For many Indiana couples who have decided to end their marriage, issues such as child custody and visitation can arise, sometimes without much warning. For example, a former spouse might receive an attractive job offer in another state. Or a former spouse might be transferred without warning to another jurisdiction. In such cases, the issue of child custody and visitation may need to be revisited.
Other examples of the need to modify a child custody order may be a sudden and disabling illness, harmful behavior by one parent, such as abuse during visitation or persistent alcohol abuse. In all of these cases, one spouse may decide that the court’s original order for child custody must be revised.
Seeking an order for modification
The modification of an order for child custody, like the original order, is governed by Indiana statutes. The parent who wants the custody order to be changed must bring a motion before the court that has jurisdiction over the children. The moving party must prove that a substantial change in circumstances will occur or has occurred and that the best interests of the child will be better served by the requested modification.
In considering the request for a modified order, the court must consider the following factors:
- The age and sex of the child
- The wishes of the child’s parents as expressed in the motion for modification or in opposition to such a motion
- The wishes of the child (this factor is given greater weight if the child is more than 14 years old)
- The nature of the child’s interaction with the custodial parent and with siblings
- How the child has adjusted to their current home, school, and community
- The mental and physical health of all persons involved with the child
- Whether either parent is guilty of domestic violence
The court is also empowered to consider any other factor that is deemed relevant to the child’s best interests.
Consulting a family law attorney
Any divorced parent who is considering bringing a motion to modify an earlier order for child custody may wish to review the matter with an experienced family law attorney. A knowledgeable attorney can evaluate the situation, review relevant evidence and provide an opinion about the likelihood of the motion being granted.