On March 1, 2013, Indiana’s revised Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines went into effect. The revised Parenting Time Guidelines will not impact those orders in effect or entered prior to March 1, 2013, unless the order states otherwise.
There are many changes that recently took effect in the revised Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines. Many of these changes are small but were meant to address shortcomings that were discovered in the primary Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines.
One of the revisions was the inclusion of a section in the Commentary regarding Parenting Time Plans or Calendars. The guidelines now suggest that parents plan out parenting time for the entire year, if possible, and provide several suggested websites, which may be useful in developing parenting time plans.
Under the revised parenting time guidelines, parents are now also required to keep each other advised of their email addresses, in addition to their home and work addresses and telephone numbers.
The guidelines were also revised to include electronic communications between parents and their children in addition to telephone contact. Further, parents are prohibited now from monitoring or blocking communication with the children.
Deciding Parenting Time
The guidelines have also been revised to include a provision that states that children shall have no say in deciding parenting time. Parents share equally in the responsibility for following parenting time orders.
The guidelines now specifically list several unacceptable excuses for denying parenting time, including:
- The child unjustifiably hesitates or refuses to go;
- The child has a minor illness;
- The child has to go somewhere else;
- The child is not home;
- The noncustodial parent is behind in support;
- The custodial parent does not want the child to go;
- The weather is bad (unless travel would be unsafe);
- The child has no clothes to wear; and
- The other parent failed to meet preconditions established by the custodial parent.
None of these are acceptable reasons to deny or withhold parenting time.
Opportunity for Additional Parenting Time
The section regarding opportunities for additional parenting time have been revised to clarify that the opportunity for additional parenting time shall be offered after considering the time available and the distance between residences.
It is also specified that the parent receiving the additional parenting time shall provide the necessary transportation, unless otherwise agreed, and the additional parenting time shall be given at no cost and does not impact child support.
The Commentary to the guidelines now defines who shall be considered a household family member for determining when it is appropriate or required to offer an opportunity for additional parenting time. A household family member is defined as an adult person residing in the household, who is related to the child by blood, marriage, or adoption.
The revisions further clarify that there is no specified period of absence, which will trigger this provision, as it will depend on the specific circumstances of the parties to the case. In the event that the court determines it would be appropriate to deviate from this section, a written explanation must accompany the decision.
Getting Parents More Involved
The guidelines now state that each parent is responsible for establishing a relationship with the child’s school, health care providers, or other service providers. Each parent should obtain school information on his or her own, without depending on the other parent.
Further, unless there are special circumstances, the non-custodial parent shall be listed as an emergency contact for the child. If the health care provider requires, the custodial parent shall give written authorization to the child’s health care providers, permitting an ongoing release of all information regarding the child to the non-custodial parent.
Both parents should also be made aware of other activities in which the child will be participating, even if the activity is not during his or her parenting time because it is believed that the child is more likely to enjoy the experience when supported by both parents. Other activities include but are not limited to church functions, athletic events, scouting, etc.
Best Interests of the Children
The revisions to the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines encourage parents to create or develop a parenting plan in the best interests of the children and reduce it to writing for approval by the court. When the parents are unable to do so, then the specific provisions for parenting time listed in the revised guidelines shall apply.
The guidelines state that unless it can be demonstrated by the custodial parent that the non-custodial parent has not had regular care responsibilities for the child, then parenting time shall include overnights.
One of the major revisions has to do with extended parenting time. These revisions include revised definitions of summer vacation and include provisions for year-round or balanced calendars also. Also, the definition of Christmas vacation has been redefined to attempt to more equitably divide the break.
Finally, the guidelines clarify that it may be permissible for a parent to have parenting time three weekends in a row if a holiday or special occasion would result in the three consecutive weekends. This shall not result in any make up time for the other parent.
If you are currently involved in a parenting time or child custody case or have questions about the revised Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines, you should contact an attorney who focuses on the area of domestic relations law. Cordell & Cordell has several offices in Indiana serving clients in all Indiana counties.