How to establish child custody in Indiana

December 19, 2023

Navigating child custody arrangements can be a challenging process for both the parents and

children involved. From filing your initial petition to taking your case to court, every step requires

careful consideration and strategic planning as this process has significant implications for the

future of your family.

How to establish child custody in Indiana?

In Indiana, there is no law that automatically passes on the child’s custody to the mother.

Instead, the custody of the children is decided based on the arrangement that aligns with the

children’s best interests. Some of the factors that influence this decision include the wishes/​desires of the child involved, the fitness of each parent to provide adequate care for the

child, as well as the relationship between the child and the parent. The general custody process

in Indiana can be broken down into five steps.

Filing a Petition

The first step in the child custody process is filing a petition to open a case with the appropriate

trial court. In order to file the petition, you will first have to fill out the petition form that can be

provided by the court or found through online resources. This form will generally ask you to

provide information such as your background, employment, living situation, as well as details

about the other parent and your children. In order to complete this step, you will also have to

submit supporting documents and list out the specific custody arrangement that you think would

be best.

Serving the Other Parent

After filing the petition, the next step is serving the other parent with a formal notice of the

petition as well as any supporting documents that need to be included. The other parent may

respond with a counter petition if they want the arrangements to be done differently or they may

also ask to proceed with a settlement that occurs outside of the court.

Discovery Process

After both parents are aware that a case has been filed, the discovery process begins which

includes the lawyers of the respective parties exchange evidence as well as information that

would be utilized in the court hearings, and to ultimately come to the final custody arrangement.


The mediation process involves judges ordering parents to work with a mediator who is an

expert in family law. The goal of mediation is to come to a compromise on the terms of the

custody arrangement. This process is required because it allows the parents to have a chance

to reach a settlement without having to engage in further court proceedings. The mediators in

these cases may be provided by the court or may be privately hired by the parties involved.

Court Hearing

If the mediation proves unsuccessful, the next step is to have hearings with the court in order

to determine a finalized custody arrangement. At the hearing, the judge listens to each parent’s

respective viewpoints and arguments, analyze the evidence and information provided, and

gauge the perspective of the child or children involved. The judge will then come to a final

decision on the custody arrangement through one or multiple court sessions.

At Ball Eggleston, we recognize that this process can prove to be complex and challenging. Our

team of lawyers are committed and dedicated to providing you with the necessary support and

guidance throughout the entirety of this legal process, as well as help you achieve a resolution

that prioritizes the well-being of both you and your children.