Parallel Parenting Plans in Indiana

The revised Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines went into effect on March 1, 2013.

The most marked difference between the old guidelines and the new ones is the inclusion of a section for Parallel Parenting. Parallel parenting is used in high conflict child custody cases where the court determines that a parallel parenting plan is necessary to stop ongoing discord that is endangering the well being of the child.

Note: the revised Parenting Time Guidelines will not impact those orders that were in effect or entered prior to March 1, 2013, unless the order states otherwise.

The revised guidelines define “high conflict parents” as “parties who demonstrate a pattern of ongoing litigation, chronic anger and distrust, inability to communicate about and cooperate in the care of the child, or other behaviors placing the child’s well-being at risk.”

The parallel parenting plan is designed to minimize or eliminate the contact between the high conflict parents.

Each parent will make day-to-day decisions about the child while the child is with the parent. Communication between the parties is limited, except in emergencies, and the communication is usually in writing.

A parallel parenting plan is not designed to be a permanent arrangement. It may be a helpful tool in phasing out supervised parenting time arrangements. The revised guidelines consider the implementation of a parallel parenting plan to be a deviation from the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines.

Parenting Plan Differences

Parallel parenting plans typically involve one parent being awarded sole legal custody of the children. The other main limitations or differences between parallel parenting and the traditional parenting time guidelines are:

1)     No mid-week parenting time

2)     No make-up parenting time

3)     No opportunities for additional parenting time due to the level of contact these would require between the parents.

Additionally, if the court orders the parties to parent under a parallel parenting arrangement, then the court must enter a written explanation, regardless if the parties agree, indicating why the deviation from the regular Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines is necessary or appropriate and shall include the specific provisions of the plan.

The final requirement for a parallel parenting plan is that the court set the matter for a review hearing at least every 180 days to hear evidence and determine whether the parallel parenting plan should be modified, continued, or ended.

What’s In A Parallel Parenting Plan?

The guidelines recommend that each parallel parenting plan should specifically address “hot topic” issues for each family. The revised Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines even include a model parallel parenting plan that may be used to implement such an arrangement. The model provides the court the ability to make a choice among various options to address the specific facts of each case.

Parallel parenting plans state the parenting time for each parent, and during each parent’s parenting time he or she will be the “on-duty” parent for the child. The on-duty parent will then make decisions about the day-to-day care and control of the child.

These day-to-day decisions should not infringe upon the legal custody rights of the sole legal custodian. Legal custody areas include education, health care, and religious upbringing of the child.

In order to avoid constant contact between the parties, each parent is prohibited from scheduling activities for the child during the time the other parent is on-duty.

The parallel parenting plan will also outline a holiday schedule, which will differ from the regular Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines.

Additionally, the parallel parenting plan calls for the use of a communication book, which shall always accompany the child and will limit the need for contact between the parties. The communication book should be used to communicate regarding the child’s education, health care, and activities.

Legal Custody

Parallel parenting plans provide that one parent shall be the sole legal custodian, however, this does not prohibit both parents from being actively involved with the school and teachers regarding grades, parent-teacher conferences, the child’s needs, and other special events.

Similarly, while the sole legal custodian shall make all medical decisions, the non-custodial parent will still have the right to the child’s medical records.

In the event of a significant change or a disagreement between the parties as to the meaning or application of some part of the parallel parenting plan, the parties must make a good faith effort to resolve those differences before returning to court. In most cases, the court will require the parents to attend mediation before a hearing will be conducted.

Do You Need A Parallel Parenting Plan?

If you believe that a parallel parenting plan may be appropriate for your case, 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.