As domestic advocates, we observe a common source of confusion--and antagonism--between parents as to when they should give (or are required to) the other parent the opportunity for additional parenting time.
The controlling Indiana Parenting Time Guideline (“IPTG”), states “[w]hen it becomes necessary that a child be cared for by a person other than a parent or a family member, the parent needing the child care shall first offer the other parent the opportunity for additional parenting time.”i
This provision is commonly referred to as the “First Right of Refusal.”
However, the IPTGs do not define the term “family member.” In a general sense this includes grandparents and significant others. Depending upon the level of trust and co-parenting between parents, they may not have an issue with how this term is used, applied and defined. For many parents, this is not the case.
Ultimately, the Indiana Court of Appeals considered how this term should be defined and issued a published opinion for guidance in 2006.ii The Decision focuses on the literal family unit living together under one roof, which in general terms is a parent, and significant other or step-parent.
The Court of Appeals did not extent and define the term “family member” to include grandparents. To some, this may seem incongruous with the best interests standard or simply unfair.
The Court of Appeals reasoning is legally sound (despite any particular call for a change in the law) and, in fact, has constitutional dimensions. Specifically, the Court of Appeals restated that the IPTGs are found “on the premise that it is usually in a child’s best interests to have frequent, meaningful and continuing contact with each parent.”
This puts the other parent’s right over third parties, even closely involved grandparents. Moreover, as constitutional matters, a natural parent’s right to raise his or her children are superior to grand parents.iv
Thus, a “family member” is a person who resides in the same household and is a caregiver for a child. At Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. we hope you find this information helpful, whether you are a divorced parent, a supportive friend, or a citizen with an interest in the law. This blog post was written by attorney Bryan L. Ciyou; Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. advocates practice throughout the State of Indiana.