The Indiana Supreme Court issued the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines to provide a solid framework for parents who cannot agree on a parenting schedule. As explained in the preamble, the parenting guidelines are based upon the premise that it is usually in a child’s best interest to have meaningful interactions and ongoing contact with both parents.
The guidelines are designed to help parents and courts create a parenting schedule for each unique situation. They represent the minimum amount of time that parents should have with their child to facilitate the contact recommended by law.
The coronavirus pandemic and resulting lockdown brought new challenges to many parents operating under a court-ordered parenting schedule. Due in large part to the global pandemic, the Indiana Supreme Court recognized a need to update the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines.
The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines before the Pandemic
Before considering the changes to the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines, you first need to know how the guidelines were structured before the changes. The original guidelines were designed upon the theory that a child’s ability to cope with the challenges presented by their parents living in separate homes will change as the child matures.
Based upon that premise, the Indiana Supreme Court set forth the following age-based guidelines for parenting time in Indiana. The age groups are broken into four categories:
- Early infancy: Birth through age nine months;
- Later infancy: Age ten months through age 36 months;
- Childhood: Age three years and older; and
- Adolescent and teenager.
The guidelines further break down the age categories to provide more specific parenting time recommendations. The guidelines also address holiday time, special needs, when the parents reside at a great distance from one another, and other factors that can affect a parenting time schedule. The court suggests that it is helpful for parents to create a year-long parenting schedule calendar to help anticipate future events.
Indiana Parenting Time Guideline Changes Implemented in 2022
For many who are coparenting in separate households, the coronavirus pandemic created a more difficult parenting arrangement. For parents who already had difficulty communicating or who had animosity and anger toward each other, the pandemic provided additional opportunities for difficulty in cooperating.
In many cases, a parent withheld the children from the other parent by relying on the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC’s) guidelines regarding quarantining and social distancing. These cases led the state’s supreme court to implement Indiana parenting time guideline changes to address the evolving situations faced by parents.
When implementing the new guidelines, the supreme court made it clear that, even in the face of a global pandemic, the court-ordered custody decree remains enforceable.
Of note, the original guidelines were based on a parallel parenting model, while the new guidelines use a shared parenting model. The new model provides a basic framework for parents who work together and cooperate most of the time.
While the guidelines are a good starting point for developing a parenting plan, most parents will need the help of an Indiana parenting time attorney to create the right plan or to represent them before the court when the court determines the plan.
How the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines Impact You
When updating the parenting time guidelines in 2022, the supreme court noted that not all coparenting plans need to follow the shared parenting plan model guidelines. The court set forth factors that courts and families should consider when deviating from the guidelines, including the following:
- Factors that relate to each child;
- Factors that relate to each parent;
- The quality of the child’s relationship with each parent;
- The quality of the coparenting relationship;
- The child’s environment in each parent’s home; and
- Factors regarding the extended family of each parent.
Other modifications to the guidelines include changes to the relocation notification requirement under Indiana Code § 31-17-2.2-1. Under the original guidelines, a parent who intended to relocate had to provide notice to the court, the other parent, and other relevant parties 90 days prior to relocating. The new guidelines change the notice requirement to only 30 days prior to relocating.
Another change to the Indiana parenting guidelines includes an update regarding the modes of communication used by the parents. Under the original guidelines, parents were required to give the child messages left for them by the other parent on the answering machine, by voicemail, or by pager. The new guidelines deleted the pager reference and added text and email messages.
Reach Out to a Carmel Fishers Family Lawyer
Coparenting can be difficult in the best situations. When parents reside in separate homes, coparenting can present unique and stressful challenges. It is always best to seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney to understand your options and represent the best interests of you and your children.
To learn how the new Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines affect you, contact Julie Camden, Carmel Fishers family lawyer at Camden & Meridew, P.C. You can reach Julie by completing the firm’s online contact form or by calling 317-770-0000.