How does the court determine child custody and visitation in Indiana?
CustodyThe most common custody arrangement selected by the court is with both parents having legal custody and one parent having primary physical custody. Joint custody means the parents work together and consult with each other when it comes to major decision making for the children (i.e, religion, health care, education, etc.). Meanwhile, the children live with the parent having primary physical custody (custodial parent) and visit with the other parent (non-custodial parent). The courts prefer this arrangement if possible. Sometimes the court will award one parent sole legal custody meaning that the non-custodial parent is not involved in major decision making.
VisitationThe courts will usually grant the non-custodial parent visitation in accordance with the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines (See http://www.in.gov/judiciary/rules/parenting/). Under the guidelines the non-custodial parent has the children least every other weekend from 6 P.M. Friday to 6 P.M. Sunday, with a rotation of traditionally celebrated holidays (Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years, Thanksgiving, birthdays, etc.), all or a portion of the children's spring breaks and a prolonged uninterrupted visitation period in the summer. In addition, weekly Wednesday evening visitations are frequently awarded to non-custodial parents.
The guidelines are the minimum meaning that the court may grant more visitation if appropriate. The courts also encourage the parents to reach a visitation arrangement through which both parents share the children. Time sharing can be varied as the families that use it. There is no "right" parenting schedule that fits all families or all age groups.
Restricting VisitationOccasionally the court may restrict or suspend the non-custodial parent's visitation where the presence of the non-custodial parent in a child's life places that child in clear and present risk of truly serious injury (sexual or physical abuse of a child, drug abuse, etc.). Again, it is very rare that the court goes to this extreme.