Domestic matters are often fraught with complexities, one such major issue being parents’ inability or unwillingness to get along with the other parent. Often, domestic law cases involve extreme emotional issues that can cause communication problems. Compound this with both parents wanting as much time as possible with the child(ren), and it can create a situation where the parents are not often on the best of terms with one another.
However, domestic law is truly about the best interests of the child(ren), and the statutes (laws) of Indiana reflect this ultimate goal. When a divorce or paternity case is filed, child custody is almost always an issue. Initial custody determinations have different requirements and factors considered than custody modifications.1
One factor in an initial custody determination is the interaction and interrelationship of the child with the child’s parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests.2 This factor is where the strained relationship between parents may have a negative effect on custody.
Recently, the Court of Appeals reviewed a case where there was obvious tension and strain between Mother and Father. Mother had Father arrested publicly, wrote disparaging notes about Father’s wife to the Children, denied Father the opportunity for additional parenting time, even after being warned and jailed by the Court, and called Father and his wife names.
In the case at hand, the issues had gone on for several years, and despite being warned repeatedly and jailed, Mother’s actions continued. The trial court modified custody from Mother and placed it with Father, giving Mother Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines (herein, “IPTG”) time. The Court of Appeals affirmed. They noted that the trial court had reviewed several filings (hundreds, in fact) carefully, and based on Mother’s actions, the decision was not improper.
Both parents are entitled to a meaningful relationship with the children, which cannot occur in these extreme cases. There are several factors that the Courts look to when determining custody. However, a parent’s bad actions can be held against them, as not in the best interests of the child(ren).
While emotions generally are running high during a domestic matter, keep in mind the impact of these actions. Being aware of your relationships with those close to your child(ren) can help you continue to act in your child’s best interests. Ultimately, enough interference with the children’s relationship with one parent may cause custody to be modified. Be aware of your actions.
We hope that this blog post has been helpful in discussing one specific factor in custody determination-interactions and interrelationships. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. practices throughout the state of Indiana. This blog post was written by attorney, Jessica Keyes.