Child Custody in Indiana


Area of Law: 

When a couple divorces and there is a minor child involved, the divorce decree will specify who has physical custody as well as legal custody of the child. Physical custody determines where and with whom the child will live. Legal custody specifies who has the legal right to make important decisions about the child related to issues such as education, religion, medical issues, and discipline. Spouses often reach an agreement regarding child custody on their own, but if they do not, Indiana courts will intervene and establish custody arrangements based on the best interests of the child. For a summary of divorce and child custody law in Indiana, go to


There are typically several different custody arrangements that may be made for children of divorced parents. In most cases, courts will award physical custody to one parent with whom the child will live most of the time. The parent with physical custody, or the custodial parent, often shares legal custody, or the right to make decisions regarding the child, with the non-custodial parent. Many child custody arrangements involve joint custody in which the child spends a relatively equal amount of time with each parent.


According to, when deciding whether to award sole or joint custody, Indiana courts consider various factors, including the following:


  • The age and sex of the child
  • The wishes of the parents
  • The wishes of the child
  • The interaction of the child with the parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interest
  • The child's adjustment to the home, school, and community
  • The mental and physical health of all individuals involved
  • Any history of domestic or family violence


When considering joint custody, Indiana courts will also consider these factors:


  • The fitness and suitability of each parent
  • Whether the parents are willing and able to communicate and cooperate in advancing the child's welfare
  • The wishes of the child
  • Whether the child has a close and beneficial relationship with both parents
  • Whether the parents live in close proximity to each other and plan to continue to do so
  • The nature of the physical and emotional environment in the home of each parent


Indiana courts agree that children should be encouraged by each parent to have a healthy relationship with the other parent. According to Indiana Code 31-17-2.21, if a custodial parent wishes to relocate to another state, he or she must notify the non-custodial parent before moving. According to Indiana law, the custodial parent must provide a “notice of intention to move” to the non-custodial parent via certified mail. Along with the notice, new telephone numbers and addresses must be provided. The relocating parent must give 90 days’ notice to the other parent before making the move. Additionally, a non-custodial parent must be given 60 days to object to the proposed move.


The non-custodial parent has the right to petition the court for a hearing to determine whether it is in the child’s best interest to leave Indiana. If the moving parent can show that there are valid reasons for wanting to leave, the other parent must show why it would not be in the child’s best interest to relocate. The custodial parent’s wish to leave Indiana is not, by itself, enough reason to give the child’s care to the other parent. However, factors such as schooling and close relationships with other relatives and friends can convince the court that the move is not in the child’s best interest. In such a case, the custodial parent can leave, but the child may end up staying in Indiana with the other parent.