As we all know, life happens, and circumstances change. That custody order you once had may seem to become impractical as time goes on. Maybe you moved to Indiana to be closer to your child and now you want more time. Or maybe you were once on hard times but now feel you are able to offer your child more than when the custody order was put in place. Whatever the reason may be, Indiana has established a specific statutory code to deal with modification of custody. This blog provides a brief overview of modification of a custody order and the process behind same.
In Indiana, you must establish two separate things in order to modify your current custody order. First, you must show that a modification of custody is in the child’s best interests.1 Second, you must establish there has been a substantial change in circumstances to one of the following factors: “(1) The age and sex of the child; (2) the wishes of the parents; (3) the wishes of the child, with more consideration given to the child’s wishes if the child is at least fourteen (14) years of age; (4) the interaction and interrelationship of the child with: (A) the child’s parents; (B) the child’s siblings; and (C) any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interest; (5) the child’s adjustment to the child’s: (A) home; (B) school; and (C) community; (6)the mental and physical health of all individuals involved; (7) evidence of a pattern of domestic or family violence by either parent.”2
As you may have noticed, there is no specific time period that an individual must wait before seeking a custody modification. However, this does not mean an individual will always have grounds or a basis to seek a modification of custody. This is due to the remaining language found in Indiana Code section 31-17-2-21. Specifically, Indiana Code section 31-17-2-21 provides that “[t]he court shall not hear evidence on a matter occurring before the last custody proceeding between the parties unless the matter relates to a change in the factors relating to the best interests of the child.” In short, this means that the basis for seeking a custody modification cannot be based on circumstances or evidence that was presented at a prior hearing. Instead, there must be something new that has occurred justify modification of custody.
It can be tricky for individuals in custody modifications to prove it is in the “best interests of the child” and show there has been a “substantial change” to one of the factors above. Determining the best approach in accomplishing this can be tough due to the fact sensitive nature of these types of cases. However, it is a requirement in order to achieve modification as the statute puts a requirement on judges to consider all of the factors listed above. One important thing to keep in mind is that the basis for your modification cannot be based on evidence that occurred before the current custody order that is in place.
Child custody modifications can be a trying time for individuals. These types of proceedings are extremely fact sensitive, leading to confusion among many. Not to mention, these are very personal and emotional matters for people. When issues become so serious that modification of custody may be necessary, it may be helpful to seek the assistance of an attorney to help navigate through the process. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. attorneys practice throughout the State of Indiana and understand the significance of custody modification and planning for the 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.