Indiana Supreme Court to Consider Revamping Child Custody Rules

In an effort to streamline the way Indiana courts handle contentious child custody cases, the Indiana Supreme Court will convene next month to decide whether to adopt a 33-page set of new guidelines prepared by the Indiana Judicial Conference. rainbowinhand.jpg

The panel, comprised of state trial court judges, was charged with hammering out a plan that would help reduce conflict in the most bitter of child custody battles.

Our Hammond child custody attorneys know that most parents have the best interests of their child at heart – and that’s what the court’s goal is as well. In the majority of cases, parents who may be slightly more amicable will probably be given a plan under Indiana’s “Parenting Time Guidelines.” These are basic principals of the court that hold it’s usually best for the child to have frequent and meaningful contact with each parent.

Under Parenting Time Guidelines, parents are expected to keep civil contact with one another, keep one another apprised of their contact information and should communicate directly with one another – not through the child. Additionally, each parent is allowed to have private communications with the child, and be given reasonable access to the child by telephone at all times. These rules also outline how the courts can break down who transports the child to and from visits, how much time each parent gets with the child and when, how to handle school activities, school records, medical records and decisions regarding holidays.

Failure to comply with the agreement as laid forth can result in a parent being held in contempt of court and potentially facing criminal penalties under Indiana Code 35-42-3-4, kidnapping.

Of course, it rarely comes to that, and most parents work out a plan that generally fits their lives, even if it must occasionally be revisited.

However, there are the cases where parents can’t seem to agree on anything. These would be in cases in which there is:

  • A pattern of ongoing litigation;
  • Chronic distrust and anger;
  • An inability to communicate civilly about the child;
  • An inability to cooperate in the care of the child;
  • Other behaviors that place the child’s well-being at risk.

In these cases, the panel determined, the court may adopt what is called a parallel parenting plan, as opposed to the regular Indiana Parenting Time.

The guidelines are too numerous to name each individually, but they generally involve a focus on allowing each parent to do their job as parents without interference from the other during the time the child is with them. The court would call this being “on-duty.”

The “on-duty” parent would have a say over the day-to-day decisions and control of the child. This also means that neither parent is allowed to schedule activities for the child during the time the other parent is on-duty, without some kind of prior approval from the on-duty parent.

Just like in Parenting Time, the child is not to share any of the responsibilities for communication or decision-making.

It also spells out exactly how holidays are to play out. For example, on Thanksgiving, a child will spend from two hours after school that Wednesday until that Sunday at 7 p.m. with the father on odd-numbered years, and conversely with the mother on even-numbered years. Additionally, Martin Luther King’s Day and President’s Day are added to the list of holidays that are included.

These enhanced guidelines may help some parents who can’t seem to reach agreements otherwise, but you will still need an experienced child custody lawyer in your corner.

If the Indiana Supreme Court adopts the parallel parenting guidelines, they will go into effect early next year.

Indiana Family Law Attorney Burton A. Padove handles divorce and child custody matters throughout northern Indiana, including Gary, Hammond and Calumet City. Call Toll Free 877-446-5294.

Additional Resources:
Indiana judges revise ‘parenting time’ rules in custody cases, Sept. 18, 2012, By Maureen Hayden, Pharos-Tribune
More Blog Entries:
Indiana Divorce More Complex For Business Owners, Aug. 15, 2012, Hammond Divorce Lawyer Blog