When going through a divorce with children in Indiana, it is necessary to address the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines (the “Guidelines”). Even if you and your spouse are able to agree on a parenting plan without court involvement, you will still need to consider certain provisions of the Guidelines in order to ensure that your plan will receive court approval. As stated in the Guidelines’ Preamble:
“The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines are designed to assist parents and courts in the development of their own parenting plans. In the event the parties cannot create their own parenting time agreement, these guidelines represent the minimum time a parent should have to maintain frequent, meaningful, and continuing contact with a child.”
The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines consist of 27 pages of detailed and densely-worded requirements for developing a legally-compliant parenting plan during a divorce. If you are going through a divorce with children, this two-part guide will help you understand what you need to know.
Overview: The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines
The Guidelines are divided into seven parts: a Preamble, Sections I through V and an Appendix which includes a Model Parallel Parenting Plan Order. This article highlights key provisions of the Preamble and Sections I and II. We will continue with an in-depth review of the remaining Sections in next month’s article.
The Preamble starts by recognizing that, in most cases, it will be best for a child to continue to spend time with both parents after their divorce:
“The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines are based on the premise that it is usually in a child's best interest to have frequent, meaningful and continuing contact with each parent. It is assumed that both parents nurture their child in important ways, significant to the development and well being of the child.”
It also lists eight “basic needs” that should guide parents’ parenting time discussions, and it closes by stating that parents must provide a written explanation for any deviations from the Guidelines’ minimum parenting time requirements.
Section I: General Rules Applicable to Parenting Time
Section I of the Guidelines addresses five topics related to executing a parenting time plan subsequent to a divorce. Notable provisions under each of these topics include:
- Parents must notify one another of any changes in their contact information. This notification must be provided in writing.
- Children should not be used to change documents or financial information between parents, or to spy or report on one parent’s conduct.
- Parents must avoid speaking negatively about each other in the presence of their children.
- Neither parent may block or monitor the other’s communication with their children.
B. Implementing Parenting Time
- The parent receiving a child for parenting time is responsible for providing transportation at the start of parenting time, and the other is responsible for transportation at the end of the scheduled time.
- Both parents have an obligation to communicate any expected delays in pick-ups or drop-offs.
- The custodial parent must provide “an appropriate and adequate supply of clean clothing,” and the non-custodial parent must return all clothing “in a clean condition.”
- Neither parent may enter the other parent’s residence without express permission.
C. Changes in Scheduled Parenting Time
- “Parenting time is both a right and a responsibility, and scheduled parenting time shall occur as planned.” Both parents are equally responsible for ensuring compliance with their parenting plan.
- If there is a need for an exception, both parents must attempt to reach a mutually-agreeable resolution. Illnesses, weddings, funerals and other family events are examples of instances where exceptions may be appropriate.
- If a deviation from the standard parenting time schedule results in lost parenting time for either parent, the parents must schedule “make-up” parenting time as soon as possible.
- If one parent needs child care, he or she must first offer the other parent the opportunity for additional parenting time. However, the other parent is under no obligation to provide child care; and, if child care is provided, this will not affect the parents’ regular rights and responsibilities.
D. Exchange of Information
- Each parent is responsible for establishing a relationship with each child’s school, health care provider and other service providers, and they must share any information obtained. This is because, “[a] child may suffer inconvenience, embarrassment, and physical or emotional harm when parents fail to actively obtain and share information.”
- Each parent must notify the other of any information about school activities which is not accessible to the other parent.
- Each parent must notify the other of all organized events which permit parental and family participation.
- Both parents are entitled to direct access to their children’s medical records.
E. Resolution of Problems and Relocation
- In the event of a dispute regarding parenting time, “both parents shall make every effort to discuss options, including mediation, in an attempt to resolve the dispute before going to court.”
- Both parents are responsible for ensuring that their children participate in parenting time as scheduled.
- Each parent must provide 90 days’ advance notice to the other before moving to a new residence.
Section II: Specific Parenting Time Provisions
Section II of the Guidelines addresses special considerations for children in various age groups, overnight parenting time and holidays. Notable provisions include:
- The provisions in Section II apply only when one parent has sole custody or primary physical custody.
B. Overnight Parenting Time
- Until a child’s third birthday, parenting time should include overnight visits unless, “it can be demonstrated by the custodial parent that the non-custodial parent has not had regular care responsibilities for the child.”
C. Infants and Toddlers
- During infancy, scheduled parenting time should be “minimally disruptive” to the infant’s schedule.
- Through four months of age, parenting time should consist of three non-consecutive two-hour visits per week, plus two hours on scheduled holidays, and up to one 24-hour overnight period. The Guidelines get increasingly complex for older infants and toddlers.
D. Parenting Time – Child 3 Years of Age and Older
- The Guidelines include specific parenting time scheduling provisions for children between the ages of three and four and children who are five or older.
E. Parenting Time for the Adolescent and Teenager
- Parents have significantly more flexibility with regard to scheduling parenting time for adolescents and teenagers. In the absence of an agreement to the contrary, a non-custodial parent’s parenting time should include alternating weekends, scheduled holidays, and an extended summer visit.
- With regard to teenagers, during parenting time, non-custodial parents should, “make reasonable efforts to accommodate a teenager's participation in his or her regular academic, extracurricular and social activities.”
F. Holiday Parenting Time Schedule
- Similar to the parenting time provisions for infants and toddlers, the provisions regarding holiday scheduling are extremely detailed – even including specific blocks of time on specified holidays.
- For a child’s birthday, the non-custodial parent should have all children from 9:00am to 9:00pm in even-numbered years (or 5:00pm to 8:00pm if the birthday falls on a school day). In odd-numbered years, the non-custodial parent should have all children the day prior to the birthday.
- For a parent’s birthday, the parent celebrating the birthday should have all children from 9:00am to 9:00pm (or 5:00pm to 8:00pm on a school day). However, if a birthday falls on a holiday, then the holiday parenting time rules take precedence.
Are Preparing to Go Through a Divorce With Children?
If you are preparing to go through a divorce with children, Carmel family lawyer Joshua R. Hains can help you understand how Indiana’s Parenting Time Guidelines apply to your unique personal and family circumstances. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, please call (317) 588-2883 or inquire online today.