We Can Help !

Physical and Legal Custody in Indiana

For many parents, child custody and parenting time problems create a great amount of unease. If you are in the metro Indianapolis area or elsewhere in Central Indiana, call JR Emerson, an Indianapolis child custody attorney, to learn how your relationship with your children can be protected in spite of the stress of a divorce.

Child Custody & Parenting Time (317) 969-8000.

Basically in Indiana courts will resolve any dispute about child custody and parenting time according to the best interests of the children involved. Any disagreement as to custody and parenting time ought not to be seen as a competition between the parents, but as a dispute as to what is best for the children. You may be able to reduce your child's stress and confusion during times of conflict simply by reaching a respectful agreement with your spouse. I will work to achieve positive results in your favor through negotiation or mediation. At the same time, in many high-conflict child custody or parenting time (commonly known as visitation) disagreements are likely to require litigation, such as situations involving: Alcoholism Chemical Dependency Domestic Violence Sexual Abuse Mental Illness Other indications of unfitness on the part of either parent Indiana courts generally presume that a stable and secure relationship with both parents is in the best interests of a child. However, any of the above circumstances can justify limited or highly conditioned access of a troubled parent to his or her own child. That is why it is important for you to contact an Indianapolis child custody attorney.
Legal Custody and Physical Custody in Indianapolis

Custody has two parts. Legal Custody, the legal right of each parent to make decisions for their child and Physical Custody, which is where the child will live for the majority of the time. Parenting Time (visitation) may hinge upon a number of factors, including who has been the primary caregiver, the parents' work schedules, the distance between each parent’s home, and the children's wishes (if age appropriate). Generally parenthood is a permanent relationship and a lifetime commitment.

What is Joint Legal Custody?

Legal custody refers to the right and the obligation to make decisions about a child's upbringing. A parent with legal custody can make decisions about issues such as schooling, religion, and medical care.

Joint Legal Custody in Indianapolis Indiana

Most parents in Indiana share joint legal custody of their children. When both parents have joint legal custody, both parents have the legal right to make decisions for their children. This includes the right to make religious decisions, education decisions, and to give legal consent. Joint legal custody differs from joint physical custody. Joint physical custody means that the children live with each parent 50% of the time.

Even though the majority of parents share joint legal custody of their children, there are some situations where joint legal custody is not recommended. Joint legal custody is not typically recommended where one parent has been abusive or neglectful of the spouse or children. In such situations, most would agree that it is better for one parent to have sole legal custody of the children.

What is Physical Custody?

Physical custody means that a parent has the right to have a child live with him or her.

Joint Physical Custody

Some parents share joint physical custody, and the children live with each parent 50% of the time. Such an arrangement allows both parents to have maximum parenting time with their children while parenting separately. Joint physical custody works best when both parents live close to each other.

For such an arrangement to work parents need to live in relative close to each other. This is particularly important if children are school age, where both parents need to live within a commutable distance to the child's school, for such an arrangement to work.

Joint physical custody of children also works best if children are a little older.

What if a Child is Very Young?

Where a child is still very young, the courts may prefer for one parent to have primary physical custody, while the other parent has liberal parenting time. For joint physical custody to work, parents also need to be able to co-parent effectively.

Effective co-parenting requires parents to be able to get along well, respect each other, and be able to set and abide by boundaries. Where families have high conflict or where there are accusations of abuse or neglect, joint physical custody is not recommended.

Primary Physical Custody

Primary physical custody is a term used to describe the parent with whom a child spends or lives the majority of time.

Primary Physical Custody in Indianapolis

Typically when Indiana parents divorce, one parent has primary physical custody of the children. Primary physical custody means that the children live with one parent more than 50% of the time. This parent is known as the custodial parent, while the other parent is known as the non-custodial parent. In such a situation, the non-custodial parent often maintains joint legal custody of the children, even though the children live with the non-custodial parent less often.

What's the Difference Between Visitation and Parenting Time?

When one parent has primary physical custody of the children, the other parent is typically granted parenting time. In the past this was known as "visitation." Indiana changed the name of the time the non-custodial parent spends with the children from "visitation" to "parenting time" to reflect that the time a parent spends with a child should be time spent parenting. The change in the name also reflects the idea that both parents fill vital roles as parents to their children regardless of who the children live with the majority of the time.

How Do You Modify Child Custody?

In order for a court to modify a child custody order that court must find that the modification is in the best interest of the child AND if there is a substantial change in circumstances.

A High Standard

Modifying a child custody order is a very high standard due to the permanent nature of the order and to prevent the child from going back and forth between parental homes. The parent seeking to modify child custody has the burden of proof. A court may consider events that transpired since the petition to modify child custody was filed. Additionally, a court should provide as much continuity and stability in the life of the child as is possible.

Terminating Visitation

If a party seeks to terminate visitation, that party has the burden of proving that the child’s physical health or emotional development is endangered.

Frequently Asked Child Custody Questions

My Spouse Will Fight Me for Custody of our Child(ren).  What Will the Court Look at to Determine Custody?

The Court will look at the best interests of child in order to decide custody.  The Indiana Code specifies what the Court can consider, which include:

  1. the age and sex of the child;
  2. the parents' wishes;
  3. the child's wishes, especially if the child is at least fourteen;
  4. the child's interactions with the parents, the siblings and others;
  5. the child's adjustment to home, school and community;
  6. the mental and physical health of all individuals involved;
  7. the stability in the home, income, housing, and child care; and
  8. evidence of a pattern of domestic violence by either parent.

If my spouse gets primary custody how much visitation will the I get?

You and your spouse can reach any agreement that you wish.  If you want to share the kids equally, then you will both need to make that part of your final divorce agreement.  However, if you two are unable to agree to a visitation schedule most courts will order the parties to follow the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines.  The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines are Indiana’s rule book, it defines how most facets of visitation occur.  Generally, the non-custodial parent will exercise parenting time every other week-end, and one night during the week.  While parenting time during holidays is split between the parents.  If there are issues of substance abuse, domestic abuse, or something else that Court finds would be harmful to the child, the Court may place restrictions upon the non-custodial parent's parenting time.

Contact us to learn more 317-969-8000

If you have questions about parenting time, legal or physical custody in Indiana, contact Indianapolis child custody attorney, JR Emerson.

Child Custody

For many parents, child custody and parenting time problems create a great amount of unease. Basically in Indiana courts will resolve any dispute about child custody and parenting time according to the best interests of the children involved.

Child Support

Child support comes with rights and responsibilities.  Normally the non-custodial parent pays the parent with primary physical custody a monthly amount which is more or less fixed by the Indiana Child Support Guidelines.

Division of Assets

Indiana law creates a presumption that each party to a marriage is entitled to 50% of the marital property. This presumption can vary, but in most cases, each party is awarded 50% of the marital property and 50% of the marital debt.


Whether you are contemplating divorce, or been arrested or injured you are probably scared, unsure what will come next and what to do.  Give me a call. We will sit down, go over your options and work to find a way to move forward. Call me or another attorney. But call someone and get the help you deserve.

- JR Emerson, Attorney

I am here to help. I am not here to judge. For nearly 20 years I have been helping people in difficult situations and I would be happy to speak with you to see how I might be able to help you too.

- Jill Bracken-Emerson, Attorney


Schedule a Consultation Now!

If you need help we are happy to talk to you at no charge.  Give us a call or click the button to make an appointment.

About Us

Our office is located in the Carmel Art's District at the corner of Rangeline and Main Street.

1 S Rangeline Rd, Suite 400

Carmel, IN 46032

Phone: 1-317-969-8000

Email: Info@EmersonLawLLC.com

Our Services

Our attorneys represent people in need of assistance with personal injuries, car accidents, divorce, family law and DUI/OVWI matters.  Our clients typically live in counties throughout central Indiana including, Hamilton County, Boone County, Marion County, Hendricks County and Johnson County.  Please contact our office to learn how we can help.

Find Us


Copyright © 2012-2020, Emerson Law L.L.C.

The laws governing legal advertising in the state of Indiana require the following statement in any publication of this kind: Advertising Material. This website is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice, nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.

This site makes use of licensed stock photography. All photography is for illustrative purposes only and all persons depicted are models unless otherwise noted.

The attorneys at Emerson Law LLC represent individuals and families throughout Indiana.  Our attorneys use their courtroom skill and experience to also assist men and women in family law, personal injury, car accident lawyers and criminal law matters including divorce, child custody modification, and child support modification in Marion County, Hendricks County, Boone County, Hamilton County, Hancock County, Madison County, Johnson County.  Cities in which we practice generally include: Zionsville, Lebanon, Whitestown, Carmel, West Clay, Westfield, Noblesville, Fishers, Lawrence, Beech Grove, Speedway, Greenwood, Southport, Franklin, Plainfield, Avon and Danville, Indiana.