Indiana’s elected judges are tasked with the important job of weighing the evidence of the parties’ positions when presented with a custody modification case or contempt of court for a wide range of circumstances, such parenting time interference. In a recent key dissent (from granting transfer [i.e., taking the case by its discretion]), the Indiana Supreme Court1 signaled that when the facts can support but one conclusion—a parent has intentionally interfered with parenting time--such continual interference itself can establish a substantial change to lead to a modification of custody. This case is important for three key reasons.
First, a parent who is denied parenting time on a regular basis or as part of a pattern may establish a substantial change in the parties’ interrelationships and negatively impact the child’s best interests. What this mean is where a parent can weave together a pattern of allegations or other inappropriate actions that interfere with a parent’s fundamental right to rear his or her child, this fact alone may warrant modification of custody to the parent who has been wrongly denied parenting because this itself may establish a change in the parties’ interrelationships.
Second, while a trial court judge is charged and has a constitutional duty to weigh the evidence as the fact-finder, if the evidence only leads to one conclusion, a trial court judge abuses his or her discretion or his or her judgment is clearly erroneous and subject to reversal by a higher court, namely the Indiana Court of Appeals or Indiana Supreme Court.
Third, this case broadly illustrates that while there several statutory factors a trial court must consider in each custody modification case, this alone is not an exclusive list. Any pattern or even a single event may with the proper showing create a basis for custody modification. This means the Indiana Dissolution Act and Paternity Act are flexible to meet a child’s best interests and ensure a parent’s relationship with his or her child, notwithstanding bad acts on the part of the other parent.
This is the factually delicate and sensitive world of family law the family law counsel may help you develop to present your best case in court. We hope you find this blog post useful in understanding the careful role of Indiana Trial Court judges and watchful eye of higher courts. This blog was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who handle complex family law cases of all types throughout the State. This blog is not intended as specific legal advice or a solicitation of services. It is an advertisement.