Kevin Morrissey analyzes the amendments to the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines

Learning How Revisions To The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines May Affect Your Parenting Time

The Indiana Supreme Court recently amended the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines (IPTG), effective March 1, 2013. The amended guidelines apply only to parenting time orders issued after the amendments. Parenting time orders in place prior to the amendments will not be altered, unless the parties petition the Court or agree to modify the previous order to incorporate the amendments.

Communication

The importance of communication between the child and the parent not then exercising parenting time is highlighted in the amended IPTG. The amendments to the IPTG are designed, in part, to recognize how modern developments in communication technology can assist parents and children in their communication. Specifically, the amended commentary to the IPTG now recognize the increased use of e-mail for communication as well as internet tools such as Skype. In addition to the requirement of parental exchanges of physical address and telephone number, parents are now required to keep each other updated as to their email address. Parents are expected to promptly communicate whenever child exchanges will be delayed as punctuality is emphasized under the amended IPTG.

Parenting Plans

The amended IPTG recommends the creation of a year-long parenting time calendar by which the parents schedule the entire year of parenting time in advance. Advance planning of an entire year is recommended to provide consistency for children and to reduce or eliminate disagreements about holidays, birthdays, and school holidays ahead of time. Parenting time calendars can provide the parties a chance to agree upon deviations throughout the year, particularly in situations involving frequent travel and/or long-distance arrangements.

Responsibility for Parenting Time

The amended IPTG provide that both parents are jointly responsible for following a parenting time order. The children cannot make parenting time decisions and, in fact, a list of unacceptable excuses has been added to the commentary. For example, parenting time cannot be denied simply because the children refuse to see a parent, a child has a minor illness, the noncustodial parent is behind on support, or the noncustodial parent has failed to meet some request of the custodial parent.

Additional Parenting Time

In our busy world, parents often face situations in which a family member or other person must provide childcare. The amended IPTG clarify that additional parenting time should be offered to the other parent when, for whatever reason, childcare must be provided by someone other than a parent or responsible household family member. The amendments define household family member as an adult person residing in the household, who is related to the child by blood, marriage or adoption. Therefore, a parent who cannot provide childcare during scheduled parenting time shall offer the other parent additional parenting time unless another individual residing in their household and related to the child can provide childcare during that period.

The commentary to the IPTG indicates that this additional parenting time does not affect child support and the parent exercising additional parenting time should provide transportation for the child unless the parties agree otherwise. In applying the concept of additional parenting time, the commentary stresses that the parties should be mindful of practical considerations such as the distance and time involved. If possible, parties should agree on the situations that will trigger additional parenting time in advance.

Holiday Parenting Time

The amendments to the IPTG provide that alternating weekends shall be maintained throughout the year. Thus, weekend parenting time that is interrupted by a holiday is lost and will not be made up. This is so even if one parent exercises parenting time three weekends in a row. The IPTG anticipate that weekend parenting time will balance out for each parent over the course of the year because of the holiday parenting time schedule.

New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are no longer considered separate holidays under the IPTG. The New Year's holiday is now addressed under the Christmas vacation provisions of the IPTG. Martin Luther King's Day and President's Day have been added as separate holidays as well as Fall Break. Christmas break has also been revised to provide for an even divide of parenting time.

Parallel Parenting Time

A new section added by the amendments is "Parallel Parenting" which is intended for high conflict situations between parents. High conflict parents have been defined 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 concept of Parallel Parenting is a temporary arrangement targeted to stop ongoing conflict and serve the best interests of the child.

Under a Parallel Parenting arrangement, the parent exercising parenting time makes day-to-day decisions about the child. Communications between parents is limited and is to be in writing unless an emergency arises. The IPTG recommend the involvement of appropriate counseling professionals to assist the parents in resolving the high conflict situation. A review hearing is required at least every 180 days when Parallel Parenting is in place. At each review hearing, the Court will hear evidence from the parties and determine when the Parallel Parenting arrangement should continue. The IPTG now provide a Model Parallel Parenting Plan Order as a suggestion for use in implementing the rules.

If you are currently involved in a family law dispute or have questions about how the revised Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines may apply to your parenting situation, please contact Kevin A. Morrissey at (317) 639-1210.