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New Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines in 2022

The coronavirus pandemic that started in 2020 created significant upheaval across the globe. Temporary business and community closures, and quarantine and isolation orders, upended daily life. Nowhere is that more apparent than in family law, where two-household parents worried about how to keep their families safe without violating court ordered parenting time schedules. To help resolve this and other problems, the Indiana Supreme Court issued new Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines, which take effect January 1, 2022. Here, an Indianapolis family lawyer reviews some of the key changes to the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines.

Why the Old and New Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines Are Important

The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines provide a starting point for developing parenting time orders in family law cases. Based on the premise that children with parents in different households benefit from having regular contact, interaction, and communication with both parents, the Guidelines also recognize that disagreements and tension can be high in divided families. As a result, the Guidelines also establish a concrete framework against which to interpret visitation orders so that families might more fully understand these orders and, thereby, avoid disputes about parenting time.

The new Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines effective in 2022 are, in part, a response to disputes that have arisen because of changes in our world, such as the global pandemic, as well as ongoing reevaluation of what works and what doesn’t in this blueprint to help divorced and separated families. Understanding what’s new, what’s the same, and when the changes apply to you, an experienced Indianapolis family lawyer from Keffer Hirschauer LLP summarizes the major changes and what you need to know about them.

What’s Different about the New Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines

Much of the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines remain unchanged. The core part of the Guidelines, the actual visitation schedule recommended, is still tiered based on the child’s age, and there are no changes regarding normal (non-holiday) visitation. However, in many areas that remain unchanged, the supreme court added new comments to clarify or explain particular provisions. Thus, reading the Guidelines and their comments is essential to a complete understanding.

Although much remains the same, the supreme court also made significant changes in some areas. The biggest changes found in the new Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines are in new sections on parenting time and custody during a public health emergency and on a new “shared parenting” plan model. The court also clarified points in several different areas, all of which likely resulted from a review of the more litigious family law cases.

This article summarizes some of the key changes to the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines, but it is not a substitute for working with experienced Indiana divorce attorneys.

What the New Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines Say about Parenting in a Public Health Emergency

The coronavirus pandemic created a perfect storm for discord between divorced and separated parents. Quarantine orders, parents who differ on how to best protect their children from the virus, and school and childcare facility closures were a hotbed for disputes about how and whether to adjust the parenting schedule to accommodate the situation.

The new Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines include a section offering guidance on how to handle unexpected circumstances like those created by the pandemic. This new guideline reaffirms that court orders on parenting time, child support, and custody remain enforceable, even during a pandemic, but they also acknowledge a public health emergency can create situations in which compliance with existing orders is problematic.

To head off future disputes arising from a public health emergency, the new guideline specifies how parties may remain compliant with existing orders in their cases when a public health emergency interferes with business as usual, such as court and government office closures. In particular, the new guideline allows parties to file a joint written agreement to modify custody and parenting time orders to accommodate changes brought on by the public health emergency, although that agreement is only enforceable upon approval by the court.

Refinements to the Guideline on Make-Up Parenting Time

Fallout from the pandemic and the pandemic itself created problems for many families with parenting time orders. School and daycare closures created childcare problems, and the virus itself caused families to quarantine or even isolate. Missed visitation and attempts to make up that time caused a backlog of contempt and modification requests. In response, the supreme court clarified these points about make-up parenting time:

  • Parenting time missed due to circumstances beyond a parent’s control can be rescheduled—this does not include parenting time missed due to poor planning or disorganization
  • The parent who realizes the need to alter the parenting time schedule must give notice to the other parent as soon as possible
  • Make-up parenting time should occur as soon as possible, but it may not be used to deny the other parent special days or holidays or interfere with previously scheduled events
  • Examples of valid reasons for make-up parenting time include mandatory work, illness, or military obligations, but they do not include voluntary decisions such as vacations
  • Make-up parenting time shall be in blocks no greater than three days and shall not be exercised during holidays or on special days

The New Guidelines Ditch the Parallel Parenting Plan Model and Replace it with a Shared Parenting Model

Prior to the current amendment, the Guidelines included a model parenting plan order for parents with an ongoing pattern of litigation, ongoing distrust and anger, significant problems communicating about the children, or other behaviors creating an inability to parent cooperatively. This parallel parenting plan detailed each parent’s responsibilities when the child was with them.

The new Guidelines have replaced the parallel parenting plan model with a shared parenting plan model. The shared parenting plan targets a different demographic—parents who co-parent cooperatively, communicate effectively regarding the children, and can agree on an allocation of parental responsibilities.

This new part of the Guidelines is merely a starting point for discussion, not an actual guideline. An Indianapolis family lawyer from Keffer Hirschauer LLP can help you determine whether this more cooperative type of parenting plan may be right for your family.

Detailed Factors to Aid in Determining Whether Parenting Time in Excess of the Guideline Amount is Appropriate

Among other things, the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines establish a standard recommendation for the parent who is considered the non-custodial parent. However, parties are free to agree to—or the court may award—parenting time in excess of the standard recommendation when warranted by the facts in the case.

In the Guidelines that take effect January 1, 2022, the supreme court has added a non-exhaustive list of factors that the trial court and the parties may consider in determining whether the parenting time order should deviate from the standard recommendation. Specifically, the court listed relevant questions to consider under each of these areas:

  • Factors related to the child
  • Factors related to the parent
  • Factors related to the parent-child relationship
  • Factors related to the co-parenting relationship
  • Factors related to the child’s environment in each family’s home and extended family

The Deadline for Filing a Notice of Intent to Relocate

When a parent who has or is seeking a custody or parenting time order wishes to relocate, Indiana Code § 31-17-2.2-1 requires that parent to give notice of the plan to move to the court and to anyone else who has or is seeking a custody or parenting time order regarding the child. The new Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines change the timeline for filing such notice from 90 days to 30 days before the intended move. However, the new Guidelines also reiterate the exception under § 31-17-2.2-1 that no notice is required if the move would not require a change in the child’s school and would bring the two households closer together or not result in a distance greater than 20 miles.

Clarifying Parenting Time Communications

The Guidelines specifically require a parent to relay to the child messages from the other parent left on an answering machine, voicemail, or pager. The new Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines updated the modes of communication, replacing pagers with text and email.

In addition, the new Guidelines specify that no one may record a child’s communications with the other parent.

Comments Regarding Transportation Responsibilities

The new Guidelines add two comments regarding scenarios in which transportation and child exchanges between one parent and another can involve conflict. First, parents are reminded to be mindful of not bringing to these exchanges a third party who may cause or increase conflict with the other parent. Secondly, the setting of exchanges at police departments is discouraged unless there is a history of repeated intimidation or violent acts between the parents or there is an existing protective order between them.

Child exchanges can be difficult when conflict between the parents is common, even if it doesn’t rise to the level described above. An Indianapolis family lawyer from Keffer Hirschauer LLP can help you find alternative solutions to keep everyone safe at parenting exchanges and decrease the likelihood of threats or violence.

Refinements to the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines for Holidays

The Guideline default plan provides for an interruption to normal parenting time to allow each parent time with a child on and near major holidays and other special days, such as the child’s birthday and school breaks. The new Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines add the following:

  • Recommended holiday parenting time schedule for children three years and older should be based on the following:
    • The academic calendar of the school district in which the child resides if the child is not yet enrolled in school, or
    • The academic calendar of the school district in which the child is enrolled
    • The academic calendar of the parent who pays the majority of controlled expenses in cases where parents have equal parenting time

The new Guidelines also add more specificity regarding parenting time on the night before and the day of each child’s birthday and make slight changes to the starting and ending time of visitation over school winter break and other recognized holidays.

Do the New Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines Apply to You?

The new Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines become effective on January 1, 2022. All cases entering new or modifying existing parenting time orders on or after that date shall rely on the new Guidelines. Anyone with existing parenting time orders should rely on the Guidelines in effect at the time that order was entered for clarification of their parenting time orders.

Many parents are unaware that the Guidelines are revised from time to time. Using the correct version of Guidelines is critical to accurately interpreting your parenting time order just as relying on the wrong version can create a potential for being found in contempt of that order. If you’re unsure which version of the Guidelines applies in your case or how to interpret your parenting time order, the Indiana divorce attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP can help.

Where Can You Turn for Help with Your Parenting Time Issues and Questions?

The old and new Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines are in place to reinforce the goals of parenting time and to provide clear direction of each parent’s responsibilities. But parenting time orders and the rules on which they’re based can be complicated, and a parent’s deep desire to have time parenting time can sometimes result in conflict—conflict that can be harmful to the child and the parent-child relationship and expose a parent to possible contempt proceedings. Where can you turn for help?

The Indiana divorce lawyers at Keffer Hirschauer LLP bring to your case years of experience helping parents navigate difficult parenting time, custody, child support, and other post-divorce issues. To learn more about whether the new Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines apply in your case—or how applying them may change your parenting time options—call us today at (317) 857-0160 or complete our online contact form.

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