Last month we published An In-Depth Look at Indiana’s Parenting Time Guidelines – Part 1. In that article, we looked at the first three major sections of the Parenting Time Guidelines, placing particular emphasis on the provisions that have the potential to present unique opportunities and challenges for divorcing parents in Indiana. Here, we examine the rest of the Parenting Time Guidelines.
Section III: Parenting Time When Distance is a Major Factor
Section III of the Parenting Time Guidelines (the “Guidelines”) addresses circumstances in which divorcing parents will live a significant geographical distance from one another. While the Guidelines do not define what constitutes a “significant geographical distance,” they do indicate that the following are all relevant considerations in determining whether geographical distance should be a factor when structuring a parenting time schedule:
- Employment schedules
- Costs and time of travel
- Each parent’s financial situation
- Frequency of parenting time
While the Guidelines include special provisions for circumstances in which distance is a major factor, Section III begins by clarifying that, “The general rules regarding parenting time as set forth in Section I of these guidelines shall apply.” In other words, the standard parenting time rules apply regardless of geographical distance; and, when geographical distance is a factor, then certain additional considerations apply:
- Summer Visitation and Enrolled Activities – “Summer parenting time with the non-custodial parent shall take precedence over summer activities (such as Little League) when parenting time cannot be reasonably scheduled around such events. Under such circumstances, the non-custodial parent shall attempt to enroll the child in a similar activity in his or her community.”
- Short-Term Geographic Proximity – “When the non-custodial parent is in the area where the child resides, or when the child is in the area where the non-custodial parent resides, liberal parenting time shall be allowed. The parents shall provide notice to each other, as far in advance as possible, of such parenting opportunities.”
Section III also addresses the concept of extended parenting time, which is covered in depth in Section II.D. If a non-custodial parent living at a significant geographical distance wishes to elect for extended parenting time, he or she must provide notice to the custodial parent by April 1 of each year. If the non-custodial parent fails to provide notice by April 1, then the custodial parent may choose whether or not to implement extended parenting time.
Finally, Section III provides sample parenting time schedules for parents living at a significant geographical distance. Remember, these are samples only, and parents are free to develop alternate schedules that suit their individual circumstances:
- Children under the age of three: The non-custodial parent would spend up to two five-hour periods each week with the child at a location in the custodial parent’s community.
- Children ages three and four: The non-custodial parent would spend up to six one-week segments with the child each year, with each segment separated by at least six weeks.
- Children five years of age and older: The non-custodial parent would have parenting time during the child’s spring break, seven weeks of the child’s summer vacation and seven days of the child’s winter vacation, with the parents having religious holidays (if celebrated) in alternating years.
Section IV: Parallel Parenting
Section IV of the Guidelines addresses the topic of parallel parenting. Parallel parenting is an alternative to the standard parenting time model in Indiana which is reserved for situations in which, “the court determines the parties are high conflict and a Parallel Parenting Plan Court Order is necessary to stop ongoing high conflict that is endangering the well-being of the child.” As further explained in the Guidelines:
“In parallel parenting, each parent makes day-to-day decisions about the child while the child is with the parent. With parallel parenting, communication between the parents is limited, except in emergencies, and the communication is usually in writing. Appropriate counseling professionals are recommended to help parents handle parallel parenting arrangements. Parallel parenting may also be appropriate to phase out supervised parenting time. Parallel parenting is not a permanent arrangement.”
When parallel parenting is necessary, one parent will typically receive sole custody of the couple’s children. The non-custodial parent’s parenting time will generally be scheduled on weekends to avoid mid-week disputes, and make-up and additional parenting time typically will not be available. Establishing a parallel parenting arrangement requires a court order, and this order will be subject to review every 180 days in order to determine whether a transition to a more-traditional parenting time schedule may be appropriate. The Appendix to the Guidelines provides a model parallel parenting plan order.
Section V. Parenting Coordination
Section V of the Guidelines addresses circumstances in which it is necessary for the court to appoint a Parenting Coordinator, “to assist high conflict parties by accessing and managing conflicts, redirecting the focus of the parties to the needs of the child, and educating the parties on how to make decisions that are in the best interest of the child.” A Parenting Coordinator is a registered mediator who has specific training or experience dealing with the types of conflicts that tend to arise during parenting time disputes after a divorce.
If you believe that appointing a Parenting Coordinator would be in your best interests, it will be worthwhile for you to review Section V in detail. There, you will find information about Parenting Coordinators’ specific roles and responsibilities, limits on the type of advice Parenting Coordinators can offer, and how you can enforce or object to a Parenting Coordinator’s recommendations.
As you can see, Sections III, IV and V of the Guidelines address unique circumstances that will not be relevant to everyone. But, if they are relevant to you, making sure you understand and apply these sections of the Guidelines will be critical to establishing an appropriate parenting time plan during your divorce.
Speak With Carmel Divorce Attorney Joshua R. Hains
If you are considering a divorce and would like more information about Indiana’s child custody and parenting time laws, we encourage you to contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation. To speak with divorce attorney Joshua R. Hains in confidence, please call our Carmel, IN law offices at (317) 588-2883 or request an appointment online today.