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Four Things To Know About An Initial Custody Determination In Indiana

Four Things To Know About An Initial Custody Determination In Indiana

Child custody proceedings tend to be confusing and emotional times. Whether it be a divorce or paternity matter, initial custody determinations always seem to be draining on all involved parties. A lot of this can be attributed to the confusion surrounding initial custody determinations. Yet, you can relieve some of the emotional burden by understanding the basic workings of child custody in Indiana. In this blog, we provide four things to know about initial child custody determinations in Indiana.

Physical and Legal.

The first thing to know about child custody in Indiana is that it is divided into two distinct categories. First, there is physical custody. Physical custody simply means the physical care and supervision of a child. Thus, when a court awards physical custody, they are determining who should physically care for the child. Legal custody, on the other hand, determines who can make major decisions in the child’s life, such as religion, schooling, and medical care. Thus, when a court awards legal custody, they are determining who will make the major decisions in the child’s life. The important takeaway is to be aware that custody of a child encompasses both physical and legal custody.

Sole Or Joint.

The next thing to know is that custody in Indiana can be awarded either solely or jointly, for either physical or legal custody. As you may assume, sole custody means that an individual has total control over the child, whereas joint custody means custody of the child is shared between two individuals. However, just because a parent is awarded joint physical custody does not necessarily mean that the parent will be awarded joint legal custody. Remember there are two components to child custody, and either of these components can be awarded jointly or solely.

Best Interests of the Minor Child.

In Indiana, statutory code dictates that a trial court is to make a custody determination in accordance with the best interests of the child(ren)1 Furthermore, in making a determination in the best interests of a child(ren), the court is to look at the following factors2:

  1. The age and sex of the child;
  2. The wishes of the child’s parents;
  3. The wishes of the child, with more consideration given if the child is at least 14;
  4. The interaction and interrelationship of the child with the child’s parents, siblings, and other persons who may have a significant impact on the child’s life;
  5. The child’s adjustment to school, home, and community;
  6. The mental and physical health of all individuals involved;
  7. Evidence of a pattern of domestic or family violence; and
  8. Evidence the child has been cared for by a de facto custodian.

Therefore, when going to obtain initial custody, you must show it is in the best interests of the child(ren) by presenting evidence on the above factors.

No Presumption for Either Parent.

Finally, in Indiana, like most of the country, there is no presumption for either parent in an initial custody determination. While this may seem like a no-brainer, historically speaking, it wasn’t so as Court’s routinely sided with one parent over another. However, the statutory code in Indiana now makes clear that the trial court shall make no presumption favoring either parent in making an initial custody determination.

Child custody proceedings can be a trying time for individuals. Not to mention, these are very personal and emotional matters for people. If you are in a child custody case, it may be helpful to seek the assistance of an attorney to help navigate through the process. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. attorneys handle all types of child custody cases throughout the State of Indiana and understand the significance of same. This blog post is written by Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. advocates and is not intended as specific legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.


  1. Indiana Code section 31-17-2-8.
  2. Ind. Code 31-17-2-8.
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Ciyou & Dixon, P.C., is a law firm located in Indianapolis, Indiana. We serve clients in six core practice areas: family lawappellate practicefirearms lawgeneral practicepersonal injury and criminal law.

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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.