Indiana Family Law on Domestic Violence

Domestic violence affects many parts of the victims' lives. Divorce is often a necessary step in leaving an abusive spouse. Indiana has criminal laws, civil protection order laws, and family or domestic relations laws to protect the victims of domestic violence, including the children who've experienced domestic violence. The family laws include statutes on divorce and child custody when there has been domestic violence.

Restraining and Protection Orders During Divorce

Either spouse in a divorce proceeding can ask the court for a temporary restraining order as part of a temporary maintenance, child support, child custody, or possession of property request. This restraining order prevents anyone from transferring, hiding, or disposing of property except as needed for living or business. Either party can also get temporary possession of property. The temporary restraining order may be granted by affidavit or written statement if the court finds the party would be injured if the order isn’t granted immediately.

If you experienced domestic violence during your marriage or after separation, you may want to request a protective order during the divorce case. The legal procedures for getting a protection order are the same as from any other relationship that had domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking under Indiana Code Section 34-26 Chapter 5 Indiana Civil Protection Order Act.

Child Custody and Domestic Violence in Indiana

Indiana uses the "best interests of the child" standard for determining child custody. The court determines who should parent based on many factors, including the age and sex of the child, the parents' and child's wishes (with more consideration of the wishes of a child 14 years or older), the relationship of the child with his parents and siblings, the physical and mental health of everyone involved, and anything else that may affect the child. In the Indiana statute about factors determining child custody, one of the explicit factors is "evidence of a pattern of domestic or family violence by either parent." This applies whether or not the parents were married.

Indiana Domestic Violence Laws

The following table outlines Indiana's family law related to domestic violence

Code Sections

Indiana Code Section (ICS) 31-14-13-2: Factors of Custody Determination

ICS 31-17-2-8.3: Supervised Parenting Time; Crime Involving Domestic or Family Violence

ICS 31-15-5-1: Protective Order Procedure during Dissolution or Legal Separation

How Does Effect Child Custody?

Indiana has a law that specifically addresses parenting and custody after a conviction of a domestic violence related crime. If a non-custodial parent has been convicted of domestic violence that was seen or heard by the child, the parenting time with the child shall be supervised for 1-2 years or until the child is emancipated by turning 18, marrying, joining the military, etc.

Note that domestic violence is somewhat narrowly defined in Indiana as an act by a person against their spouse, co-habitant like a spouse, co-parent, or child or incapacitated person subject to his or her control (i.e. parent or guardian). However, teens or adults in dating relationships may also need protection, which is more difficult to get in the Indiana legal system than some other states.

What Happens to the Family Pet?

Family pets are considered personal property and marital property laws apply. Therefore, the party who owned it before the marriage or inherited may have the animal has separate property or it may be divided as part of the divorce. In that case, who cared for the pet and who abused the pet may come into play.

If custody of a family pet or pets is a concern, Indiana does have a law to address animal cruelty in domestic violence situations. A person who intentionally kills an animal to terrorize a family or household member commits a Level 6 felony. Level 6 (formerly Class D) felonies can be punished by 6 months to 2.5 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

Where Can I Get Help?

If anyone is abusing you, please reach out for help. In an emergency, call 911. While alone or at a safe location, try calling the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence 24-hour hotline at 1-800-332-7385 for help with local referrals and safety planning.

If you're now safe, but need help with a divorce or child custody problem, contact an experienced Indiana family law attorney in your area.


Note: State laws are constantly changing -- it's important to verify the state law(s) you’re researching.

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Indiana Domestic Violence Laws: Related Resources

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