Even today, with all of the shifting roles parents play in a child’s life, the stereotype persists that fathers are incapable of properly caring for a child without the assistance of the mother or other family members. This dynamic can lead to the mother receiving preference when it comes to parenting time awards, as judges could follow the line of thought that children are primarily better off with the mother, and the father’s contribution only requires weekly or bimonthly interactions to be fulfilled. However, fathers are now much more involved in their children’s lives across the board, and a significant number of fathers are the parent staying home to provide childcare, while the mother is the household breadwinner. The conflict between assumptions about a father’s role and the reality of what fathers now want and expect can result in complicated divorce issues. One Indiana state senator is hoping to change this situation with the introduction of a new bill that would create a presumption of joint custody and equal parenting time in child custody matters. A discussion of the current law in Indiana and how this change would impact custody orders going forward will follow below.
Current Child Custody Law
Indiana does not have a preference in favor of either parent in child custody decisions, nor does it have a presumption that parenting will be equal and shared, as other states do. This means that one parent could receive the bulk of the parenting time even if the division of responsibility was much more equal during the marriage, and the statute directly states that joint custody does not mean equal parenting time will be awarded. This drastic change would not be in the child’s best interests, and significant relationships with both parents is important to a child’s development, generally speaking. Instead of starting with a particular custody arrangement, courts look to the best interests of the child to determine how parenting time and decision-making responsibilities will be divided. In other words, judges have broad discretion with child custody, and use a number of factors to assess what the best arrangement would be, such as the child’s relationship with each parent, the child’s adjustment to the current home, school and community, and the parents’ wishes. Joint custody depends upon the parents agreeing to the structure and their ability to work together to promote the child’s well-being, but if a parent receives less parenting time, the law says he/she is entitled to reasonable visitation.
Impact of Proposed Law
Parents genuinely want substantial involvement in their child’s lives, and passing a law that makes it much more likely a parent will see their child more frequently will help see this desire into reality. The proposed law specifically provides for alternate weeks with each parent, unless the court approves an alternative proposed by the parents. Instead of relegating non-custodial parents to weekends and a few weekdays, the proposed law would put them on equal footing, which would support a strong connection with parents post-divorce, but would require the parents to cooperate more on childrearing since each would have equal input into the child’s daily routine. As with any child custody issue, finding the routine that is best for the child should be the priority, so parents must explore whether alternative weeks is manageable and if other schedules may be better, especially if the child is very young, or at the opposite end, an older teenager.
Seek Legal Advice
The unknowns of child custody can be scary, and if you are worried about sharing time with your former spouse, speak with Christopher L. Arrington, P.C. about your legal rights. Protecting your child is always the priority, and our Brownsburg divorce attorney is ready to help you find the solution your family needs. Contact the office today at (317) 745-4494 to schedule an appointment.