Modifying child custody in Indiana involves a two-pronged test. First of all, there must be a substantial change in one of a number of factors provided by statute that the court may take into consideration. Those factors are:
1) The age and sex of the child.
2) The wishes of the child’s parent or parents.
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) The interaction and interrelationship of the child with:
A) the child’s parent or parents;
B) the child’s sibling; and
C) any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests.
5) The child’s adjustment to the child’s:
B) school; and
6) The mental and physical health of all individuals involved.
7) Evidence of a pattern of domestic or family violence by either parent.
8) Evidence that the child has been cared for by a de facto custodian.
If a substantial change can be shown in one of these eight factors, the first prong of the custody modification test has been met.
Secondly, the petitioner must indicate that it would be in the best interests of the child to have custody changed. The default rule is to maintain stability for the child, thus, custody changes have a high burden to prove. Yet, if the petitioner can show that the custodial parent’s actions are indicia of neglect, instability, inability to provide for the child and a number of other actions, the best interests of the child prong may be met.
While changes in custody are often difficult to achieve, they are far from impossible.