Settling Child Custody in Indiana: 4 Steps

In a settlement, parents work together to decide the outcome of their case, often with professional assistance. The alternative is a judge deciding your case in a final custody hearing.

A settlement agreement becomes your final orders if the court decides it meets the child's best interests.

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Settling is recommended because custody orders tend to meet children's and parents' needs better when parents decide them. It's also faster and less expensive than litigating custody.

A complete settlement is when parents compromise on all issues in their case, including their parenting plan, parenting time schedule and child support payments. In a partial settlement, parents agree on some issues and have a judge decide the rest in a final hearing.

Married parents must wait at least 60 days between filing their case and finalizing their settlement.

Check if your country requires you to complete a parent education class before you file for settlement using the following steps.

1. Reach an agreement

You can reach a settlement with the other parent before or after filing a case.

Some parents hire a mediator or lawyers to help with negotiations and paperwork. If you have a particularly complex case, consider collaborative law, in which a team of experts helps you and the other parent reach an agreement.

Parents with straightforward cases who can readily compromise may be able to negotiate an agreement on their own. Always have a legal representative review a settlement before signing.

2. Complete settlement paperwork

If a mediator or attorney helped negotiate your settlement, they will assist you with the following paperwork. If you're tackling paperwork without professional help, ask your court for its specific requirements, and consult resources for self-represented parents.

All settling parents must complete a final hearing waiver, which tells the court you don't want a final custody hearing. Your court's clerk can give you the form.

If you reached an agreement before you open a case, complete the following:

If you reach an agreement after filing your case, you and the other parent must create a settlement document that details custody, parenting time, child support and all other parenting issues you agree on in your case. You can use the Custody X Change parenting plan template, which walks you through each part.

All divorcing parents must also create a proposed decree of dissolution, which explains the divorce issues they agree on, such as division of property.

Your settlement forms must be notarized, so don't sign them until you're with the notary.

3. File your forms

Once your forms are signed by both parents and notarized, you can file them with the court electronically or in person. If you have an attorney, they'll file the forms for you.

You can turn in paperwork to settle at the same time as paperwork to open a case. If you already have a case open, turn in your settlement papers as soon as possible.

Depending on your case and your county, you may have to pay fees to file for settlement.

4. Receive final orders

The judge reviews your settlement to make sure it follows legal requirements and that custody, parenting time and child support agreements are in the child's best interests.

Once approved, final orders are mailed to both parents (or their lawyers), typically within a month.

Keep in mind that divorcing parents can't receive final orders until at least 60 days have passed since opening their case.

After you've settled

The custody journey continues after you receive final orders. Now your responsibilities include:

To do all of this and more, use Custody X Change.

The online app's customizable calendars, parent-to-parent messaging, expense tracker and parenting plan template will make life after settlement as straightforward as they made settlement itself.

Visualize your schedule. Get a written parenting plan. Calculate your parenting time.

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Explore examples of common schedules

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