One of the more difficult aspects of a divorce is the prospect of having to share custody of the kids. One of the reasons why parents have difficulty coming to terms with this is because they have seen dramatizations of television and in the news in which parents have been deprived of seeing their kids. They worry that this may happen to them.
The truth is that judges nowadays tend to award joint custody to both parents whenever possible. They do so because they believe that’s what gives way to their continued positive development.
Judges condition their ultimate decision on another factor, though, which is the child’s best interest. Indiana Family Law and Juvenile Law Section 31-14-13-2 describes what factors a judge weighs when determining what option might be in the best interest of the child.
What Indiana judges weigh in making best interest determinations
The Court will weigh a few different details about the child when deciding what custody arrangement may be in their best interest:
- Their gender and age
- The propensity of the child to be able to adjust to a new community, school or home
- How well the child gets along with their siblings, parents and anyone else with whom they might come in contact if a different living arrangement were implemented
- What the child’s custodial preferences are (especially if they’re 14 or over)
There are also certain parental-oriented factors that the Court will consider when deciding which custodial arrangement might be in your child’s best interest, including:
- Any proof of who’s been the de facto custodial parent
- Parental custodial preferences
- Whether there’s evidence presented that suggests that either parent has engaged in domestic violence
- Each parent’s physical or mental health
As with any litigated matter, you have the right to present arguments in court as to why you believe that a judge should award you sole custody or more custody than your co-parent. You and your co-parent can also reach an out-of-court settlement instead of having the judge decide custody on your behalf. They will check whatever negotiated settlement that you came up with to affirm that it’s in your child’s best interest. It can be helpful to have an objective party review agreement’s merits.