New Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines Became Effective January 1, 2022
The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines are used every day to resolve visitation disputes. There were a number of important modifications to the guidelines which came into effect on January 1, 2022. The major changes are as follows:
- The new guidelines clarify that the parties are to follow the version of the parenting time guidelines that was in existence at the time of the most recent parenting time order. Just because the guidelines change does not automatically mean that all parenting time orders which follow guidelines are automatically modified.
- The new guidelines provide a link to an online parenting time calendar to assist parents in setting up the parenting time schedule.
- The new guidelines confirm that a parent can restrict child’s access to a phone tablet or other device as punishment for a child, but the punishment will not prevent communications with the other parent.
- The new guidelines expressly state that no one should record conversations between a parent and child
- The new guidelines caution parents about bringing third parties to exchanges to make sure the third party does not increase the level of conflict at the exchange. The same section discourages the use of a law enforcement facility for exchanges and suggests that the parties use other public places, such as a restaurant or gas station.
- The new guidelines recognize that the custodial parent is responsible for providing clothing, but the commentary indicates that both parties should ensure that their child is properly clothed and the noncustodial parent may wish to have a basic supply of clothing available at their house.
- The new guidelines states that recurring events which may require an adjustment to parenting time, such as military drill obligations or work obligations should be communicated as soon as possible. This change suggests that military drill obligations should lead to makeup time. The new guidelines also clarify that makeup time shall not be taken on the other parent’s scheduled holidays. The guidelines also confirm that makeup time is not meant to cover situations where a parent’s voluntary decisions, such as poor planning, lead to a disruption of parenting time. The guidelines also suggest that parents who have an equal parenting time arrangement should not exercise more than three additional days of makeup time at any one time
- The new guidelines state that if the child’s school or extracurricular activities occur during one parent’s parenting time with the child then that parent shall have the first opportunity to provide transportation to the activity. It also notes that extracurricular activities should not unreasonably infringe upon parenting time with the other parent, especially when travel activities are involved.
- Not surprisingly, the new guidelines have an entire section dealing with custody and parenting time during a public health emergency. This new section provides that custody and parenting time will not be affected by the school’s closure during the public health emergency. The commentary notes that a parent’s decision to forgo parenting time to protect a child’s health and well-being or to protect other household family members should not be considered a voluntary relinquishment of parenting time. In such cases, the parent who lost time should be able to exercise makeup time in the future.
- The new guidelines clarify under what circumstances that a parent should receive overnights for a child who is under three years of age. Previously the guidelines referred to a parent who had exercised regular care responsibilities without defining what that really was. This section allows a parent who is exercising parenting time consistent with the guidelines to potentially have overnights before three years of age.
- The new guidelines clarify that for children who are three or older, but not actually in school should still follow the school calendar for purposes of determining holiday parenting time. In cases where the parties exercise equal parenting time, the school schedule for the parent who is paying controlled expenses determines holiday parenting time.
- The new guidelines clarify some of the times for particular holidays, such as the child’s birthday. Most of these changes eliminate guideline provisions that previously referred to a parent getting the child a certain number of hours after the child was released from school, instead spelling out a specific time for exchanges. Almost all of these exchanges are now at 6 PM.
- The new guidelines clarify that summer parenting time with the parent who is exercising geographic distance visitation takes precedence over summer extracurricular activities.
- The biggest changes in the guidelines are found in Section IV. Shared Parenting. This section is designed to provide essentially a template for determining whether a shared parenting time arrangement is appropriate for the parties and the child. It provides a somewhat lengthy checklist of considerations for these types of plans. It will be important for parents to carefully review this section to determine whether this type of an arrangement makes sense for them and the child before seeking a shared parenting time arrangement. The new guidelines have an appendix which sets out a series of questions to determine whether a shared parenting plan would work.
- In the old guidelines Section IV. dealt with Parallel Parenting. This was the idea that essentially certain parents were such high conflict people that they should have very limited contact. In our experience, courts did not use this particular section very often. The new guidelines eliminate this concept entirely.
- The new guidelines provide that parenting coordinator has immunity to the same extent as a judge has immunity.
Although these revisions do not fundamentally change most of the substantive provisions of the guidelines, they do provide needed clarification on a few areas and address new issues which have arisen since the adoption of the guidelines.