There are two (2) types of custody placements-initial and modification. Initial custody is determined at an early hearing-for example, a hearing to establish paternity or a final dissolution hearing in a divorce. Any change or amendment to custody after that initial custody determination is known as a custody modification.
Initial custody and custody modification are based on several factors, and is based upon the best interests standard (i.e. what is in the best interest of the children). Other factors to be considered include the age of the child, the wishes of the parent(s), interaction with other family members, and adjustment to school/community1.
A custody modification is able to be sought by a parent when there has been a substantial change in one of the custody factors. There are several “biggie” events that may trigger a custody modification.
1) A pattern of individual events.
These are the issues where, if isolated and occurring once, would not likely meet the definition of substantial change, but if a proven, continued pattern exists, may be grounds for modification. For example, denying a parent parenting time consistently.
2) “Smoking Gun” Event.
These are issues that are so serious, that they show there is a serious problem, and a change of custody may be needed. For example, a parent is arrested for felony drug matters.
Relocation is another common area of family law that corresponds with custody modification. Especially if one parent is moving several hours away, and the child is bonded in the community with friends and family, one parent may seek to modify custody based on the relocation.
One important consideration is that substantial change can also be good. For example, if the non-custodial parent, who has struggled with drug addiction, gets sober, they may be entitled to unsupervised or more parenting time. However, a change in the non-custodial parent’s life, even for the better, may not always be grounds for change of custody, as it may not be in the child’s best interest for custody to be modified, even though the parent has improved his/her life.
We hope that this blog has been helpful in exploring some common types of custody modification events. This blog is not intended to be legal advice. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. practices throughout the state of Indiana. This blog post was written by attorney, Jessica Keyes.
- See Ind. Code 31-17-2-8 for custody factors