Ideally, divorcing parents will work out a custody and visitation schedule for their children together. If that’s possible, the judge never has to get involved with it.
However, what if that doesn’t happen? What factors will the judge consider important in your custody case? Here’s a general guide:
1. The child’s preferences
Indiana courts typically allow children 11 years and older to state their preferences about custody. (This does not mean that a child’s preference will automatically sway the judge, however.)
2. The child’s safety and wellbeing
Anything that might put your child physically at risk or negatively affect their mental health has to be a significant factor in the judge’s decision. For example, if either you or your spouse has a drinking problem or a history of domestic violence, that could affect the outcome of the case dramatically.
3. The child’s other relationships
A parent’s ability to nurture the other healthy relationships their child has is always an important factor to the court. Judges generally want reassurance that the custodial parent will make an effort to help the child retain a relationship with the noncustodial parent and other relatives.
4. The child’s usual routine
If a child is thriving in his or her particular environment and routine, judges are reluctant to disrupt that. They may give preference to the parent that is the child’s usual primary caretaker — especially if that will allow the child to remain in the same home, general area or school.
Overall, the essential focus in any custody case will always be whatever is in the best interests of the child. Your attorney can help you build a strong case for the custody arrangement you’re seeking.