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who-is-a-family-member-for-purposes-of-the-first-right-of-refusal-in-parenting-time

Who is a “Family Member” for Purposes of the First Right of Refusal in Parenting Time

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.

This issue is quite important. As such, the Indiana Supreme Court granted transfer; and it summarily affirmed the Court of Appeals decision was an accurate statement of the law.iii

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.


  1. 1. Indiana Parenting Time Guideline I(C)(3).
  2. 2. Shelton v. Shelton, 835 N.E.2d 513, 517-18 (Ind.Ct.App.2006).
  3. 3. Shelton v. Shelton, 840 N.E.2d 835 (Ind.2006) (summarily affirming Court of Appeals decision).
  4. 4. Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57 (2000).
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Ciyou & Dixon, P.C., is a law firm located in Indianapolis, Indiana. We serve clients in six core practice areas: family lawappellate practicefirearms lawgeneral practicepersonal injury and criminal law.

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Based in Indianapolis and founded in 1995, Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. is a niche law firm focused on successfully dealing with the complexities of divorce, high-conflict child custody and family law. Known for their ability to solve extremely complex situations with high quality work and responsiveness, Ciyou & Dixon will guide you every step of the way. The family law attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. will help you precisely identify your objectives and the means to reach your desired result. In addition, this practice focus is augmented by the firm's other three core areas, namely appellate advocacy, civil practice, and firearms law. Life is uncertain. Be certain of your counselSM.

Indianapolis Divorce Attorneys, Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. of Indianapolis, Indiana, offers legal services for Indianapolis, Zionsville, Noblesville, Carmel, Avon, Anderson, Danville, Greenwood, Brownsburg, Geist, Fortville, McCordsville, Muncie, Greenfield, Westfield, Fort Wayne, Fishers, Bloomington, Lafayette, Marion County, Hamilton County, Hendricks County, Allen County, Delaware County, Morgan County, Hendricks County, Boone County, Vigo County, Johnson County, Hancock County, and Tippecanoe County, Indiana.