Trying to get custody of your child or children can sometimes seem like an uphill battle. The saying “two steps forward, one step back” could describe what you’re going through. Seeking custody of your children is very complicated and there are many laws that apply. Unfortunately, child custody fights can become very divisive and emotionally draining. Often, people will lie and make accusations to try and gain the upper-hand. Trying to help the judge understand your particular situation can be especially difficult because many different parties can be involved, like Guardian-ad-Litems (GALs), social service agencies, the court system, and of course the parties seeking custody.
The short answer is that you have to show the judge that it is in the child’s best interests for you to have custody. Pretty much everything in a child custody case revolves around trying to answer this question, in one form or another.
Courts take into account virtually every possible factor when trying to decide a child’s best interest–and unlike in the past, there is no presumption for or against either parent (states used to, and some still do, have a “tender years” presumption that mothers are better custodian for younger children). Indiana law lays out several, non-exhaustive factors that courts consider, such as: the age and sex of the child; the wishes of the child’s parents or parents; the wishes of the child, especially if the child is fourteen (14) or older; the interaction and interrelationship of the child with the child’s parents or parents, the child’s siblings, or anyone else that might significantly impact the child’s best interests; the child’s adjustment to the child’s home, school, and community; the mental and physical health of all people involved; evidence of a pattern of domestic or family violence; if a child has been cared for by a “de facto” custodian”; a power of attorney the child’s parent or a de facto custodian of the child.
It is a child custody lawyer’s job to understand all important facts, figure out their legal implications, and then present them in the best light to the judge. In contested custody disputes, it’s not just explaining why you should be the custodial parent. It can also be why the other party should not be the custodian.
Sometimes, a person can be the de facto custodian of a child. In order to determine if such a situation applies, courts will consider: the wishes of the child’s de facto custodian; the extent to which the child has been cared for, nurtured, and supported by the de facto custodian; the intent of the child’s parent in placing the child with the de facto custodian; the circumstances under which the child was allowed to remain in the custody of the de facto custodian (this also includes several sub-factors). If a court decides that somebody is a de facto custodian, the court will make that person a party to the custody proceedings. In that case, the court will use the “best interests” analysis to decide custody. And if the court decides it is in the best interests of the child for the de facto custodian to have custody, then the de facto custodian becomes the legal custodian of the child.
Certain parts of Indiana law might also apply if a parent has been convicted of a crime that involves domestic or family violence.
It is very important that you have an experienced child custody lawyer on your side that knows the law, has practiced in this area for decades, and can work with you to do what’s best for your child. Contact Indianapolis family law attorney Randall Parr to begin the custody process.