In Indiana, there are two types of “custody” – physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody refers to the physical care of the child. This encompasses who the child primarily lives with and who supervises the child. This is what typically comes to mind when someone thinks of “custody.” Legal custody, on the other hand, refers to the decision-making for the child. Decisions regarding the child’s education, religion, and medical care all fall under legal custody.
Joint legal custody means that both parents have an equal say in making big decisions for the child. It is important to note that a parent may have joint legal custody without having physical custody. Let’s say Mom has physical custody, so the kids stay with her most of the time. Mom and Dad can still share legal custody, so Dad still has a say in making important decisions for the children.
A court can award joint legal custody if it finds that such an arrangement is in the best interests of the child(ren). When making this decision, judges will consider the following factors:
(1) the fitness and suitability of each of the persons awarded joint custody;
(2) whether the persons awarded joint custody are willing and able to communicate and cooperate in advancing the child’s welfare;
(3) the wishes of the child, with more consideration given to the child’s wishes if the child is at least fourteen (14) years of age;
(4) whether the child has established a close and beneficial relationship with both of the persons awarded joint custody;
(5) whether the persons awarded joint custody:
a. live in close proximity to each other; and
b. plan to continue to do so; and
(6) the nature of the physical and emotional environment in the home of each of the persons awarded joint custody.
This McNeelyLaw LLP publication should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion of any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult your own lawyer on any specific legal questions you may have concerning your situation.