Saturday, January 16, 2010

Indiana Child Custody Law - Joint Custody as Sharing

I keep looking for better definitions of joint custody in Indiana. Better meaning a clear, concise explanation distinguishing joint from sole custody. So far, Finnerty v. Clutter (Ind: Court of Appeals 2009) has the best (and the latest)

Having determined that the parties have joint legal custody, we conclude that Indiana Code Section 31-17-2-17, on which Mother relies, is inapplicable. We clarified in Gonzalez v. Gonzalez, 893 N.E.2d 333, 336 (Ind. Ct. App. 2008), that "custodian" in the context of Indiana Code Section 31-17-2-17 refers to the legal custodian, not the physical custodian.[1] Indiana Code Section 31-17-2-17, upon which Mother relies, applies to instances in which one parent has legal custody of the child rather than where the parties have joint legal custody.[2] See 14 Ind. Practice Series, Family Law § 8:57 (discussing joint legal custody). Thus, Mother's argument that she, as physical custodian, has authority "to determine the children's religious upbringing" fails. Appellant's Reply Br. p. 1.

"Joint legal custody" means "that the persons awarded joint custody will share authority and responsibility for the major decisions concerning the child's upbringing, including the child's education, health care, and religious training." Ind. Code § 31-9-2-67 (emphasis added). Because Father and Mother have joint legal custody, Father and Mother share authority and responsibility for decisions regarding the children's religious training.

I want to point out that joint custody is not shared custody - there is no physical sharing of a child. Joint custody has one parent with physical custody. See my Defining Joint Custody in Indiana for more details on this point. Joint custody does not mean more physical interaction with the children than sole custody bu tonly a sharing of authority and responsibilities in the child's upbringing.

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