Under Indiana child custody modification laws, there are four general factual situations that may rise to a level to permit a child custody modification showing in the trial evidence. The reasons to modify child custody are common sense and reflect basic events in life. In all cases, to modify physical child custody, the moving party (i.e., the one who files the motion to modify custody with the trial court) must show a substantial change in factual circumstances and that the proposed modification is in the child’s best interests.
The first situation of a modification of child custody, although not the most common, is where a custodial parent is actually or effectively unavailable to provide care for the child. Unfortunately, a more common problem is mental health issues and/or addiction. To the extent the parent cannot take care of himself or herself in such a situation, it is obvious that it impacts the ability to provide primary care for the child. Typically, this type of case is slow in building to a benchmark moment, such as being terminated from employment, or an auto accident. That benchmark moment is when the non-custodial parent should consider or file for a modification of child custody. Related is the acute onset of a severe physical or mental health problem.
The second and perhaps most common basis for child custody modification is a gradual change in circumstances with the parties and children under all of the factors that the court can consider, effectively anything in the child’s best interests. Individually, these subtle to not-so-subtle changes when added up, may equate a substantial change in circumstances such that it is in the best interests of children to have custody modified. For parents to notice these changes, a good diary is helpful to track changes over time. An experienced child custody attorney can help you determine what is useful from such journal entries.
The third of reasons to modify child custody in Indiana occurs, or can occur, when a parent relocates. As a general matter, the reason for the relocation and distance carry a lot of weight in how trial courts weigh a custody modification based on relocation, particularly if the relocation is distant or out of state.
The fourth and final basis for Indiana custody modification is where a child has been left in the care of a third party, such that the child has bonded with this third party and/or the de facto custodian; and to break this bond by separating them would be harmful to the child over the child’s lifetime (Paternity of T.P., 2010). Again, the best interests of the child are the trial court’s overall focus, although it is important to note that natural parents have a fundamental and constitutional right to raise their children.
If you are considering a custody modification, it is important to consider your reasons to modify child custody and contact an attorney who can help you through the legal process.
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