Family law, like every other profession, has its own language; a language that can be misunderstood, or may stand for many things depending on the context in which it is used. This blog covers the five key definitions that are used correctly, incorrectly, or a combination of both, in child custody proceedings. The better you understand these terms, the more informed litigant you will be.
The first term is an umbrella term generally referred to as “child custody.” Child custody refers to who is going have the children or make decisions for them, under what situations, and contains within it all of the detailed terms that decide the specifics. The term “visitation” is outdated and no longer a part of child custody law as it had somewhat of a negative meaning and seemed to be equated with the visiting parent not really being a co-parent.
The second term is “physical custody.” Primary physical custody refers to the parent with whom the child will spend the most overnights. The other parent gets parenting time pursuant to the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines established by order of the Indiana Supreme Court. This is basically one night during the week or overnight, every other weekend, alternating holidays, and half of the summer. The parent with less time will ordinarily pay child support, as “negative support” (support being paid by the parent with more time) has been limited by the Indiana Supreme Court.
Nevertheless, trial courts are free to deviate from the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines if it is in the child’s best interest. And as such, and consistent with national trends, “joint physical custody,” the third term, is becoming more and more popular on a number of schedules from a week-on, week-off situation, to alternating days, such as 5-2-2-5 or 3-2-2-3.
The fourth and final term is “legal custody.” Legal custody refers to the parent or parents who make the major life decisions for the children, such as education and religious upbringing. This may be joint or even divided between the parents, with one parent having the educational authority and the other parent having medical authority if it is in the child’s best interest.
These types of physical and legal custody may be modified if it is in the child’s best interest and there has been a substantial change to warrant such a modification. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. attorneys handle custody and support cases of all types throughout the State. This blog post is intended for general educational purposes only and is not specific legal advice or a solicitation for services; it is an advertisement.