The newly approved Indiana parenting time guidelines has come into force and is to guide how separated parents manage parenting of a child as adopted by the Board of the Judicial Conference of Indiana.
In the new guidelines, significant changes have been introduced including the availability of a online calendar tool, shared parenting and the principles of how to implement it, text messaging as a form of communication among others. Read the full text of the law below.
Indiana parenting time guidelines
SECTION I. GENERAL RULES APPLICABLE TO PARENTING TIME
- Between Parents. Parents shall at all times keep each other advised of their home and work addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses. Notice of any change in this information shall be given to the other parent in writing. All communications concerning a child shall be conducted between the parents. Any communication shall occur at reasonable times and places unless circumstances require otherwise. A child shall not be used to exchange documents or financial information between parents.
- With A Child Generally. A child and a parent shall be entitled to private communications without interference from the other parent. A child shall never be used by one parent to spy or report on the other. Each parent shall encourage the child to respect and love the other parent. Parents shall at all times avoid speaking negatively about each other in or near the presence of the child, and they shall firmly discourage such conduct by relatives or friends.
- With A Child By Telephone. Both parents shall have reasonable phone access to their child. Telephone communication with the child by either parent to the residence where the child is located shall be conducted at reasonable hours, shall be of reasonable duration, and at reasonable intervals, without interference from the other parent. Whether a parent uses an answering machine, voice mail, text, or email, messages left for a child shall be promptly communicated to the child and the call returned.
- With A Child By Mail. A parent and a child shall have a right to communicate privately by text, e-mail and faxes, and by cards, letters, and packages, without interference by the other parent.
- Electronic Communication. The same provisions above apply to electronic communications of any kind. However, these provisions shall not be construed to interfere with the authority of either parent to impose reasonable restrictions to a child’s access to the Internet.
- Emergency Notification. For emergency notification purposes, whenever a child travels out of the area with either parent, one of the following shall be provided to the other parent: An itinerary of travel dates, destinations, and places where the child or the traveling parent can be reached, or the name and telephone number of an available third person who knows where the child or parent may be located.
- Communication between parent and child.Each parent is encouraged to promote a positive relationship between the children and the other parent. It is important, therefore, that communication remain open, positive and frequent. Regular phone contact is an important tool in maintaining a parent/child relationship as well as other forms of contact such as letter, e-mail and other more technologically advanced communications systems such as video chat and Skype. No person shall block reasonable phone or other communication access between a parent and child or monitor or record such communications. A parent who receives a communication for a child shall promptly deliver it to the child. Both parents shall promptly provide the other parent with updated cell and landline phone numbers and e-mail addresses when there has been a change.
B. IMPLEMENTING PARENTING TIME
- Transportation Responsibilities. Unless otherwise agreed between the parents, the parent receiving the child shall provide transportation for the child at the start of the scheduled parenting time and the other parent shall provide transportation for the child at the end of the scheduled parenting time.
- Punctuality. Each parent shall have the child ready for exchange at the beginning and at the end of the scheduled parenting time and shall be on time in picking up and returning the child. The parents shall communicate as early as possible regarding any situation that would interfere with the timely exchange of the child. Both parents have a duty to communicate any time the exchange is delayed. When no communication is initiated by the delaying parent, and pick up or return of a child does not occur within a reasonable time, the time and conditions of the exchange may be rescheduled at a time and place convenient to the parent not responsible for the delay.
- Clothing. The custodial parent shall send an appropriate and adequate supply of clean clothing with the child and the non-custodial parent shall return such clothing in a clean condition. Each parent shall advise the other, as far in advance as possible, of any special activities so that the appropriate clothing may be available to the child.
- Privacy of Residence. A parent may not enter the residence of the other, except by express permission of the other parent, regardless of whether a parent retains a property interest in the residence of the other. Accordingly, the child shall be picked up at the front entrance of the appropriate residence unless the parents agree otherwise. The person delivering the child shall not leave until the child is safely inside.
C. CHANGES IN SCHEDULED PARENTING TIME
Parents should recognize there will be occasions when modification of the existing parenting schedule will be necessary. Parents should exercise reasonable judgment in their dealings with each other and with their child. Parents should be flexible in scheduling parenting time and should consider the benefits to the child of frequent, meaningful and regular contact with each parent and the schedules of the child and each parent.
- Scheduled Parenting Time To Occur As Planned. Parenting time is both a right and a responsibility, and scheduled parenting time shall occur as planned. Both parents are jointly responsible for following the parenting time orders. A child shall not make parenting time decisions. If a parent is unable to provide personal care for the child during scheduled parenting time, then that parent shall provide alternate child care or pay the reasonable costs of child care caused by the failure to exercise the scheduled parenting time.
- Adjustments to Schedule / “Make Up” Time. Whenever there is a need to adjust the established parenting schedules because of events outside the normal family routine or the control of the parent requiring the adjustment, the parent who becomes aware of the circumstance shall notify the other parent as far in advance as possible. Recurring events which may require an adjustment, such as military drill obligations or annual work obligations, should be communicated as soon as those scheduled events are published. Both parents shall then attempt to reach a mutually acceptable adjustment to the parenting schedule. If an adjustment results in one parent losing scheduled parenting time with the child, “make-up” time should be exercised as soon as possible. If the parents cannot agree on “make-up” time, the parent who lost the time shall select the “make-up” time within one month of the missed time. “Make-up” time is not an opportunity to deny the other parent of scheduled holidays or special days, as defined with the Guidelines, and should not interfere with previously scheduled activities. “Make-up” parenting time is intended to help maintain a parent-child relationship, while taking into consideration everyday life demands. “Make-up” parenting time may not be used routinely due to a parent’s failure to plan in advance, absent a true emergency.
- Parties who exercise equal periods of parenting time may not exercise more than three (3) additional days of “make-up” parenting time at any one time, in conjunction with regularly scheduled parenting time, so the parent does not exercise more than ten (10) consecutive days of regular and make-up parenting time. These additional days should be exercised outside of those holidays and special days as designated within the Guidelines when possible.
- Opportunity for Additional Parenting Time. When it becomes necessary that a child be cared for by a person other than a parent or a responsible household family member, the parent needing the child care shall first offer the other parent the opportunity for additional parenting time, if providing the child care by the other parent is practical considering the time available and the distance between residences. The other parent is under no obligation to provide the child care. If the other parent elects to provide this care, it shall be done at no cost and without affecting child support. The parent exercising additional parenting time shall provide the necessary transportation unless the parties otherwise agree.
D. EXCHANGE OF INFORMATION
Parents should obtain and share information about their children. Parents should take the initiative to obtain information about their child from the various providers of services. Each parent is responsible to establish a relationship with the child’s school, health care provider and other service provider. A child may suffer inconvenience, embarrassment, and physical or emotional harm when parents fail to actively obtain and share information.
- School Records. Under Indiana law, both parents are entitled to direct access to their child’s school records, Indiana Code§ 20-33-7-2. Each parent should obtain school information on their own without depending on the other parent. A parent shall not interfere with the right of the other parent to communicate directly with school personnel concerning a child. The noncustodial parent shall be listed as an emergency contact unless there are special circumstances concerning child endangerment.
- School Activities. Each parent shall promptly notify the other parent of all information about school activities, which is not accessible to the other parent. A parent shall not interfere with the right of the other parent to communicate directly with school personnel concerning a child’s school activities. The parent exercising parenting time shall be responsible to transport the child to school related activities.
- Other Activities. Each parent shall promptly notify the other parent of all organized events in a child’s life which permit parental and family participation. A parent shall not interfere with the opportunity of the other parent to volunteer for or participate in a child’s activities. If the child’s activities occur during one parent’s time with the child, that parent shall have the first opportunity to provide transportation to the activity.
- Health Information. Under Indiana law, both parents are entitled to direct access to their child’s medical records, Indiana Code § 16-39-1-7; and mental health records, Indiana Code § 16-39-2-9.
- If a child is undergoing evaluation or treatment, the custodial parent shall communicate that fact to the noncustodial parent.
- Each parent shall immediately notify the other of any medical emergencies or illness of the child that requires medical attention.
- If a child is taking prescription medication or under a health care directive, the custodial parent shall provide the noncustodial parent with a sufficient amount of medication and instructions whenever the noncustodial parent is exercising parenting time. Medical instructions from a health care provider shall be followed.
- If required by the health care provider, the custodial parent shall give written authorization to the child’s health care providers, permitting an ongoing release of all information regarding the child to the noncustodial parent including the right of the provider to discuss the child’s situation with the noncustodial parent.
- Insurance. A parent who has insurance coverage on the child shall supply the other parent with current insurance cards, an explanation of benefits, and a list of insurer-approved or HMO-qualified health care providers in the area where each parent lives. If the insurance company requires specific forms, the insured parent shall provide those forms to the other parent.
E. RESOLUTION OF PROBLEMS AND RELOCATION
- Disagreements Generally. When a disagreement occurs regarding parenting time and the requirements of these Guidelines, both parents shall make every effort to discuss options, including mediation, in an attempt to resolve the dispute before going to court.
- Mediation. If court action is initiated, the parents shall enter into mediation unless otherwise ordered by the court.
- Child Hesitation. If a child is reluctant to participate in parenting time, each parent shall be responsible to ensure the child complies with the scheduled parenting time. In no event shall a child be allowed to make the decision on whether scheduled parenting time takes place.
- Relocation. When either parent or other person who has custody or parenting time considers a change of residence, a 30 day advance notice of the intent to move must be provided to the other parent or person.
- Withholding Support or Parenting Time. Neither parenting time nor child support shall be withheld because of either parent’s failure to comply with a court order. Only the court may enter sanctions for noncompliance. A child has the right both to support and parenting time, neither of which is dependent upon the other. If there is a violation of either requirement, the remedy is to apply to the court for appropriate sanctions.
- Enforcement of Parenting Time.
- Contempt Sanctions. Court orders regarding parenting time must be followed by both parents. Unjustified violations of any of the provisions contained in the order may subject the offender to contempt sanctions. These sanctions may include fine, imprisonment, and/or community service.
- Injunctive Relief. Under Indiana law, a noncustodial parent who regularly pays support and is barred from parenting time by the custodial parent may file an application for an injunction to enforce parenting time under Ind. Code § 31-17-4-4.
- Criminal Penalties. Interference with custody or visitation rights may be a crime. Ind. Code § 35-42-3-4.
- Attorney Fees. In any court action to enforce an order granting or denying parenting time, a court may award reasonable attorney fees and expenses of litigation. A court may consider whether the parent seeking attorney fees substantially prevailed and whether the parent violating the order did so knowingly or intentionally. A court can also award attorney fees and expenses against a parent who pursues a frivolous or vexatious court action.
F. CUSTODY AND PARENTING TIME DURING A PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY
Existing court orders regarding custody and parenting time shall remain in place during a public health emergency and shall be followed. Parties should be flexible and cooperate for the best interests and health of the children during this time.
- School Calendar. For purposes of interpreting custody and parenting time orders, the school calendar as published at the start of the academic year or as amended during the academic year, from each child’s school shall control. Custody and parenting time shall not be affected by the school’s closure during a public health emergency.
- Transportation. Transportation for parenting time shall follow the provisions of the custody order or agreement unless such transportation is restricted pursuant to Executive Order.
- Temporary Modification. If both parents and any other parties to their court case (“the parties”) believe there is a reason to temporarily modify or change the terms of a custody or parenting time court order effective for the duration of a public health emergency and modification is not prohibited by the terms of their existing order, they may agree in writing to temporarily modify their existing order; however, the agreement must be filed and approved by the court to be enforceable. If the parties cannot reach a temporary agreement or do not remain in agreement, any party may file a petition to modify the existing order.
- Child Support. Many county child support clerk’s offices may be closed or not accepting payments in person. Existing court orders for child support payments remain in place and shall be followed. Child support payments can be made online, by telephone, by mail, and at other locations, as described on the Indiana Department of Child Services, Child Support Bureau website. Parents who are unable to make their full or any child support payments as a result of a public health emergency may file a petition to modify child support with the court.
- How to file documents. Agreements, petitions, or motions should be filed electronically, as documents sent by U.S. Mail or fax may not be reviewed as promptly by the judge. Filings with the court for a party represented by an attorney shall be made by the attorney.
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