Parenting Time Violations in Indiana
It’s important for anyone who is subject to a custody order to understand that it is possible to incur both criminal and civil penalties for parenting time violations in Indiana. The most serious parenting time violation is called interference with custody, which in its most serious form is considered a Level 4 felony. Beyond that, violations can lead to restraining orders, injunctions, or even result in a parent being found in contempt of court for parenting time violations in Indiana.
If you’re currently in a contentious situation regarding a child custody order in Indiana and need to speak to an experienced Indiana family law attorney, do not hesitate to contact the Indianapolis custody lawyers at Keffer Hirschauer LLP. Our family law team has vast experience handling matters related to child custody, the modification of parenting time, and more generally, parental rights in Indiana. To speak with an attorney today, call 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.
Interference with Custody in Indiana
The most serious parenting time violation in Indiana is interference with custody. Per Indiana Code 35-42-3-4, a person who intends to deprive another person of child custody rights commits interference with custody, a Level 6 felony in Indiana, when they knowingly or intentionally remove another person who is less than eighteen (18) years of age to a place outside Indiana when the removal violates a child custody order of a court; or they violate a child custody order of a court by failing to return a person who is less than eighteen (18) years of age to Indiana. However, this offense may be elevated to a Level 5 felony if the other person is less than fourteen (14) years of age and is not the person’s child. Moreover, the offense can be elevated to a Level 4 felony if the offense is committed while the offender is armed with a deadly weapon or when the offense results in serious bodily injury to another person.
This section of the Indiana criminal code also states that a person who, with the intent to deprive another person of custody or parenting time rights, knowingly or intentionally takes, detains, or conceals a person who is less than eighteen (18) years of age can be charged with interference with custody, a Class C misdemeanor. Like the offense described in the previous paragraph, this charge be elevated to a Class B misdemeanor if the offense is in violation of a court order.
When hearing cases involving the offense of interference with custody, courts may consider the accused person’s return of the other person, in accordance with the custody or parenting time order, within seven days following the removal. But it’s important to note that the offenses described in this section do continue as long as the child is concealed, detained, or both.
When a person is convicted of interference with custody in Indiana, they face serious criminal penalties. Per the Indiana sentencing guidelines, this could include up to 12 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Furthermore, they may be required to compensate the other party for reasonable costs incurred as a result of the offense.
Statutory Defense for Interference with Custody in Indiana
Notably, some statutory defenses are provided for those charged with interference with custody in Indiana. For instance, an alleged offender may have a valid defense if they were threatened, or reasonably believe that the child was threatened, and as a result, the child could not be returned to the other parent in a timely manner. However, demonstrating the required criteria to successfully argue this defense is challenging, and often requires the help of a skilled Indianapolis child custody attorney.
Parenting Time Violations in Indiana and Injunctive Relief
For many non-custodial parents, the parenting time schedule is sacrosanct as it is an explicit, legal order granting them the right to spend time with their child. Given this, Indiana law provides noncustodial parents with a legal method to enforce and protect their parenting time. In situations where a custodial parent denies the non-custodial parent with parenting time, in violation of the parenting time order, Indiana Code 31-17-4-4 allows for the non-custodial parent to file an application for an injunction against the custodial parent.
To pursue an injunction against a custodial parent, the noncustodial parent must first meet several standards of eligibility, including:
- The noncustodial parent must have been granted parenting time rights with a child who lives with the custodial parent
- The noncustodial parent must regularly pay their court-ordered child support; and
- The noncustodial parent must have been barred by the custodial parent from exercising their court-ordered parenting time rights
If the noncustodial meets those three standards of criteria, they may then proceed to file an application for an injunction against the custodial parent in the court that has jurisdiction over the dissolution of the marriage. If granted, this can result in a temporary restraining order being placed upon the custodial parent to prevent them from further violating the parenting time order. Per Indiana Code 31-17-4-8, if the custodial parent unjustifiably violates the injunction or restraining order the court may then issue an order holding the custodial parent in contempt; requiring them to do community service; and/or requiring them to pay the non-custodial parent’s attorney’s fees.
Contempt of Court for Parenting Time Violations in Indiana
Per Indiana Code 34-47-3-1, a custodial or noncustodial parent who has been served with a parenting time order, restraining order, or injunction, and chooses to willfully disobey that order can be found in indirect contempt of court for parenting time violations in Indiana. Generally, this penalty is reserved for major grievances or repeated offenses, rather than single or minor occurrences. For example, a person may be found in contempt for repeatedly violating the parenting time schedule or willfully failing to return the child to the custodial parent pursuant to the parenting time schedule. However, picking the child up several minutes late or returning the child a couple hours late due to issues with the car would typically not qualify as a violation worthy of being held in contempt.
When a person is charged with contempt, Indiana Code 34-47-3-5 provides that before answering the charge or being punished, they (the defendant) are entitled to be served with a rule of the court against which the contempt was allegedly committed. The rule must clearly set forth certain facts and information, including:
- The facts that constitute the act of contempt
- The time and place of the facts with reasonable certainty
- The time and place at which the defendant is required to show cause, in court, to demonstrate why they should not be punished for the alleged act of indirect contempt
Furthermore, Indiana courts shall provide the defendant with a reasonable and just opportunity to be purged of the contempt. Following the defendant’s opportunity to argue against the contempt charge, the court may decide to either drop the charge or punish the defendant. Per Indiana Code 34-47-3-6(c), the possible punishments for being found in contempt of court for parenting time violations in Indiana include fines, imprisonment, or a combination of both fines and imprisonment. Given the severity of these penalties, if you have been charged, or worry that you could be charged, with contempt, it’s vital that you speak with a contempt defense lawyer in Indiana as soon as possible.
Need to Speak with an Attorney about Parenting Time Violations in Indiana?
Anyone who is concerned with being charged with interference with custody or contempt of court for parenting time violations in Indiana should look to retain the services of the best Indiana family lawyer available. More specifically, to best protect your parental rights and prevent the creation of a criminal record, you’ll want to hire an attorney with extensive experience in criminal defense and litigation. That’s why many Hoosiers choose to work with the Indiana custody lawyers at Keffer Hirschauer LLP. Our team is made up of attorneys focused solely on family law, as well as former deputy prosecutors who handle matters of both criminal and family law. This ensures that you are well-protected and ably armed to safeguard your parental rights, regardless of the arena in which your legal matter is being handled.
Want to speak with an Indianapolis attorney today? Call 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation. We fully understand just how important this matter is to you and stand ready to begin working on your behalf.