Is there such a thing as a “child custody attorney?” What areas do such attorneys focus their practice on?
In any divorce, there may be two key components at issue: property (assets and liabilities) and/or child custody. For the most part, attorneys focus predominately on assets or child custody cases as one is of disproportionate interest to the parties. In some cases, there is equal depth of legal services needed. Custody, unlike property, is not subject to division with exactitude like a complex math problem; instead attorneys must focus on the children’s best interests.
The children’s best interests – upon which the parties usually disagree – bring about complex considerations by an Indianapolis child custody attorney. A custody attorney must learn your case and apply your facts to your custody objectives under the complex applications and interactions of the Parenting Time Guidelines and the Indiana Child Support Rules and Guidelines, knowing that the calculation of child support under the child support guidelines is presumed valid. (Duckworth v. Duckworth, 2013).
Child custody attorneys understand specifically the distinct concepts of legal and physical custody, as those terms have been refined by caselaw. With you, they attempt to set a legal course that, using the best interests standard, aims to meet their client’s legal objectives on both fronts. Effective Indiana child custody attorneys achieve this in two ways.
First, they summarize or argue in court how the foregoing concepts will or should play out in the client’s case day by day, and why it will work, and why the proposal of the other side will not. Without the attorney and client understanding the above-noted legal concepts, it is almost impossible to reach a set legal objective, particularly in court. Fundamental understandings of the controlling laws and case objectives frame the attorney and client’s thinking and testimony about the relevant facts to present in his or her case in chief. Thus, your child custody attorney will help you understand the law and pull out the key facts to your custody objectives from daily life examples.
In Indiana, a custody attorney does this with his or her client and in court by explaining to the client that it is rare to have joint physical custody, equal days for days. Instead, the typical case is sole physical custody in one parent with 98 overnights of parenting time credit with the other parent, who will pay child support. There is no longer summer abatement child support reduction (In re Paternity of S.G.H., C.M. v. D.M, 2009). Legal custody is more commonly joint, which is keyed to who makes major decisions for the child, such as medical care and whether the children will attend public or private schools.
Ultimately, it is where there is potential conflict that most attorney-client time will be spent before mediation or trial. For example, whether the other parent argues for more than 98 overnights and/or a certain aspect of legal custody, such as religion, will be bifurcated and given to the non-custodial parent. All of this can occur under the trial court judge’s discretion.
Second, the child custody attorney walks through and devises a course with the client, discussing the potential way to get there in “hard” cases by considering the unique tools that may be utilized to reach the custody objective he or she seeks. This may include consulting a host of other professionals, from a Ph.D. clinical child psychologist to perform a custody evaluation, a Guardian Ad Litem or Court Appointed Special Advocate, to private investigators and substance abuse specialists.
For the most part, these professionals and concepts are largely only used by child custody attorneys, which is where there notion of a custody attorney originates. In Indiana high conflict cases, only a very small percentage of attorneys elect to work in this legal depth and accept cases that necessitate these tools. Thus, understanding the concepts and carefully selecting an Indiana custody attorney relevant to the complexity, legal issues, and objectives in the case, is critical.
Remember this attorney will likely help you in future matters with the case as child-related matters are always modifiable until the child is emancipated, turns 18 or 19, or finishes college expenses. So do your homework and select a child custody attorney with whom you are confident, who has the depth of knowledge and requisite skills to help guide you toward your custody objectives, and who is compatible with your expectations of counsel.
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