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Child Custody Modification in Indiana

Child Custody Modification in Indiana

Table of Contents

What Is the Modification of an Existing Child Custody Order?

After an initial determination of physical and legal custody of children in a divorce decree or order establishing paternity and custody and parenting time, time may pass, and the child custody order no longer meets the children’s best interests. This is when a parent may file a modification for physical custody. What this seeks to do is modify the current custody order and, after hearing the evidence on the modification petition, change physical custody from the custodial parent and award it to the former non-custodial parent. To do so, the court must determine there has been a substantial change in circumstances and modification is in the children’s best interests.

As a modification of physical custody is addressed throughout this blog, the modification statute is set forth in full as follows:1

“(a) The court may not modify a child custody order unless: (1) the modification is in the best interests of the child; and (2) there is a substantial change in one (1) or more of the factors that the court may consider under section 8 of this chapter . . . .(b) In making its determination, the court shall consider the factors listed under section 8 of this chapter. (c) The court shall not hear evidence occurring before the last custody proceeding between the parties unless the matter relates to a change in the factors relating to the best interests of the child as described in section 8 . . .of this chapter.” Ind.Code 31-17-2-21.

When Should You Consider Modifying an Existing Child Custody Order?

When a court initially determines physical custody, there is no preference in favor of either parent. However, once the initial custody order is issued, trial courts place significant weight on a child’s needs for stability and permanency and heavily weigh this in deciding any request to modify physical custody to the non-custodial parent. It is not that a court will not modify physical custody if it is in the children’s best interest, but there must be a substantial change in circumstance.

There is no legal guidance, other than the standard of a “substantial change”, on when a parent should consider modifying an existing child custody order. One way a non-custodial parent may weigh his or her desire to seek a modification of physical is to consider if the modification, if granted, is better or worse for the children and the actual or potential harm caused by the interruption of the stability and change in their current home.

All this stated, there are two (2) basic ways a non-custodial parent may prove a substantial change in circumstances, and it is in the children’s best interests that custody be modified. Ind.Code 31-17-2-21. The first is a significant incident that occurs with the custodial parent that the non-custodial parent can prove in court. This might be an arrest, particularly if the child were present when the custodial parent was arrested. At present, many parents are struggling with mental health and addiction issues. If this is impacting the children in a significant way or placing them in danger, this is likely a substantial change in circumstances, and it is in the best interests of the child that physical custody be modified to the non-custodial parent. Ind.Code 31-17-2-21.

The second way a parent may prove a substantial change to support their physical custodial modification petition is to show a pattern of behavior by the custodial parent. For instance, the custodial parent may deny or interfere with parenting time. If this is occasional, it is unlikely to support a physical custody modification. However, a pattern of this behavior undermines the children’s relationship with the noncustodial parent. At some indeterminate time, this may add up and form the basis for a modification of physical custody.

The Child’s Needs Have Changed

As noted throughout this blog, a trial court can consider any relevant evidence in a modification proceeding. Clearly, the children’s needs usually change slowly, and the custodial parent should meet such changing needs. An example can be found in the statute that lists some of the considerations a court may weigh in considering a petition to modify physical custody. This is the statutory language that a court should give additional weight to the wishes of children fourteen (14) years of age or older. This may be the basis a court will find to be a substantial change in circumstances to modify custody. Again, the change must be in the children’s best interests. Thus, if a child this age wants to live with a same-sex parent or the opposite sex parent, and their rationale is sound, the court may find this constitutes a substantial change in circumstances and grant the non-custodial parent’s petition to modify custody. On the other hand, if this child just wants to live with the non-custodial parent because he or she has more lax household rules, particularly as it relates to dating, the court may believe this is unsound reasoning and deny the non-custodial parent’s modification petition.

Changes in the Child’s Environment

As addressed in other places in this blog, a non-custodial parent’s petition to modify custody can be based on any relevant evidence that demonstrates a substantial change in circumstances and a modification of physical custody is in the children’s best interests. Ind.Code 31-17-2-21. Clearly, the environment the children live in is a factor a court could consider. There are any number of factual scenarios that may evidence the environment the children live in is not in their best interest. A scenario occurring with more frequency is a decline in the custodial parent’s mental health or substance abuse. Sometimes this may be apparent and at other times not. However, if a non-custodial parent suspects this to be the case, he or she may look at school records to see if the children’s grades are declining or the children are having excessive times of being tardy to school or absences.

What do you do if you are the non-custodial parent and suspect this? This is a question to carefully consider with experienced domestic counsel. One course of action would be to file a modification petition, conduct discovery, and ask the court to order drug screens. This is a common scenario domestic attorneys are presented within their practice. After discussion and analysis with your counsel, you can craft a careful plan to address changes in the child’s environment. Some environmental factors are not directly related to the custodial parent, but instead the custodial parent’s action or inaction to address these environmental facts. There are tools the non-custodial parent can use with experienced domestic counsel to address any environmental factors that might rise to the level of a substantial change in circumstances, and it is in the child’s best interests’ custody be modified to you. Ind.Code 31-17-2-21.

Changes in Custody May Be Due to a Child’s Mental or Emotional Disorder

It is frequent that custodial and non-custodial parents disagree about a child’s mental health or emotional disorder. In some cases, this is addressed and decided by the parent who has legal custody. Or the parties ask the court to decide this legal custody matter. Nevertheless, even if this legal custody decision has been made, it is common that a parent does not agree and refused to do any number of things from taking the child to therapy to administering medications. If this is the case, and it is the custodial parent who refuses to act, this is a strong case to seek a modification of physical custody to the non-custodial parent. This may be accompanied by a contempt petition. Clearly, failing to follow through with treatment or to administer medications puts the child at risk. With medication and therapies, it is common that parents disagree and become involved in significant litigation. In some cases, if the risk of harm to the child is enough harm to the child’s mental or emotional health, the court could order the former custodial parent to have supervised visitation to ensure this risk to the child stops.

Child in Is in Danger

One topic not often discussed with respect to a non-custodial parent filing a modification petition to obtain physical custody is what happens if there is a true emergency. In these cases, the court is likely to entertain an emergency hearing seeking a modification of custody to the non-custodial parent. With an apparent mental health crisis plaguing the United States in connection with various issues COVID-19 has arisen, it is foreseeable courts may well see an uptick in emergency modification petitions. If a parent is arrested for DUI, buying or selling drugs, going into rehab, and numerous other scenarios, a court is likely to provide an immediate hearing and find this constitutes a substantial change in circumstances and modify custody to the non-custodial parent at least on a temporary basis. Ind.Code 31-17-2-21.

To act on the emergency creates a great deal of work for counsel and is time-intensive. Counsel must learn and be informed about the emergency, draft an emergency petition to modify custody, file it and get an order for an emergency hearing. At this point, counsel must get the custodial parent served with the emergency petition and prepare for the hearing. There are numerous other details that must be addressed, such as gathering evidence for the emergency hearing, which may include issuing and serving subpoenas on third parties and preparing for the same. If the non-custodial parent lives out of state, he or she must fly in for the emergency hearing unless the court permits it to be by video. These cases can be expensive but necessary.

Under the trial rules, in extreme situations, the divorce court may issue an ex parte order when the custodial parent is not heard or served with the emergency petition before the court issues an emergency order modifying custody. It takes an exceptional case to meet this burden. If this is the case, the non-custodial parent can obtain this ex parte order and then, with law enforcement, if necessary, take custody of the children. In the final analysis, the trial court can act in any way necessary to protect children if they are in danger in the custodial parent’s care.

Following the Death of a Parent

Unless a non-custodial parent has supervised visitation and a designation of who should take care of the children in the event of their incapacity or death, the non-custodial parent who survives does not have to file a petition to modify custody or otherwise act in the divorce court upon the death of a custodial parent. They simply take custody of the children, with police assistance, if necessary, if they are being held by any third party.2

A Parent’s Situation Has Changed

One common mistake a non-custodial parent may make is to seek a modification of custody because of a significant change in their life. They may have overcome addiction or met a new significant other. A significant change in a non-custodial parent’s life is not, standing alone, reflective of a significant change as it relates to the children. In fact, these changes in the non-custodial parent’s life may have little or no impact on the children’s life. This may not be the case but a non-custodial parent and his or her counsel must develop the evidence to show this is substantial change connected with the children and it is in their best interests to have custody modified. Ind.Code 31-17-2-21.

Changes in the Child’s Conditions

If the children’s physical, mental, or emotional conditions are declining while in the custodial parent’s care and he or she fails to address these problems, as with any other negative changes for the children in the custodial parent’s care, it may be evidence a substantial change in circumstances has occurred and it is in their best interests that physical custody be modified to the non-custodial parent. Ind.Code 31-17-2-21. Any changes in the child’s conditions could be a variable the court considers in the children’s best interests, including those set forth in the by statute the court considers in passing on all custody petition on Indiana Codes 31-17-2-8:

“The court shall determine custody and enter a custody order in accordance with the best interests of the child. In determining the best interests of the child, there is no presumption favoring either parent. The court shall consider all relevant factors, including the following: (1) The age and sex of the child. (2) The wishes of the child's parent or parents. (3) The wishes of the child, with more consideration given to the child's wishes if the child is at least fourteen (14) years of age. (4) The interaction and interrelationship of the child with: (A) the child's parent or parents; (B) the child's sibling; and (C) any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interests. (5) The child's adjustment to the child's: (A) home; (B) school; and (C) community. (6) The mental and physical health of all individuals involved. (7) Evidence of a pattern of domestic or family violence by either parent. (8) Evidence that the child has been cared for by a de facto custodian, and if the evidence is sufficient, the court shall consider the factors described in section 8.5(b) of this chapter. (9) A designation in a power of attorney of: (A) the child's parent; or (B) a person found to be a de facto custodian of the child.” Ind.Code 31-17-2-8.

Additionally, the court can consider any other relevant change in the child’s condition, and it can be a basis to modify physical custody from the custodial parent to the non-custodial parent if it evidences a substantial change in circumstances and it is in the children’s best interests to modify physical custody from the custodial parent to the custodial parent. Ind.Code 31-17-2-21. The court is not limited to just considering the factors in this list. It can consider any relevant evidence that there has been a substantial change in circumstances, and it is in the children’s best interests to modify custody. Ind.Code 31-17-2-21. Often a non-custodial parent “knows” there has been a substantial change but is not able to sort out what has occurred. This is where working with skilled domestic counsel is invaluable. Most seasoned counsel can zero in on the dynamic with input from the non-custodial parent.

Positive Changes in Circumstances Can Justify a Custody Modification

Ordinarily, a positive change in the life of the non-custodial parent and his or her relationship with the children is not sufficient to modify physical custody to the non-custodial parent. This is because it is hard to connect this with a substantial change in circumstance and it is in the children’s best interest to modify custody from the custodial parent to the non-custodial parent. Ind.Code 31-17-2-21. Modifications of physical custody from the custodial parent to the non-custodial parent are typically based upon what the custodial parent is not doing to meet the needs of the children. Most attorneys have litigated this case, but the non-custodial parent’s positive changes in his or her life have little to do with a substantial change in circumstance. However, these positive changes may lead to the court increasing the non-custodial parent’s parenting time. The court can do this so long as it is in the children’s best interests.

Motion Requesting Modification Due to Military Deployment

In Indiana, there are several statutes that address a parent’s military deployment. Once a parent has deployment orders, he or she must file a petition to address custody. The court has the discretion to leave the children with the spouse of the custodial parent who is deploying but is not required to do so. The statutory process the deploying parent must follow is set forth, in full, as follows:

“(a)Upon a motion of a parent who has received military deployment orders, the court may delegate the parent's parenting time, or a part of the parent's parenting time, during the time the parent is deployed to a person who has a close and substantial relationship with the parent's child if the court finds that delegating the parent's parenting time is in the best interests of the child. (b) If a court delegates parenting time under subsection (a), the order delegating parenting time automatically terminates after the parent returns from deployment. (c) A court may terminate an order delegating parenting time if the court determines that the delegated parenting time is no longer in the best interests of the child.” Ind.Code 31-17-2-21.

In many of Indiana’s ninety-two (92) counties, courts sometimes take several weeks to set a hearing date. However, by statute, the court the notice is filed in (the divorce or paternity court) sets the matter for an expedited hearing under the following statute:

“(a) Upon a motion of a parent who has received military temporary duty, deployment, or mobilization orders, the court shall hold an expedited hearing to determine or modify the custody of a child or parenting time with a child if the military duties of the parent have a material effect on the parent's ability to appear in person at a regularly scheduled hearing concerning custody or parenting time. (b) Upon a motion of a parent who has received military temporary duty, deployment, or mobilization orders, the court shall, with reasonable notice, allow the parent to present testimony and evidence by: (1) telephone; (2) video teleconference; (3) Internet; or (4) other electronic means approved by the court; in a custody or parenting time proceeding if the military duties of the parent have a material effect on the parent's ability to appear in person at a regularly scheduled hearing concerning custody or parenting time.” Ind.Code 31-17-21.1

Change of Custody, Parenting Time And/or Child Support Due to Military Deployment

While a custodial parent who receives order to deploy may be concerned that this will impact his or her custody position on return, it does not, and custody automatically returns to the deployed parent upon return under the following statutory scheme:

“(a)A court may not consider a parent's absence or relocation due to active duty service as a factor in determining custody or permanently modifying a child custody order. (b) If a court temporarily modifies a custody order due to a parent's active duty service, the order temporarily modifying the custody order terminates automatically not later than ten (10) days after the date the parent notifies the temporary custodian in writing that the parent has returned from active duty service. This subsection does not prevent a court from modifying a child custody order as provided under this article after a parent returns from active duty service.” Ind.Code 31-17-2-21.3

In the final analysis, Indiana has a comprehensive scheme to address custodial parents who are in the military and deployed. These statutes protect their custodial rights.

Physical Relocation of a Parent

Moving Child Custody to a Non-custodial Parent

When a custodial parent moves, it may be the case he or she believes a change in physical custody is in the children’s best interests. If that is the case, there is unlikely to be relocation litigation. However, simply allowing the children to move into the former non-custodial parent’s home without taking the proper legal action is a mistake. The proper way to handle the same is to have the parties’ attorneys draw up an agreed entry and file it with the court, addressing the change in physical custody, legal custody, and if necessary, parenting time and child support.3

The Impact on Noncustodial Parents

The impact on noncustodial parents with a move of any distance can be significant as it relates to parenting time. Just a move of one hour away by the custodial parent will make mid-week parenting time impossible. Such a move may or may not be in the children’s best interests. Where the parties are not going to litigate a relocation, they should work with their attorneys to reach an agreement the protects the children’s best interests. Parties can get very creative if they are not in an adversarial role. The Indiana Parent Time Guidelines have provisions where parenting is at a distance that may be referenced as a place to start. Also, technology such as Facetime and Zoom can help maintain the non-custodial parent’s relationship with the children with a move of any distance.

Restrictions on Moving With the Child

A custodial parent cannot up and relocate with the children. Due process is such that the relocating parent must provide the non-relocating parent with notice of an intent to relocate. The non-relocating parent can object and seek a modification of physical custody. The notice provisions and whether the court will consider modification of custody are set forth by statute, as follows:

“(a) Except as provided in subsection (b), a relocating individual must file a notice of the intent to move with the clerk of the court that: (1) issued the custody order or parenting time order; or (2) if subdivision (1) does not apply, has jurisdiction over the legal proceedings concerning the custody of or parenting time with a child. (b) A relocating individual is not required to file a notice of intent to move with the clerk of the court if: (1) the relocation has been addressed by a prior court order, including a court order relieving the relocating individual of the requirement to file a notice; or (2) the relocation will: (A) result in a decrease in the distance between the relocating individual's residence and the nonrelocating individual's residence; or (B) result in an increase of not more than twenty (20) miles in the distance between the relocating individual's residence and the nonrelocating individual's residence; and allow the child to remain enrolled in the child's current school. (c) Upon motion of a party, the court shall set the matter for a hearing to allow or restrain the relocation of a child and to review and modify, if appropriate, a custody order, parenting time order, grandparent visitation order, or child support order. The court's authority to modify a custody order, parenting time order, grandparent visitation order, or child support order is not affected by the fact that a relocating individual is exempt from the requirement to file a notice of relocation by subsection (b). The court shall take into account the following in determining whether to modify a custody order, parenting time order, grandparent visitation order, or child support order: (1) The distance involved in the proposed change of residence. (2) The hardship and expense involved for the nonrelocating individual to exercise parenting time or grandparent visitation. (3) The feasibility of preserving the relationship between the nonrelocating individual and the child through suitable parenting time and grandparent visitation arrangements, including consideration of the financial circumstances of the parties. (4) Whether there is an established pattern of conduct by the relocating individual, including actions by the relocating individual to either promote or thwart a nonrelocating individual's contact with the child. (5) The reasons provided by the: (A) relocating individual for seeking relocation and (B) nonrelocating parent for opposing the relocation of the child. (6) Other factors affecting the best interest of the child. (d) A court may order the relocating individual and the nonrelocating individual to participate in mediation or another alternative dispute resolution process before a hearing under this section: (1) on its own motion; or (2) upon the motion of any party. (e) If a relocation occurs, all existing orders for custody, parenting time, grandparent visitation, and child support remain in effect until modified by the court.(f) The court may award reasonable attorney's fees for a motion filed under this section in accordance with IC 31-15-10 and IC 34-52-1-1(b).” Ind.Code 31-17-2.2-1

What Is a Valid Reason To Modify the Child Custody Arrangement With Relocation?

Ultimately, the move must be in the child’s best interests. If the non-custodial parent does not believe the move is in the children’s best interests, he or she can object under controlling relocation statute and seek a modification of custody. With such an objection, it places a burden on the moving parent to show the relocation is made in good faith and for a legitimate reason, the key statute being set forth in full as follows:

“(a) Except as provided in subsection (b), a nonrelocating parent shall file a response not more than twenty (20) days after the day the nonrelocating parent is served notice from the relocating individual under section 3 of this chapter. The nonrelocating parent's response must include one (1) of the following: (1) A statement that the nonrelocating parent does not: (A) object to the relocation of the child; and (B) request the modification of any custody, parenting time, grandparent visitation, or child support order. (2) The following: (A) A statement that the nonrelocating parent does not object to the relocation of the child. (B) A motion requesting the modification of a custody, parenting time, grandparent visitation, or child support order as a result of the relocation. (C) A request for a hearing on the motion filed under clause (B). (3) The following: (A) A statement that the nonrelocating parent objects to the relocation of the child. (B) A motion requesting: (i) a temporary or permanent order to prevent the relocation of the child; and (ii) the modification of a custody, parenting time, grandparent visitation, or child support order as a result of the relocation. (C) A request for a hearing on the motion filed under clause (B). (b) A nonrelocating parent is not required to file a response under subsection (a) if the parties have executed and filed with the court a written agreement resolving all issues related to custody, parenting time, grandparent visitation, and child support resulting from the relocation of the child. The agreement must include a child support worksheet to be signed by the parties and attached to the agreement, if the agreement results in a modification of support. (c) A motion filed under subsection (a)(2) or (a)(3) must state whether the relocating individual and the nonrelocating parent have participated in mediation or another alternate dispute resolution process regarding the relocation of the child. (d) On the request of either party, the court shall hold a full evidentiary hearing to allow or restrain the relocation of the child and to review and modify, if appropriate, a custody order, parenting time order, grandparent visitation order, or child support order. (e) The relocating individual has the burden of proof that the proposed relocation is made in good faith and for a legitimate reason. (f) If the relocating individual meets the burden of proof under subsection (e), the burden shifts to the nonrelocating parent to show that the proposed relocation is not in the best interest of the child. (g) If the nonrelocating parent fails to file a response under subsection (a), the relocating individual may relocate to the new residence.” Ind. Code 31-17-2.2-5

Negative or Positive Impact on the Child’s Life

Ultimately, if a court hears the evidence and finds the relocation of the child will have a negative impact on the child, it is likely to deny the relocation. This means the child cannot move with the relocating parent. The court cannot prevent a custodial parent from relocating. Baxendale v. Raich, 878 N.E.2d 1252 (Ind.2008). Contrariwise, if the evidence before the court is that the relocation will have a positive impact on the child, it is likely to approve the relocation of the child with the custodial parent. This is a very complex analysis that balances the parents’ rights and those of the children. The entire relocation statutory scheme should be explored in every relocation case. Skilled counsel can offer many legal options to advance relocation or object to same, such as a relocation evaluation by a clinical psychologist to investigate and report to the court if he or she believes the relocation is in the children’s best interests.

Common Issues When Modifying Custody

Child Custody and Impact on Parenting Time

In most cases where a court modifies physical custody, it awards the former non-custodial parent the parenting time the prior non-custodial parent had. However, because there is a substantial change in circumstances, it may be this change dictates a different parenting time arrangement is also in the children’s best interest. The presumption is that the non-custodial parent will obtain Indiana Parenting Time Guideline time with his or her children. Generally, this is one night a week, every other weekend, rotating holidays and half of the summer. But again, this is only a presumption as the trend is for parenting time in excess of the Indiana Parenting Time Guideline time. But to be awarded such additional time, you must introduce evidence that this is in the children’s best interests.

By statute however, when modifying parenting time in the children’s best interests the court is limited on restricting the non-custodial parent’s time by statute, set forth, in full, as follows:

“The court may modify an order granting or denying parenting time rights whenever modification would serve the best interests of the child. However, the court shall not restrict a parent’s parenting time rights unless the court finds that the parenting time might endanger the child’s physical health or significantly impair the child’s emotional development.” Ind.Code 31-17-4-2.

Thus, Indiana Parenting Time Guideline time is likely the least time a court can order in modifying physical custody without abusing its discretion.

A Modification Case Can Address Issues of Paternity, Child Custody, and Parenting Time

Although paternity cases do not have any property issues for the court to decide, a petition to modify physical and/or legal custody and/or parenting time follows the same process as a modification brought in a divorce court. A party files a petition to modify physical custody and the court hears the matter.4 There are mirror statutes (the same as in the Divorce Act) in the Paternity Act. And cases that are decided by the Indiana Court of Appeals or Supreme under the Divorce and Paternity Acts may be used to support either a paternity or divorce case. There is no difference between the process where there is a paternity case, and a non-custodial parent seeks a modification of physical custody. The parent seeking modification files his or her petition. The Court then has a hearing and determines if there has been a substantial change in circumstances and it is in the best interests of the children to modify custody.

Child Support, Medical Expenses, and Tax Exemptions

Once a court determines its physical custody award, it triggers child support to be paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent. Child support is based on the parties’ gross weekly income, support obligations for other children, the cost of daycare or after-school care, cost of health insurance, and how many overnights the non-custodial parent will exercise with his or her children. The custodial parent will pay the first six (6) percent of all uninsured medical expenses which is an annual number calculated by the program that computes child support, with the parties dividing uninsured medicals that exceeds the six (6) percent on pro-rata income basis (based on how much each makes relative to the other in gross weekly income). Typically, if the non-custodial parent is current on payment of his or her child support, the parties rotate the tax exemptions of the children on an annual basis until the children age out. It is key to note that determining weekly gross child support and these related matters is a very complex task you will need to carefully work with your counsel to ensure the same is accurate.

Reasons a Judge Will Change a Child Custody Order

Child Custody Is Not Set in Stone

In most divorce cases, the court must decide property matters and determine what custody arrangement is in the children’s best interests. With property, once it is divided, unless appealed and there is a reversal, the court loses jurisdiction over the property division. All it can do after thirty (30) days is enforce its property division. It cannot change the property division. However, every parent knows they have changes in their lives daily, as is the case for the parties’ children. For this reason, the judge who handled the divorce case can and will always modify physical or legal custody over the time of the children’s youth to meet their best interests. To do so, the non-custodial parent must show there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the trial court judge’s last order and modification is in the children’s best interests. Ind.Code 31-17-2-21. Thus, a child custody order is not set in stone, nor would most parents want it to be—they want what is in their children’s best interests at all times even if they disagree on what that is.

When a Judge in Indiana May Change Custody Orders

An Indiana judge may change physical custody any time a party files a modification petition and shows in the evidence there has been a substantial change in circumstances, and it is in the children’s best interests to modify physical custody. Ind.Code 31-17-2-21. It considers any relevant evidence, including the statutory considerations it analyzed in making its initial custody order, as follows:

“The court shall determine custody and enter a custody order in accordance with the best interests of the child. In determining the best interests of the child, there is no presumption favoring either parent. The court shall consider all relevant factors, including the following: (1) The age and sex of the child. (2) The wishes of the child's parent or parents. (3) The wishes of the child, with more consideration given to the child's wishes if the child is at least fourteen (14) years of age. (4) The interaction and interrelationship of the child with: (A) the child's parent or parents; (B) the child's sibling; and (C) any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interests. (5) The child's adjustment to the child's: (A) home; (B) school; and (C) community. (6) The mental and physical health of all individuals involved. (7) Evidence of a pattern of domestic or family violence by either parent. (8) Evidence that the child has been cared for by a de facto custodian, and if the evidence is sufficient, the court shall consider the factors described in section 8.5(b) of this chapter. (9) A designation in a power of attorney of: (A) the child's parent; or (B) a person found to be a de facto custodian of the child.” Ind.Code 31-17-2-8.

Modifying Your Child’s Custody Order

Courts do not monitor custody orders after they are issued. In fact, some physical and legal custody orders are never modified until the child is emancipated or turns nineteen (19) years of age. Thus, if there have been changes that necessitate a modification of custody, such as a child wanting to live with the same-sex parent and is fourteen (14) years of age or older, the court will seriously consider that request and determine if it constitutes a substantial change in circumstances and it is in the child’s best interests that custody be modified. However, the court does not know this. As such, the non-custodial parent must file a petition for a modification of physical custody to bring the matter before the court. This is the process by which all child custody modification petitions know by the court and then heard by the court.

Evidence That You Meet Requirements for a Change in Custody

Evidence Needed for Modification Orders

The evidence needed to obtain a modification of physical custody is that there has been a substantial change since the last custody order issued by the court, and it is in the children’s best interests that custody be modified. Ind.Code 31-17-2-21. As a threshold matter, the court hearing the modification petition considers only evidence occurring after its last custody order by following the same statutory conditions it utilized in making the last custody order, said statute set forth as follows:

“The court shall determine custody and enter a custody order in accordance with the best interests of the child. In determining the best interests of the child, there is no presumption favoring either parent. The court shall consider all relevant factors, including the following: (1) The age and sex of the child. (2) The wishes of the child's parent or parents. (3) The wishes of the child, with more consideration given to the child's wishes if the child is at least fourteen (14) years of age. (4) The interaction and interrelationship of the child with: (A) the child's parent or parents; (B) the child's sibling; and (C) any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interests. (5) The child's adjustment to the child's: (A) home; (B) school; and (C) community. (6) The mental and physical health of all individuals involved. (7) Evidence of a pattern of domestic or family violence by either parent. (8) Evidence that the child has been cared for by a de facto custodian, and if the evidence is sufficient, the court shall consider the factors described in section 8.5(b) of this chapter. (9) A designation in a power of attorney of: (A) the child's parent; or (B) a person found to be a de facto custodian of the child.” Ind.Code 31-17-2-8.

It is important to note that the court is not limited to just considering these statutory factors. It may consider any relevant evidence relating to the children and whether there has been a substantial change. This is evidence you will develop with your counsel. Typically, there are two (2) ways a court modifies custody. The first is a single significant event in the custodial parent’s life, such as an arrest. Most of the case are not that easy. Instead, the non-custodial parent normally presents an accumulation of events and circumstances that taken together, reflect a substantial change of circumstances and it is in the children’s best interest that custody be modified from the custodial parent the non-custodial parent. Ind.Code 31-17-2-21. With legal custody, the court modifies when it finds the parent’s make these decisions a “war zone.”

Potential Pitfalls of Handling Your Case Outside of Court

Co-parenting on Unamicable Terms

In some cases, parents depart from what the court has ordered and allow the other parent to have physical custody. However, this is always problematic because it does not address modification of child support and may leave ambiguities that cause problems later, such as with holiday parenting time. If this then winds up in court, it is very hard to sort out in the evidence so the court can consider how to “fix” the parties’ informal agreement that has now soured. Who owes who child support? Is a parent entitled to make-up days? These are just a few of the problems that arise when parents do not follow the court order or properly modify it and then the co-parenting is on unamicable terms. Parties should always obtain a court order on any agreements they make outside of court to avoid this pitfall.

What Happens When One Parent Overreaches?

When one parent (typically the custodial parent) overreaches or departs from following the custody order of the court, the non-custodial parent must decide if this is a one-time event or is a pattern that cannot be tolerated as it is not in the children’s best interests. In this case, you need to carefully work with your attorney to determine the proper remedy, which depends on the extent of the over-reaching. A contempt filing may be appropriate, or the matter may be so serious it results in a substantial change in circumstances and a modification of custody is in the children’s best interests. Ind.Code 31-17-2-21. This then would necessitate filing for a custody modification. Just letting the matter “slide” will diminish your relationship with your children and create unforeseeable future issues when you do wind up in court. This same analysis and type of remedy also applies when a custodial parent overreaches on legal custody decisions if he or she has sole legal custody. Legal custody decisions are related to school, education, and medical care. A contempt may be the right action or a petition to modify legal custody. The court will make orders consistent with the law and in the children’s best interests.

What Does Not Work for Kids?

For many reasons, such as cost or emotional turmoil, one or both parents may constantly battle over parenting time or legal custody decisions and involve the children. Indiana law is very clear that the custodial parent should promote stability and permanency for the children. If the parents are embroiled in disputes and one involves the children, the other parent should file a contempt or modification petition. Hopefully, they can work out a solution without a trial through mediation or agreeing with counsel to the appointment of a parenting coordinator. A parenting coordinator is a trained neutral third party who helps the parents resolve disputes in real time. These are but a few of the tools to address a family dynamic that is not working for the children. The pitfall of not handling this through the court is the toll it takes on the children and how it will affect their life and relationships later down the road. Resolving any issue outside of court is desirable, if it is truly resolved. The way to determine this is to work through the problem with your counsel and determine what remedy might solve the problem.

The Other Party’s Options to a Modification Order

If the Other Party Files an Answer

A custody modification petition can be thought of as a general civil complaint filed against you. In these civil cases, you must answer the complaint (a custody modification petition would be a complaint). Under the Indiana Rules of Trial Procedure and Divorce Act, however, there is no requirement that the opposing party answers your petition to modify custody. Sometimes this is done because there is inaccurate or incomplete information in the modification petition and a custodial parent will want to answer or reply to the petition to modify. This is a strategic decision to make with your counsel, namely whether you respond to the non-custodial parents’ petition to modify physical custody.

Stipulation Section if the Other Party Has Been Properly Served

With any legal filing, including a petition to modify physical (or legal) custody, the opposing party must be formally “served” with the filing. This may be through counsel if the custodial parent still has counsel of record (normally after a divorce or modification action, all counsels withdraw), by the sheriff, or personal service. Sometimes service, such as through a sheriff, creates embarrassment for the custodial parent. The modification action itself will create enough turmoil. Thus, it is possible for the custodial parent to stipulate or acknowledge he or she has been given the modification paperwork by signing a document affirming the same. This is then filed with the court and constitutes good service.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Child Custody Modification in Indiana?

Although there is no requirement for a litigant obtain counsel to prosecute his or her petition to modify physical custody, such is complex litigation requiring skills that most litigants do not have. A pro se litigant (one without an attorney) is held to the same standard as attorneys. Given the stakes in a child custody proceeding, a prudent litigant will hire counsel. Skilled domestic counsels will likely engage in all of the following steps that pro se litigant will not be able to do (but must if they are pro se):

  • Determine a trial theme (what must be shown to prove a substantial change in circumstances).
  • Conduct discovery and determine what evidence exists to support the trial theme and work to get this evidence into admissible format. Just because a litigant has a damming document that would support their case does not mean it is admissible.
  • Subpoena relevant witnesses.
  • Prepare a child support worksheet for the court to use to determine the former custodial parent’s weekly child support obligation if the movant prevails.

These are but a few of the steps in working up a modification petition for trial. This is just some of the work that must be done to prepare a custody modification case for trial. Any failures to get witness testimony in a trial, as well as documents, cannot be fixed later. Thus, while you may well have a strong custody modification case, if you do not present and get your evidence admitted, you may well lose. All prudent litigants should retain skilled domestic counsel to handle any custody modification litigation they may wish to bring to court.

Finding Legal Help for Children in a Custody Modification Proceeding

How a Child Custody Modification Lawyer Can Help

The key to a successful child custody modification petition and prevailing in the hearing is all about proving what is going on with the children and the parent with primary physical custody and why continuing under the current order is not in the children’s best interests. There are typically several exhibits that may help establish the substantial change in circumstances. For instance, the children’s educational records may reflect sliding grades or absences. There are several typical documents related to the children that are used in a custody modification case. In addition, records related to the custodial parent may also be key evidence in a custody modification trial, arrest records would be an example.

What is missing from the evidence is what the children have to say to would factor into whether there has been a substantial change and modification of physical custody is in their best interest. Ind.Code 31-17-2-21. For the most part, judges do not want any party to call the children as a witness. This pits them against their parents. Judges have significant discretion as it relates to determining if the evidence is inadmissible. A judge may well deny a request to call a child witness. So how can the children be heard if a parent cannot testify to what the children have said to him or her because it is hearsay? There are three (3) common ways to make a child’s voice heard during a custody modification proceeding.

The first is for a party to request the court to appoint a guardian ad litem to investigate and make a report to the court of what is in the children’s best interests. A guardian ad litem represents the children’s best interests. They are typically an attorney or social worker. There are no guidelines for the guardian ad litem to follow in the investigation. Typically, they will interview the parents and children in different settings and may well conduct a home visit. A guardian ad litem will also consider any relevant documents the parties provide to them. After their investigation, they will tender their report to the court and counsel and make recommendations as to what is in the children’s best interests. A guardian ad litem can rely on hearsay and other evidence that is not admissible so a guardian ad litem is a good way to get in evidence you cannot directly admit. The court has discretion as to how it apportions the fees of the guardian ad litem. Generally, the fee for a guardian ad litem is a few thousand dollars. One drawback to using a guardian ad litem is he or she cannot conduct psychological testing. Thus, if some mental illness is suspected, a guardian ad litem may not be the right tool for your case. The court does not have to follow the guardian ad litem’s recommendations, but it does so in most cases.

The second way to ensure the children’s voice is heard is to request a custody evaluation by a clinical psychologist. A clinical psychologist has a certain set of rules they must follow in conducting their investigation. There are three (3) major components to a clinical psychologist investigation. They conduct psychological testing, conduct many interviews with the parties in different settings, and finally, consider collateral material. Collateral material may be a review of documents or interviews of different people, such as the children’s teachers or doctors. After completing this process, the clinical psychologist prepares a report and makes recommendations to the court of what custody and parenting time arrangement is in the children’s best interests. Custody evaluations are expensive, typically exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000.00). Typically, the party seeking a custody evaluation must pay for it but can argue for a different apportionment of the fee for the custody evaluation at the hearing on same. Again, the court does not follow the clinical psychologist’s recommendations but normally do so.

The third tool a litigant may utilize to have the children’s position is by requesting an in-camera interview of the children. This is where the judge interviews the children is his or her office to try to find out what custody arrangement they want and why. With such a request, it is common for a judge to determine if it will conduct an in-camera after it hears all the evidence. If the court then declines to conduct the interview, what you believe to be key evidence to your case will not be in record. This, as with all other tools available to you to have the children’s voice heard in custody modification proceedings, has risks and benefits.

In general, these are the ways to help the children in a child custody modification. Which tool, if any, is the right one to use in your custody case is case-specific. To make this decision, you need to carefully develop the evidence with your counsel and then decide what tool is likely to most benefit your modification petition. In some cases, the basis for modification may relate to the custodial parent and it is not as important to take such steps to have the children have a say in the modification litigation. An example would be if a custodial parent had a CHINS case opened against the family for neglect. This by itself may be sufficient for the court to find a substantial change in circumstances and grant your modification petition.

Decide Your Goals and How You Want To Respond

Child custody may be modified at any time if there has been a substantial change in circumstances and the modification is in the children’s best interests. Ind.Code 31-17-2-21. That said, an attorney can assist you with developing the facts in your case to decide if you have a strong case for custody modification by analyzing all relevant facts related to child custody modification. That is the easier part of the analysis. While the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines are presumptively applicable in all cases, the court can make a different physical custody order if it is in the children’s best interests. In general terms, under the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines, the non-custodial parent has parenting time one night a week, every other weekend, alternating holidays, and half the summer school break. However, the legal trend is for parents to seek an extension of parenting time, where the mid-week may be overnight. There are numerous ways the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines may be modified to provide the non-custodial parent additional parenting time if it is in the children’s best interests. With that said, another strong trend is for a parent to seek joint physical custody with a rotation of days, such as 3-2-2-3 or 5-2-2-5 or week-on, week off. So, ultimately if you determine with counsel there is a legal basis for physical custody modification, you must then determine your custody goal along the lines just noted which may range from Indiana Parenting Time Guideline time to near joint physical custody.

Modifying the Child Custody Schedule

As an alternative to seeking to modify custody, particularly when the case is weak to seek a modification of custody, a non-custodial parent may seek additional parenting time. The non-custodial parent does not have to prove a substantial change, merely that an increase in parenting time is in the children’s best interests under the relevant statute:

“The court may modify an order granting or denying parenting time rights whenever modification would serve the best interests of the child.” Ind.Code 31-17-4-2.

So, if you determine with your counsel that you have a weak case for custody modification and may not be able to show a substantial change in circumstances, perhaps you show it is in the children’s best interests that you have increased parenting time. Skilled domestic counsel can help you make this analysis and prepare your best case for trial.

Modification of Child Custody Forms (Can Use the Steps Below)

In Indiana, there is no particular form to complete and file with the court presiding over the custody case when a party seeks modification. The petition merely needs to allege a substantial change in circumstances and that modification of physical custody is in the children’s best interests. Ind.Code 31-17-2-21. With your counsel, you will have to determine whether to file such a simple petition or detail out exactly the substantial change in circumstances. There are many strategic considerations that play into this decision. On one hand, a court may not act as quickly and set a modification hearing if there are no details of the changes alleged in the modification petition. On the other hand, detailing these changes may somewhat better prepare the custodial parent to defend against your position, particularly if they do not conduct discovery and delve into your basis to modify physical custody. How you style your modification petition is best determined in close consultation with your domestic attorney.

Benefits of Hiring a Child Custody Attorney

Under Indiana law, there is no requirement for a party to retain counsel to prosecute a custody modification petition. Without counsel, a party proceeds pro se. It is important to understand that under Indiana law, a pro se litigant is held to the same standard as an attorney. While a blog written by an attorney may seem self-serving in strongly recommending a party seeking a modification of physical custody retains counsel, this is not the case. Retaining an attorney places you on equal ground as you enter your custody litigation. As a part of any custody modification proceeding, you must be able to consider or prepare the following as a part of making the best case you can to obtain a modification:

  • Draft and electronically file your modification petition and serve the opposing party pursuant to the Indiana Rules of Trial Procedure.
  • Conduct necessary discovery (this is how you obtain information from the other side you need for your custody case, such as pay stubs to prepare your proposed child support worksheet if the court grants your petition).
  • Prepare proposed child support worksheets pursuant to the Indiana Child Support Rules and Guidelines.
  • Consider the need for a guardian ad litem or custody evaluation.
  • Develop your evidence and get it into an admissible format.
  • Understand the trial process, such as what to do if there is an objection to your testimony and how to establish the basis to admit evidence (which may range from photos to medical records).

In practical terms, there are very few litigants with enough knowledge to answer and act on the above-noted items pro se, all key to a strong custody modification case. Courts do not give pro se litigants leeway for matters they do not know but must to properly litigate a case, nor can the court provide a pro se litigant with legal advice. Thus, even if you have a strong case for custody modification, but do not present the necessary evidence, the court is going to follow the law and deny your custody modification petition. In addition, it is key to understand that you cannot relitigate the case again. The court can only consider evidence that occurs after the last custody order (the one you may have lost without proper legal counsel to advocate your modification petition). It can only consider in any subsequent modification action evidence that came to be after the last custody order.

What Is the Best Way To Defend Against a Modification Request?

If a custodial parent is served with a petition to modify physical custody by the non-custodial parent, the custodial parent would be well advised to get skilled domestic counsel to fight this modification petition. While there is no requirement the custodial parent respond to a modification petition, it may be beneficial to do so to telegraph to the other side the uphill battle they face and to address how their perceived bases for modification are insufficient. This is a strategy call. It may be no response is necessary or some other legal response is merited, such as a request for a guardian ad litem to be appointed or seeking a custody evaluation. Defending every custody modification case takes a well-thought-out strategy.

The first issue for the custodial parent to address with counsel is any actual shortfalls he or she may have that underpin the petition for modification the custodial parent faces. In short order, the custodial parent needs to address (correct) them so they are moot by the time of the custody modification hearing. The next general step is for the custodial parent to work with his or her counsel to develop the evidence showing the children are rooted and grounded in their current community and performing well under his or her care. This is because the courts value stability and permanency for children, which is not fostered through modification of physical custody to the non-custodial parent. Once this is shown, witnesses and exhibits must be developed for trial to rebut the allegations contained in the non-custodial parent’s petition to modify physical custody. With this evidence, the custodial parent should show evidence to the court the non-custodial parent has not met his or her burden of showing a modification is in the children’s best interests nor has there been any substantial change in circumstances.

This is a sketch of how a custodial parent may successfully battle a non-custodial parent’s modification petition. Skilled counsel will work through the favorable and non-favorable facts to your position and create a trial theme and tempo to try to pick apart the modification petition and demonstrate it is insufficient as a matter of fact and law to modify custody.

Child Custody Checklist Steps

Who Is the Petitioner?

In a divorce case, either spouse may file for divorce. This person is called the petitioning party and will be “the petitioner” throughout the divorce proceedings, including post-divorce litigation, such as a modification of custody. They will be called “the petitioner” and referred to by this term on all court documents. The same is the case for paternity cases. Whoever files the paternity case first is “the petitioner”. In addition, as noted, if there are post-decree filings, such as a modification of custody motion filed in a divorce or paternity case, the party who filed the divorce (or paternity action) will retain the designation of “the petitioner” or “respondent”, respectively. In such subsequent litigation, the respondent may be the petitioning party, which means go first at trial and has the burden of proof, but this does not change the respondent’s designation as “the petitioner”–they do not become the petitioner at any point in subsequent litigation. Stated differently, the original party who filed a divorce or paternity case will remain the petitioning party and maintain the designation the “the petitioner” until the court no longer exercises any jurisdiction over the case. This will be when a child turns nineteen (19) or is emancipated, whichever comes first. The court has jurisdiction to order a parent’s contribution to their children’s undergraduate education if the motion is filed in a timely manner and the evidence establishes the child has the aptitude for such schooling.5

What To Do if the Respondent Knows Your Address?

Under the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines, it is expected that litigants in divorce and paternity actions keep the other parent apprised of their current address, phone number, and other contact information. This is to facilitate parenting time and make sure the other parent has this contact information in case there is an emergency. The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines require a parent to provide trip information if he or she will be taking the children on a trip or vacation.6 The exception to this rule may come about if there is a protective order filed for and granted or set for hearing while there is divorce or paternity litigation pending. In this case, parents may not have to provide their address information.7

Petition To Change the Current Custody Order

Once a court decides physical and legal custody and sets out its parenting time order in the divorce decree (order of paternity), there may be changes in the family dynamic such that the last custody order is no longer in the children’s best interests. While the court has continuing jurisdiction to modify physical and legal custody and parenting time, it does not monitor the family to track any such changes with the family and children. For this reason, if a party believes the current custody order is no longer in the children’s best interests, that parent must file a petition to modify custody or parenting time to bring this matter to the court’s attention for modification.

Who Must Be Listed as a Respondent in the Current Order?

Whoever ever initially filed a divorce or paternity action is “the petitioner” and will remain so designated as long as the court has jurisdiction over the children. The parent served the petitioner’s filing is designated as “the respondent” as will be referred to this way as long as the divorce or paternity court has jurisdiction. With the initial trial, the petitioner has the burden of proof on the issue before the court. However, in any subsequent child-custody litigation brought by the respondent, the respondent is the petitioning party and goes first at hearing and has the burden of proof. This does not change a respondent’s designation to “the petitioner”. A “respondent” designation from an initial filing by a petitioner will remain the title “respondent” as long as the court has jurisdiction over the case as stated above.

Fill Out the Additional Starting Forms

If a party wants to file for divorce, he or she will need the following forms (or proper documents to do so):

An appearance is the document that provides the court with information about who your counsel is and other information that may be related to this case, such as if there is a protective order filing pending.

The Verified Petition for Divorce is a document the filing party signs under penalty of perjury and contains basic information the court needs to know about your case in order to know if it is proper under the law and it has jurisdiction. For instance, the divorce petition must allege a basis for a divorce, such as an “irretrievable breakdown” in the marriage. In addition, it alerts the court to whether there are children it must make decision about in the children’s best interests. Finally, the Verified Petition for Dissolution of Marriage informs the court that is has jurisdiction, name the filing party has lived in the county the Petition is filed in for at least three (3) months and the State of Indiana for at least six (6) months.

The summons is the document that informs the responding party (a spouse) they have been sued for divorce in Indiana. In most cases, a lawsuit must have an answer. This would be a respondent spouse responding to the contention in the Verified Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. In Indiana, a response, or answer, is not required to be prepared and filed by the respondent. However, there are certain circumstances a respondent may want to draft and file a responsive pleading, such as if facts in the Verified Petition for Dissolution are inaccurate.

In the ideal situation, a Financial Declaration8 is filed with the divorce petition. This outlines the finances/living expenses of the petitioning party and often assets and debts of the marriage. The responding party is also required to file a financial declaration after being served. The purpose of a financial declaration is to provide each party with some basic information to address preliminary matters and prepare discovery.9

Declaration in Support of a Change of Primary Custody Within One Year

Under the controlling rules of the Divorce Act, a party who files a petition for modification of physical custody within one (1) year of the last custody order issued by a court cannot rely on facts that occurred before the last order. This means if you did not obtain the custody ruling you believed was the in children’s best interests in the last order, you should have appealed it to the Indiana Court of Appeals. Thus, if you are filing within one (1) year, it may well appear to the trial court you are trying to fix actual or perceived mistakes made in the last custody trial and relitigate same. The court will not allow this. However, if you can “declare” or “verify” new facts that would warrant modification since the last custody order that was issued within one year, the court will act in the children’s best interests and hear the matter. The typical successful custody modification petition filed within one (1) year is one based on a “smoking gun” event–where something occurs that evidences a modification of physical custody in the children’s best interests. An example is a custodial parent’s arrest or inability to care for the children.

Order Modifying the Parent-Child Form

If a child custody modification petition is filed, the court may modify physical custody to the non-custodial parent if the evidence shows there has been a substantial change in circumstances and modification is in the children’s best interests. Ind.Code 31-17-2-21. This obviously changes the daily “form” of the family. The parent that had custody may have now have parenting time. This would occur only after the court hears evidence on the modification petition and determines modification is in the children’s best interests. As already alluded to in this section of the blog, the process to get a modification before the court is by a parent must filing a Verified Petition to Modify Physical Custody. This document should contain allegations within the petition that are from the filing parent’s own personal observations that demonstrate a substantial change. The observations can be literally anything relevant to what is in the children’s best interests. Hearsay, such as what the children said to a moving parent, cannot be listed in the modification petition. This would be subject at least the hearsay to being stricken.

Unfortunately, there is no standard form for a modification of physical custody because the facts to support a modification are driven by each family’s actions and inactions. In addition, a party filing a petition to modify physical custody must also provide the court with two (2) orders. The first order is an order to set the matter for hearing. The second order should contain the language necessary to modify physical custody from one parent to the other if the moving parent prevails at the modification hearing. While a Verified Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is generally standard from divorce to divorce, there is no such form for a party seeking a modification of physical custody. This is where a skilled domestic attorney comes in at to help the movant to develop the facts to support the modification petition as well as prepare for mediation and trial.

  1. Throughout the balance of this blog, the general language of this statute is used without citing the entire statue codified in Indiana Code section 31-17-2-21.
  2. In theory, a third party could have successfully intervened in the divorce or paternity case before the death of one parent claiming they are de facto custodians, this would be rare case where a non-custodial parent would have to litigate with a third party after the death of the parent. In most all cases, the surviving parent would simply pick up the children from wherever they are located at the time of death.
  3. There is a comprehensive statutory scheme addressing relocation set for in Indiana Code sections 31-17-2.2-0.5 to 31-17-2.2-6. These statutes should all be read by any parent facing a relocation. All statutes are not set forth in the blog. In addition, a parent with a relocation case should have the benefit of the caselaw on relocation decided by the Indiana Court of Appeals and Indiana Supreme Court. Relocation has many technical requirements and a parent in a relocation case should have skilled domestic counsel advance his or her position.
  4. The best interests’ statute under the Paternity Act is codified in the Indiana Codes at section 31-14-13-2. The modification statute under the Paternity Act is codified in the Indiana Code as section 31-14-13-6. Finally, the statute prohibiting the paternity court from limiting a parent’s parenting time unless there is a showing such would endanger the child’s health and wellbeing or significantly impair the child’s emotional development is codified in the Paternity Act in section 31-14-14-1.
  5. The burdens of proof and other requirements needed to obtain a higher education order are beyond the scope of this blog.
  6. All parents should review and be familiar with the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines. This provides the rules or commentary on providing the other parent with contact information.
  7. Protective orders are addressed under the Indiana Civil Protective Order Act.
  8. A party’s last six (6) pay stubs and last three (3) year’s tax returns typically accompany a financial declaration.
  9. “Discovery” is a process to obtain key information needed to obtain admissible evidence and is governed by Indiana Rule of Trial Procedure. The rules are Rule 26 to 37. An analysis of “discovery” is beyond the scope of this blog.
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Based in Indianapolis and founded in 1995, Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. is a niche law firm focused on successfully dealing with the complexities of divorce, high-conflict child custody and family law. Known for their ability to solve extremely complex situations with high quality work and responsiveness, Ciyou & Dixon will guide you every step of the way. The family law attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. will help you precisely identify your objectives and the means to reach your desired result. In addition, this practice focus is augmented by the firm's other three core areas, namely appellate advocacy, civil practice, and firearms law. Life is uncertain. Be certain of your counselSM.

Indianapolis Divorce Attorneys, Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. of Indianapolis, Indiana, offers legal services for Indianapolis, Zionsville, Noblesville, Carmel, Avon, Anderson, Danville, Greenwood, Brownsburg, Geist, Fortville, McCordsville, Muncie, Greenfield, Westfield, Fort Wayne, Fishers, Bloomington, Lafayette, Marion County, Hamilton County, Hendricks County, Allen County, Delaware County, Morgan County, Hendricks County, Boone County, Vigo County, Johnson County, Hancock County, and Tippecanoe County, Indiana.