By Jennifer Hostetter
Boone County —
The revised Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines have been approved and adopted by the Indiana Supreme Court and went into effect March 1. Many people are wondering what this will do to their parenting time. Do I get more time? Less time? Overnights? Did they change the parenting time for Christmas vacation? This is the first of two columns about the new law.
The revised guidelines are not a basis for modification of any existing parenting time order alone. A current parenting time order will still be enforced per the guidelines that were in effect at the time of the existing order. However, if the parties petition the court for a change, the court may order the parents to use the 2013 guidelines.
The 2013 guidelines encourage parents to create their own parenting plan instead of defaulting to the parenting time schedule established by the guidelines. The guidelines are proposed only as the minimum amount of time a non-custodial parent should spend with his/her child when the parents cannot agree on their own parenting plan. Parents are encouraged to create a parenting plan outside of the guidelines that works best for their family.
Children benefit from parents who are able to communicate and design their own plans that are in the best interests of their children. Parents should “maintain frequent, meaningful and continuing contact with their children.” To help with scheduling, the guidelines even have web addresses parents can access to create their own schedule.
The guidelines encourage open communication among parents about their children, specifically regarding school records, health information and extra-curricular activities. Under Indiana Code 20-33-7-2, each parent is entitled to direct access to their child’s school records. Also under Indiana Code 16-39-1-7 and 16-39-2-9, both parents have direct access to their child’s medical and mental health records. Though both parents have access to their child’s medical records, the parent who schedules the doctor’s appointment has the responsibility to inform the other parent of the appointment. Also, each parent should notify the other of all school activities and other extra-curricular activities. Parents shall also not interfere with the other parent’s involvement in the child’s extra-curricular activities.
The guidelines require parents to communicate with each other and not use their child as a messenger. Parents shall also not use their child to exchange financial information and other documents. Parents shall at all times keep each other informed of their home and work addresses, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses. If any changes occur in this information, written notice shall be provided to the other party. Parents are also encouraged to promote communication between the child and other parent.
What many people refer to as “The Right of First Refusal” has now been clarified and is called an “Opportunity for Additional Parenting Time.” This “opportunity” should only apply in situations when it is practical and fair to both parents and the child. The concept behind this provision is that a child benefits from additional parenting time when a parent’s schedule or activities would requires hiring child care.
The amount of time for which a parent may need child care before triggering this provision will vary depending on the facts and circumstances of each individual case. Additionally, a household family member is defined as “an adult person residing in the household, who is related to the child by blood, marriage or adoption.” This may include grandparents, step-parents, or other siblings
The next column will discuss changes to the parenting time schedule, including overnights, the new holiday schedule and parallel parenting.
Jennifer Hostetter is an attorney with the firm of Kirtley, Taylor, Sims, Chadd & Minnette, P.C. This column is meant to provide general information only and is not to be construed as legal advice. For specific information concerning your case, consult a lawyer.