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How to Modify Legal Custody in Indiana: What It Means and Why Do So

In paternity and divorce cases, parties sometimes do not fully understand “legal custody.” Legal custody has nothing to do with who a child stays with for parenting time or custody. Instead, it is which parent(s) has the authority to make decisions about the child’s health, education, and religions decisions.1

If it is in a child’s best interests, the court may award joint legal custody. This is generally appropriate and in the child’s best interests when the parents have a generally shared view of these matters, such as they are of the same faith, believe in public or private schools, or have views about health and welling being that they are similar.

Initially (there is a narrow exception in paternity), the court looks at this from a gender neutral standpoint. Joint legal custody is likely the norm. However, where the parents make this a battle field at the outset a court may award one parent sole legal custody. Or alternative, based on a substantial change, such as a move or disagreement, the Court may modify joint legal custody to sole legal custody.

Indiana’s courts take a serious view of helping children and are empowered to be very crafty in making decision to meet a child’s best interests. Thus, a court may order joint legal custody on educational and health matters, but sole legal custody to a parent as it relates to religion.

With careful explanation to your attorney as to the issue at hand, it is possible to advocate sole legal custody, modification, joint, or apportion the decision about who has legal custody decision-making authority. Domestic law is very flexible to meet the needs of children so they grow up balanced and with a good childhood.

Finally, in the event parents vehemently disagree about a legal custody decision—no matter who has the decision-making authority, a motion may be filed to challenge any particular decision. This is the flexibility the Indiana courts and General Assembly has built into the law to help Indiana judges protect your children.

We hope this blog post provides you with general educational material about legal custody. Being an educated legal consumer is how to make the most of the legal experience in meeting your legal objectives. This blog post was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who practice throughout the State Indiana. It is not intended to provide specific legal advice nor as a solicitation.


  1. McGinley-Ellis, 622 N.E.2d 213 (1993), trans. granted.
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