note the judge can also award joint custody. If the judge awards joint custody, it could mean you and your partner share physical and legal custody or one of you becomes the primary physical custodian, which means the other parent would get visitation rights.
Alternative Dispute Resolution Program: Mediation
To help parents settle child custody disputes amicably, Indiana’s family courts are increasingly encouraging parents to use alternative dispute resolution (ADR) programs, especially mediation. Simply put, mediation is where you and your partner meet with an independent third party to discuss the issues related to your child custody battle. While the mediation process typically takes place out of court, the results of your medication may influence the outcome of your custody case. For this reason, you should hire an attorney to help you prepare for the mediation discussions. Your attorney will help you gather all the necessarily information and evidence, outline your issues and set your objectives. This is also important because the mediator will provide the court with a report based on the outcome of the custody discussions.
In Indiana, you can resolve child custody disputes either through the family court system or through mediation. Either way, a good family attorney, such as Terre Haute family law attorney, can help you win your child custody battle.