In the state of Indiana, child custody matters are typically approached by the court with the mindset that it’s best for children to have a healthy relationship and frequent contact with both parents. While there are obvious exceptions to this rule, the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines help ensure that, whenever possible, both parents have a chance to support their children and develop ongoing relationships with them.
Understanding these guidelines can help you understand what to expect if you are dealing with a child custody case or child custody modification. Learn more about the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines below, including what changes were made to the guidelines in 2022.
What Are the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines?
The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines are a set of standards for determining the amount and schedule of time that each parent should have with their children in the state of Indiana. These guidelines are used by judges and other legal professionals to help determine a fair and appropriate parenting plan in child custody cases.
The guidelines take into account factors such as the children’s age, their relationships with each parent, and the parents’ schedules and responsibilities. They are designed to promote the best interests of the children and ensure that they have meaningful and consistent relationships with both parents whenever possible.
A Brief Guide to Changes Made to the Parenting Time Guidelines in 2022
One of the changes made to the guidelines in 2022 was spurred on, in part, by the COVID-19 pandemic and has to do with how parenting time is handled in the event there is a public health crisis. When there is a need for quarantining during such an event, for example, it can impact how child custody arrangements and time spent with each parent are handled. New additions in 2022 to the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines provide some guidance on how these matters might be handled and allow parents to create modified custody agreements that accommodate the changes that might be necessary in a public health emergency.
Other changes to the guidelines include:
- Allowances for make-up time. The guidelines recognize that factors outside of a parent’s control may impact their ability to have scheduled time with their children. One common example in recent years is the need to quarantine due to COVID-19 symptoms, but the factors aren’t limited to those related to individual health. If issues outside of a parent’s control cause them to miss out on time with their child, they should request make-up time from the other parent as soon as possible. The guidelines indicate that the other parent should make reasonable efforts to ensure that make-up time can occur. However, make-up time can’t infringe upon special events that the other parent has scheduled or planned.
- No recording conversations between children and parents. One parent may not record the conversations that the other parent has with their child. The new guidelines make it clear that parents and children have a right to privacy when communicating with each other.
- A parent can’t keep children from communicating with the other parent when the other parent has a right to that communication. There may be times when a parent limits a child’s access to electronic devices such as tablets and smartphones. This may be part of an overall culture in the family to limit screen time or may be used as a disciplinary tactic. However, these limitations or any other action cannot stop a child from communicating with their other parent in a way that is allowed by a custody agreement or supported by the rights of the other parent.
- Recommendations for police stations as drop-off and pick-up locations. Previously, the guidelines recommended police stations as a location for drop off and pick up of children between parents. This is no longer the case outside of situations where domestic violence is an issue and a safe location is required. The reason the guidelines have toned down this recommendation is that it is recognized that in many cases, police stations may be an intimidating location for children as well as parents.
- New recommendations for including third parties in drop off and pick up. The guidelines now include more recommendations about third parties and their role in these procedures. For example, they recommend leaving a new spouse at home when you pick up or drop off your children if that spouse and your ex have serious conflicts that could add tension to the exchange.
When Do You Need a Family Law Attorney?
If you are dealing with an initial child custody case, you may want a child custody lawyer even if both parents are willing to cooperate and act in a civil manner. An experienced family law attorney can help you understand all your rights and the many details and decisions that go into fashioning a child custody agreement that’s likely to work now and in the future.
Know, however, that you’re not stuck with whatever agreement you came up with. Whether or not you used a lawyer in your initial child custody agreement, you can ask for a modification if things aren’t working as you had hoped. Working with an experienced lawyer on your modification case can help support a better chance of success and protect the best interests of you and your child.