Indiana Child Custody Modification
How to Modify Child Custody in Indiana
When you and your child's life has experienced a substantial change, it may be time to modify your current custody plan. Our Carmel modification attorneys can assist our clients with modifying child custody plans to reflect the changing needs of their child. Our team at Hollingsworth Roberts Means in Carmel and Indianapolis can offer you support through the modification process and resolve disputes that arise from the other parent.
Learn more about:
- How child custody is decided in Indiana
- Can custody orders be modified after it's final?
- What is a substantial change?
- Can my ex-spouse and I agree to modify child custody?
- What happens if the other parent does not agree to change custody?
- Before I seek a modification, what should I consider?
How Is Child Custody Determined in Indiana?
When children are involved in divorce or separation, child custody must be arranged. It can be agreed to by the parties in a settlement or determined by the court after a hearing. The court must consider the best interests of the children when determining custody. When a settlement is reached by both parents, the court must still approve the agreement to ensure it places the child’s best interests first.
If you are not pleased with the custody order and wish to modify the terms, you can bring the case forward in court. Be sure to follow the legal guidelines in Indiana State law. Also, provide evidence to support your petition, showing why it would be in the child's best interests to have the custody matter modified.
Keep in mind there are two forms of custody: physical and legal. A party may request to modify either physical custody, legal custody, or both. When a party requests a modification of custody, the Court must find that both elements of the applicable statute have been satisfied. This can be a difficult burden for the requesting party to meet. For instance, a change in the non-custodial parent’s circumstances is not a substantial and continuing change so as to warrant a modification of custody. So a change in the non-custodial parent’s circumstances – better job, better home, more stable overall – will not in and of itself be sufficient to modify custody.
With respect to legal custody, a modification from joint legal custody to sole legal custody may be appropriate if it is shown there joint has been a breakdown in communications between the parents such that they can no longer communicate with one another to make the child-related decisions. The breakdown in communication can involve verbally or electronically abusive comments, or could simply be a failure of one parent to participate in decision-making that negatively impacts the child (e.g. missed sign-up deadlines).
Modification of a court custody order requires two things, though:
- Child’s benefit: The alteration you want cannot harm or inconvenience your child. Example: You cannot ask to stop paying child support if that would mean that your child goes hungry.
- Significant change: The original circumstances approved by the court’s original order need to change drastically. Example: You were ordered to pay child support because you make much more than your ex-spouse but an unforeseen job loss has rendered your income null. (See below for more information.)
Substantial Change in Circumstances Custody
What precisely constitutes a "substantial change" is a challenging issue for individuals and courts to assess. Custody cases are usually very complex and the factors that may lead a parent to seek a modification of custody are extensive. Common situations include allegations of physical or mental abuse, significant changes in the financial situation of the custodial parent, health issues of the parent or child, a contention that the home environment provided by the custodial parent is unsafe, or the relocation of the custodial parent.
Can I Agree with My Ex-Spouse to Modify Custody?
The easiest way to modify child custody is by agreement. This occurs when the parties reach a mutual decision that changing custody from one parent to the other is in the best interests of the child. In these circumstances, the parties would first enter into an agreement providing for the modification of custody, then that agreement would be filed with the court for review and approval. Even if the parties agree to a modification, the court may choose to hold a hearing so the parties can explain why they believe modification is in the child's best interests. It will be beneficial to consult with your Carmel child custody lawyer to ensure that the entire process runs seamlessly.
What If My Ex-Spouse Does Not Agree to Change Custody?
Custody is often modified when one parent does not believe it is in the best interests of the child for the other parent to have custody. The party seeking the change of custody will file a petition with the court alleging that there has been a substantial change in circumstances that warrants a modification of the court's prior custody order. The court will then schedule a hearing where both parents will be able to present the necessary evidence to support their respective positions and modification request.
What Should I Consider Before Seeking a Modification of Custody?
If a custody modification is contested (meaning the other parent does not agree), then the parent seeking the change should be prepared for what will likely be a contentious hearing. Custody modification proceedings almost always involve allegations that the other parent is not suitable to be provided with more time or maintain the extent of time that they currently have. As a result, the decision to seek a modification of child custody must be evaluated with the utmost concern for the emotional impact on the parents and child.
The most common arguments that successful modifications rely upon involve the safety and/or well-being of the child in question. The most extreme cases involve abuse of a child. Also, a showing that the health of the child has been compromised can support a request to modify custody. Less dramatic factors, such as a significant decline in academic performance, can also be persuasive.
Custody modifications are not readily granted as courts prefer to see custodial arrangements with children to remain consistent. If you are considering requesting a custody modification, you would be well advised to seek the assistance of counsel specializing in family law.
Retain a Indianapolis Child Custody Lawyer Today
If you need to have your child custody arrangement modified or are seeking to protect the order from the other parent’s petitions, be sure to call on Hollingsworth Roberts Means for support. Our team of seasoned and compassionate Carmel child custody attorneys is fully prepared to help with your case. We can use our years of insight to resolve your case in a favorable manner!
Ready to talk about your child custody needs? Contact our Carmel, IN child custody modification lawyers to discuss your best options. We can advocate for clients in Carmel, Indianapolis, and throughout all of Central Indiana!