Indiana limits the situations in which parents can ask the court to modify a child custody order. The parent requesting the modification must show a significant change in life circumstances. He or she must also prove that changing the custody arrangement serves the child’s best interest. 

These are the key facts about child custody modifications in Indiana. 

Change in circumstances

Indiana courts will ensure that the requesting parent must show that a substantial change in one of these areas merits a change in custody: 

  • The child’s age 
  • The wishes of the parents  
  • The wishes of the child if he or she is at least 14 years old 
  • The child’s adjustment to his or her community, school and home 
  • The physical or mental health of the child or a parent 
  • A pattern of violent or neglectful behavior 

A parent can also request a change in custody if someone else has cared for the child for at least six months. The court refers to this third party as the child’s de facto custodian. In each case, the parent must also prove that the child will benefit from the custody modification. 

The modification process

Parents requesting a modification must fill out a separate form for modification of legal custody and modification of parenting time. Parenting time describes the time the child actually spends with each parent while legal custody is the right of each parent to make important decisions for the child, such as education, health care and religious instruction. 

When a parent files this paperwork, the other parent has a chance to respond with his or her own petition. When parents do not agree, the court will hold a hearing so each parent can present evidence supporting his or her case. 

Even when parents agree on the terms of a custody modification, they should seek a court order. Otherwise, the terms of the original custody order remain legally binding and will prevail in the case of a disagreement.