There have been many times throughout my career that I have heard people use the term legal custody. What exactly does the term legal custody mean under Indiana law? Under Indiana law, legal custody gives one or both parents the, “authority and responsibility for the major decisions concerning the child’s upbringing, including the child’s education, health care, and religious training.” I.C. 31-9-2-67
There is a big difference between legal custody and physical custody. Physical custody, “means the physical care and supervision of a child.” Essentially where does the child live and go to school. It is quite possible that you can share legal custody as well as physical custody (which is more or less shared parenting time) I.C. 31-17-2-13.
The sharing of joint custody is not for everyone. As the Indiana Code 31-17-2-15 states:
Sec. 15. In determining whether an award of joint legal custody under section 13 of this chapter would be in the best interest of the child, the court shall consider it a matter of primary, but not determinative, importance that the persons awarded joint custody have agreed to an award of joint legal custody. The court shall also consider:
(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.
Often times one of the most overlooked provisions of this statute seems to be the section that deals whether or not the parents can cooperate in achieving what is the best for the child. Joint legal custody does require a high degree of cooperation if both parents are going to be truly involved in the decision making process in regards to the child’s upbringing.
The Law Office of Jeffery M. Haupt is located in South Bend, Indiana and helps people handle family law issues such as divorce, parenting time, child support, paternity, child custody and criminal matters such as DUI/OWI, drug offenses, traffic offenses, etc. The information in this blog should only be used for educational purposes and not be construed as legal advice. Nothing in this blog creates an attorney-client relationship between me and any readers of this blog. No attorney-client relationship is created until you have a document from me saying so. DO NOT POST ABOUT CASE PARTICULARS IN THE COMMENT SECTION.