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This article highlights and discusses updates to Indiana’s Family Laws for 2023. There have been no significant changes to Indiana’s marriage and divorce laws. There are no updates for the requirements and steps to take for a divorce in Indiana.

The law's most recent and significant modifications are regarding Indiana’s Parenting Time Guidelines (“Guidelines”). This article will cover those amendments, which include:  

  • Privacy provisions for the parent and child when updating communication via text or email.  
  • Refraining from bringing third parties to child exchanges who will cause conflict and refraining from using law enforcement facilities for exchanges unless necessary.  
  • Acceptable reasons for missed parenting time and making up for that missed visitation time.  
  • Which parent will transport the child to extracurricular activities and not use these activities to interfere with the other parent’s parenting time?  
  • Notice of filing for relocation must be filed 30 days before the intended move.  
  • Provisions for parenting time during a public health emergency.  
  • Factors used to determine whether parenting time above the guideline amount is appropriate.  
  • Factors for determining the exercise of regular care responsibilities regarding the child.  
  • Recommendations for holiday parenting time schedules for children three years and older.  
  • The new Shared Parenting Model caters to cooperative co-parents and did away with the Parallel Parenting Model.  
Indiana's Parenting Guidelines

As of January 1, 2022, any case entering a new order or modifying an existing parenting time order shall rely on the new Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines (“Guidelines”). Any existing parenting time orders should rely on the guidelines that were in effect when the most recent order was issued. The amendments to the Guidelines do not constitute good cause for modification of an existing parenting time order; however, a court or parties to a proceeding may refer to these guidelines when determining whether to modify a parenting time order after January 1, 2022.  

What are the Guidelines for Communication Between Parent and Child?

Before January 1, 2022, the Guidelines required a parent to relay messages to the child from the other parent left on an answering machine, voicemail, or pager. The new Guidelines replace pagers with text and email. Additionally, the Guidelines specify that parents have a right to communicate privately with their children via text. Further, the Guidelines prohibit recording the child’s communication with the other parent. Finally, parents are reminded that they may restrict access to electronics as punishment but may not restrict communication with the other parent as a punishment.  

What are the Transportation Responsibilities of Each Parent?

The new Guidelines add two comments regarding transportation and another regarding child exchanges between one parent to the other. Before bringing a third party to the exchange, parents should consider if that person may cause or increase conflict with the other parent. If so, the third party should not accompany the parent to the exchange. Also, the supreme court advises parents not to use law enforcement facilities to exchange children unless there is a history of repeated intimidation or physical violence between the parents.  

What Happens if There are Changes in Scheduled Parenting Time?

The Supreme Court outlines when missed parenting time would be deemed appropriate and what should happen if parenting time is missed. Rescheduling missed time due to circumstances beyond the parent’s control is permitted. Some valid reasons for missed parenting time include mandatory work, illness, and military obligations, but do not include voluntary decisions like a vacation.  

A parent who needs a change to the parenting time schedule must notify the other parent as soon as possible. Making up missed time is to occur as soon as possible. Still, this time cannot be used to deny the other parent special days or holidays or interfere with previously scheduled events. For parents who exercise equal parenting time periods, make-up parenting time shall be in blocks of 3 days and not exercised during holidays or on special days.  

Exchange Of Information

The Guidelines allow the parent who is exercising their parenting time during an extracurricular activity for the child to have the first opportunity to provide transportation to the activity. The court mentioned the importance of extracurricular activities but the need for balance between scheduling these activities and interfering with the other parent’s parenting time.  

What if I Intend to Relocate?

The order amending the Guidelines changed the deadline for filing a notice of intent to relocate. Indiana Code § 31-17-2.2-1 requires a parent contemplating moving residences to give notice to the court and anyone else who has or is seeking a custody or parenting time order regarding the child. The new Guidelines require the parent to file a notice 30 days (was 90 days before) before the intended move.  

The Guidelines reiterate the exception in § 31-17-2.2-1, which states notice is not required if the move would not switch the child’s school and if the move would bring the two households closer together or if the move would be within 20 miles of the previous home.  

Custody And Parenting Time During A Public Health Emergency

The Supreme Court has acknowledged how a public health emergency, like the Coronavirus pandemic, can create situations in which compliance with existing orders is tricky. The Supreme Court has outlined how to handle parenting time issues during a public health emergency. The Guidelines reaffirm that court orders on parenting time, child support, and custody remain enforceable and how parents can remain compliant with existing orders in their cases when a public health emergency occurs.  

Issues arose with school and daycare closures during the Coronavirus pandemic. The virus and quarantine procedures caused visitation to be missed, and attempts to make up for the lost time created a backlog of contempt and modification requests in the courts. The Guidelines allow parties to file a joint written agreement to modify custody and parenting time orders to accommodate these unexpected, uncontrollable situations brought on by public health emergencies. It is important to note that these agreements and orders are only enforceable upon approval by the court.  

Parenting time Indiana

What are Specific Parenting Time Provisions?

Parents can agree to, or the court may award, parenting time in excess of the standard recommendation when warranted by the facts in the case. The factors used to determine whether parenting time over the guideline amount is appropriate are factors related to  

  • the child;  
  • the parent;  
  • the parent-child relationship;  
  • the co-parenting relationship; and  
  • the child’s environment in each family’s home and extended family.  

Overnight Parenting Time

The Guidelines establish a standard recommendation for the parent who is considered the non-custodial parent and list factors for determining the exercise of “regular care responsibilities.” These factors include the length of time the parents resided together with the child, previous overnights, any medical diagnosis, housing arrangements, frequency of involvement in daily activities with the child, and other factors affecting the regular care possibilities of the child.    

If you are an unmarried father wanting to read more about your parenting time rights, feel free to read our article on Custody and Parenting Rights of Unmarried Fathers in Indiana.  

Holiday Parenting Time Schedule

The new Guidelines articulate holiday parenting time schedules for children three years and older to be based on  

  • the academic calendar of the school district in which the child resides if the child is not yet enrolled in school,  
  • the academic calendar of the school district in which the child is enrolled, or  
  • if parents have equal parenting time, the academic calendar of the parent who pays most controlled expenses.  

Lastly, the Guidelines add more specificity regarding parenting time on the night before a scheduled visitation, on the day of each child’s birthday, and makes slight changes to the starting and ending time of visitation over school winter break and other recognized holidays.  

Shared parenting Indiana

Shared Parenting

The new guidelines eliminate the Parallel Parenting Plan Model and replace it with a Shared Parenting Model. Before the current amendments, the guidelines included a model parenting plan order for parents with an ongoing pattern of litigation, significant problems communicating regarding the children, or other behaviors inhibiting cooperative parenting. The parallel plan detailed each parent’s responsibilities when the child was with them.  

The Shared Parenting Plan aims to be a starting point for parents who co-parent cooperatively, communicate effectively regarding the children, and agree on allocating parental responsibilities. Some factors that help determine the capacity for shared parenting include each parent’s joint contribution to the care of the child, the benefit to the child, and other factors related to the parent, parent-child relationship, co-parenting relationship, and the child’s environment in each family’s home and extended family. Lastly, this model outlines questions parents should consider in determining whether the shared parenting model would apply to and benefit them.  

If you want to know more about your rights, need help receiving a parenting time order, or want to modify an existing one, please reach out to us. To request a consultation with an Indiana Family Law Lawyer, call our office at (630) 324-6666. You can also fill out our confidential contact form, and we will get back to you shortly.

November 22, 2022
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