Change is a Constant
The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines (“IPTGs” or “Guidelines”) offer a baseline for parents in this midst of a divorce or paternity action a guide for parenting time (previously called visitation). The IPTGs continue application after the initial action and custody order.
Parenting time issues, disputes, and misunderstanding are common problems Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. advocates encounter. With revised IPTGs on the table, we provide this blog to help readers to perhaps anticipate the future and eliminate misunderstandings and some disputes.
Because the IPTGs impact parent-child time, they examine holidays, children’s basic needs, parenting conflicts, and more to get to the ultimate needs and best interests of the child. However, like any law or guideline, there is a need to update and revise as society changes.
Currently, the IPTGs are under revision, and the comment period has closed, ultimately allowing a new version to be ordered by the Indiana Supreme Court.1
Some proposed changes involve just moving sections of the Guidelines around–for readability and to make the IPTGs more useful. For example, “A Child’s Basic Needs” was moved to the beginning of the IPTGs in the proposed changes, and often the addition of wording about the “best interest of the child” has been added elsewhere throughout the IPTGs.
Among other reasons, this is to reinforce the notion that a child’s best interests, among all of the laws and dynamics in a case, are paramount.
The proposed changes also notes, more than once, that parents (and attorneys) should cooperate, and parents should attempt to create their own parenting time schedule based on the individual needs of the family and the best interests of the children. When this does not work, the IPTGs can be useful in creating a template/minimum standard for families.
On the other hand, parenting time arrangements can contain a provision that if the parties are unable to agree on a particular matter, at least until they can get into court, the provisions of the IPTGs control.
In the spirit of cooperation and parents creating their own plans, the IPTGs suggest creating a Parenting Time Calendar and offer websites to act as a starting point. Further, the Guidelines note that parents share the responsibility for parenting time, and children are not responsible for same.
This means the parents should not put the child in the middle to fight for more time. The Guidelines go further to list Unacceptable Excuses for Denying Parenting Time, including the weather is bad or the child has no clothes to wear.
The proposed changes also make two major additions to the IPTGs: the addition of sections regarding Parenting Coordinators and Parallel Parenting. As noted earlier in this blog, there are a number of more specific changes and additions in the proposed changes; but these are two entirely new sections and the focus of the rest of this blog.
To review all of the proposed changes including overnight parenting time and phase in for non-custodial parents and responsibility for and access to medical and school records, review the proposed changes in full.
The first new section covers Parenting Coordinators. Essentially, a Parenting Coordinator acts as a type of referee between parents who are high conflict (defined as parties who demonstrate a pattern of ongoing litigation, chronic anger and distrust, inability to communicate, etc.). For these parents, a Parenting Coordinator can aid in resolving conflicts without the need to go to court for each and every parenting dispute.
As importantly, a PC can address issues as they arise, mitigating lingering hostility from issue upon issue lumping together, leading to a contested trial weeks later. At this time, the issue itself and fighting often becomes more important and bigger than the dispute. Dealing with issues as they arise sometimes diffuses this situation.
You may be asking, what is a PC: Parenting Coordinators are not mediators or judges. They listen to each side and remain impartial, but often side with one parent or another regarding an issue of contention, considering the child’s best interests.
For example, if Mother wants to take child out of state for a wedding and Father does not, the parties, and possibly the child, would meet with the Parenting Coordinator to discuss the issue. The Parenting Coordinator cannot create an order, but they can submit a proposal to the Court, that can order same.
Under the proposed changes, a Parenting Coordinator can be appointed without the consent of the parties, for an initial period no longer than two years. The court can divide the cost between the parties, and absent egregious action, neither party can request termination of the Parenting Coordinator for the first six months of appointment to allow proper time to see if Parenting Coordination will work.
Parenting Coordinators are to keep information in confidence, but what parents tell the Parenting Coordinator is not confidential. The purpose is to promote communication between parties with communication issues. Further, the Parenting Coordinator can speak to third parties regarding the family situation, including teachers.
Another resource added by the proposed changes for high conflict parents is Parallel Parenting. This concept is a way for parents who cannot communicate to not have to. During each parent’s parenting time, that parent makes the day-to-day decisions. Communication is strictly limited between parents to avoid conflict, and often only includes communication regarding emergencies and communication in writing.
Parallel parenting is not intended as a permanent solution, but can allow a transition to shared parenting time. However, Parallel Parenting time often is not compatible with joint legal custody, mid week parenting time, make up time, and opportunities for additional parenting time. Parallel parenting can be used as a tool to transition from supervised parenting time to unsupervised, and can benefit from the aid of Parenting Coordinators or family therapists.
The proposed changes have not yet passed and been made official, and agreements under previous versions of the IPTGs remain unchanged. However, if you have an upcoming matter to which the IPTGs with proposed changes may apply, review the proposals and be knowledgeable about the process.
At Ciyou & Dixon, P.C., we hope our education commitment allows you to be familiar with the terms and processes - allowing you to better understand potential agreements and orders and to act in the best interests of your child and family. In other words, we hope for the best interests of your children, and that this blog in some way aids in less conflict.
Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. practices law throughout the state of Indiana. The firm has a large focus on domestic relations issues of all types. This blog post was written by Bryan Ciyou, Esq. and Jessica Keyes.
- https://www.in.gov/judiciary/3763.htm- website with proposed 2012 IPTG changes