by Emily J. Barry, Esq., Of Counsel
Effective March 1, 2013, Indiana adopted new guidelines for parenting time issues that may arise between parents during and after divorce, or for parents facing a paternity situation. With that in mind, it’s important to understand that the guidelines are just that: guidelines. The best parenting time schedule is one that is determined by the agreement of the parents because only the parents know and understand their family and children’s situations best. Co-parenting separately is a challenge, but it is not impossible and having a uniquely tailored parenting schedule for your children is in their best interests. Finally, the guidelines are meant to present minimum access provisions only when parents cannot agree.
The new guidelines apply only to newly divorced or paternity parents after March 1, 2013 or, alternatively, parents who may have older parenting time orders or agreements, but who agree to utilize the new guidelines.
In light of many school districts changing to a balanced calendar, the new guidelines take this into account and indicate that these breaks should be divided equally so that the non-custodial parent has ½ of all school breaks.
Another major change in the new parenting time guidelines is the division of major holidays, namely winter break, which is now divided equally. Under previous guidelines, Christmas and New Years were treated as separate holidays which led to many questions for parents during the winter break. Other holiday changes include Martin Luther King Day and President’s Day, if observed by the school, and Fall break. As has always been the case, Holiday’s trump all other parenting days.
The new guidelines also account for updated technology available to co-parents, such as Skype, video chat and internet communication. They also elaborate on the “opportunity for additional parenting time”, which is the time when one parent may not be available during their ‘regular’ parenting time. In the new guidelines, the unavailable parent only has to offer the additional time if the child will not be in the care of a parent or responsible household family member. It also requires ‘practicality’, meaning the additional time available and the distance between the parties’ residences. Moreover, unless there is an agreement otherwise, the parent being offered the additional time must do the transportation each way.
The guidelines, since their creation in 2001, have delineated certain age groups, namely, infants and toddlers. Parenting time from birth through age three (3) is divided and the noncustodial parent’s time increases as the child ages and increasingly bonds with the noncustodial parent. That said, these are guidelines and are always subject to further agreement by the parents. The biggest importance for the noncustodial parent during these early years with the child is to have substantial and regular care responsibilities in order to sufficiently bond. That said, upon reaching age three (3), unless the custodial parent can show that regular care responsibilities have not been completed by the noncustodial parent, overnight parenting time with the child should commence.
Finally, the new guidelines have added an additional section for Parallel Parenting time. This parenting time is applicable for parties who find themselves in a unique and exceptional situation, albeit unfortunate, where there is a history of ‘high conflict’ parenting. High conflict parents are those parties who have demonstrated a pattern and history of ongoing litigation, chronic anger and distrust, an inability to communicate about and cooperate in the care of the child(ren) or other behaviors that are against the child’s well-being. This plan can also be applicable when phasing out supervised parenting time. It is not meant to blame or reward one party or the other for unilaterally increasing a high conflict situation.
Parallel parenting time designates a strict and detailed schedule, placing each parent ‘on-duty’ during their allotted parenting time. The schedule leaves little – to – nothing up to independent agreement by the parties. Parallel parenting time may be ordered by the Court, or a court-appointed evaluator, or, in rare instances, may be agreed upon by the parties. This schedule has a ‘sun-down’ provision which requires the Parallel Parenting Plan Order to be reassessed by the Court 180 days after its commencement. The ultimate goal is to have the parents increase their ability to co-parent and put their child(ren)’s best interests before their independent conflicts.
The new Indiana Parenting Guidelines (IPTG) are available at http://www.in.gov/judiciary/rules/parenting/. If you have questions about divorce, paternity, custody or your current time order or agreement, please contact the Griffith Law Group.