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Concerns rise as revised parenting time guidelines near completion

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A first-ever review of Indiana’s Parenting Time Guidelines is nearing completion, but what the final proposal will look like isn’t known yet.

Among the proposed changes: Revisions to holidays that could affect weekend parenting time; new language dealing with online communication between parents and children and use of technology such as Skype; and revised rules regarding overnight visitation.

billick Billick

But perhaps the most significant changes pertain to proposed guidelines for parents in high-conflict situations: the guidelines under consideration would include provisions governing the use of parenting coordinators and “parallel parenting.”

Christopher Barrows, an attorney at Avery & Cheerva LLP in Indianapolis, is a parenting coordinator who said the rumor mill is churning about what language, if any, will be adopted regarding parenting coordinators. Court-appointed PCs act as buffers between parents to mediate and attempt to resolve differences regarding parenting time and other issues, but the current guidelines have no language addressing their roles.

“Some of the concern I have about the parenting coordinator rules is that the rules don’t go far enough in giving authority to the PC,” he said. As written, the rules wouldn’t allow parenting coordinators to make binding recommendations without a judge’s intervention, he explained.

In current practice, Barrows said he tries not to make binding resolutions unless he feels he has to. And in those cases, both parents must agree to the recommendation. He said it’s a useful tool.

“If it’s objected to within seven days, it’s not binding and they can take it to court,” Barrows said. But, he added, it also raises the practical question for parents: “Is this a battle you actually want to fight?”

Two committees of the Indiana Judicial Center – domestic relations and alternative dispute resolution – have been working for months on revisions to the guidelines after a period of public input closed.

Johnson Superior Judge Mark Loyd, who chairs the ADR panel, said that group has concluded its work and its counterpart committee will do so this month. The recommendations will then go to the Indiana Judicial Center board of directors, then to the Indiana Supreme Court for final approval, likely by year’s end.

What’s in those recommendations probably won’t be public knowledge until the judicial center board acts on them and moves them to the Supreme Court, said Jeffrey Bercovitz, director of juvenile and family law at the Indiana Judicial Center.

“The parenting time guidelines have not been reviewed since they were promulgated, and they were sorely in need of a review,” he said of the rules that took effect in 2001.

Loyd hinted at some changes that have been made after periods of public comment this year. “The rules as currently drafted would have a minimum level of credentials” for parenting coordinators, for instance.

The guidelines presented for public review earlier this year included a host of revisions, not limited to the adoption of parenting coordinator and parallel parenting rules. Those proposed revisions included:

Holidays. A proposed change would keep weekends following holidays on the original parenting schedule. In situations where parenting time alternates by weekend, the custodial parent could have children three weekends in a row. The proposed rules also clarified that each parent receives half of Christmas vacations and that if a child’s birthday falls on a holiday, the holiday establishes parenting time.

Overnights. The proposed guidelines would include a provision that overnight visitation shall be allowed “unless it can be demonstrated that the non-custodial parent has not had regular care responsibilities for the child.”

Electronic communication. A proposed guideline has been added encouraging communication between parents and children via phone, email and online services such as Skype. Such communication strengthens bonds between parents and children, according to the proposal.

Unacceptable reasons. A proposal lists reasons deemed unacceptable to refuse to provide parenting time. These include, among others, reasons such as a child refuses to go, the child isn’t home, the weather is bad, or the noncustodial parent is behind in support.

Rebecca Billick, a Bloomington attorney and domestic relations mediator, said she’s concerned the proposal for overnight parenting could harm the attachment bond that children under 3 form with their primary parent.

She said a growing body of research suggests that for very young children, frequent changes in where they’re sleeping can lead to difficulty understanding the world around them.

Among high-conflict parents, the proposed guidelines would include rules for parallel parenting, in which communication between parents is limited and usually in writing. Its uses typically would be reserved for situations where parenting counselors or family therapists are involved or when parenting time is being phased out.

But where parents can cooperate, the parenting time guidelines for the first time would place an onus on parents. A proposed section urges parents to make their own arrangements to establish parenting time where possible, subject to court approval.

“Parents should attempt to create their own parenting plan which is in the best interests of the child,” according to the last public draft proposed guidelines.

“The more we can resolve outside the courtroom, the quicker we can bring in the parties who can’t resolve their differences,’” Loyd said.•

Click here to read about the creation of the Indiana chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts.

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  • unjust treatment
    In addition to previous remarks in message from Terry Butcher: I'm 70 yrs old and she is 40 I have three grown children and three grown grand children and one great grand daughter,I still live where my son was born and I raised him the first four years of his life. She has forced me to see a neuropsychologist which I passed the testing just fine. Nothing I do is ever going to satisfy her, she thinks she can do no wrong and I'm not fit to have our son, but I was good enough to care for him while we were married and she was at work and going to concerts with her girlfriends and such. We never argue, we get along with each other in most areas. I just want my rights as a noncustodial parent as per parenting guidelines. Any suggestions you might offer would be appreciated. Thank you, Terry Butcher
  • just fair treatment
    In May of 2010, I went on a four day motorcycle trip, upon my return, my wife had left with our son who at that time was less than 4 years old. She refused to let me see him for almost 6 months and then it was with supervision because of things she concocted with some of her friends. After nearly two years, the divorce was final and she got full custody of our son, he is now 6 years old. She is referring to the guidelines that may go into effect next year and is applying them now.

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  1. It really doesn't matter what the law IS, if law enforcement refuses to take reports (or take them seriously), if courts refuse to allow unrepresented parties to speak (especially in Small Claims, which is supposedly "informal"). It doesn't matter what the law IS, if constituents are unable to make effective contact or receive any meaningful response from their representatives. Two of our pets were unnecessarily killed; court records reflect that I "abandoned" them. Not so; when I was denied one of them (and my possessions, which by court order I was supposed to be able to remove), I went directly to the court. And earlier, when I tried to have the DV PO extended (it expired while the subject was on probation for violating it), the court denied any extension. The result? Same problems, less than eight hours after expiration. Ironic that the county sheriff was charged (and later pleaded to) with intimidation, but none of his officers seemed interested or capable of taking such a report from a private citizen. When I learned from one officer what I needed to do, I forwarded audio and transcript of one occurrence and my call to law enforcement (before the statute of limitations expired) to the prosecutor's office. I didn't even receive an acknowledgement. Earlier, I'd gone in to the prosecutor's office and been told that the officer's (written) report didn't match what I said occurred. Since I had the audio, I can only say that I have very little faith in Indiana government or law enforcement.

  2. One can only wonder whether Mr. Kimmel was paid for his work by Mr. Burgh ... or whether that bill fell to the citizens of Indiana, many of whom cannot afford attorneys for important matters. It really doesn't take a judge(s) to know that "pavement" can be considered a deadly weapon. It only takes a brain and some education or thought. I'm glad to see the conviction was upheld although sorry to see that the asphalt could even be considered "an issue".

  3. In response to bryanjbrown: thank you for your comment. I am familiar with Paul Ogden (and applaud his assistance to Shirley Justice) and have read of Gary Welsh's (strange) death (and have visited his blog on many occasions). I am not familiar with you (yet). I lived in Kosciusko county, where the sheriff was just removed after pleading in what seems a very "sweetheart" deal. Unfortunately, something NEEDS to change since the attorneys won't (en masse) stand up for ethics (rather making a show to please the "rules" and apparently the judges). I read that many attorneys are underemployed. Seems wisdom would be to cull the herd and get rid of the rotting apples in practice and on the bench, for everyone's sake as well as justice. I'd like to file an attorney complaint, but I have little faith in anything (other than the most flagrant and obvious) resulting in action. My own belief is that if this was medicine, there'd be maimed and injured all over and the carnage caused by "the profession" would be difficult to hide. One can dream ... meanwhile, back to figuring out to file a pro se "motion to dismiss" as well as another court required paper that Indiana is so fond of providing NO resources for (unlike many other states, who don't automatically assume that citizens involved in the court process are scumbags) so that maybe I can get the family law attorney - whose work left me with no settlement, no possessions and resulted in the death of two pets (etc ad nauseum) - to stop abusing the proceedings supplemental and small claims rules and using it as a vehicle for harassment and apparently, amusement.

  4. Been on social security sense sept 2011 2massive strokes open heart surgery and serious ovarian cancer and a blood clot in my lung all in 14 months. Got a letter in may saying that i didn't qualify and it was in form like i just applied ,called social security she said it don't make sense and you are still geting a check in june and i did ,now i get a check from my part D asking for payment for july because there will be no money for my membership, call my prescription coverage part D and confirmed no check will be there.went to social security they didn't want to answer whats going on just said i should of never been on it .no one knows where this letter came from was California im in virginia and been here sense my strokes and vcu filed for my disability i was in the hospital when they did it .It's like it was a error . My ,mothers social security was being handled in that office in California my sister was dealing with it and it had my social security number because she died last year and this letter came out of the same office and it came at the same time i got the letter for my mother benefits for death and they had the same date of being typed just one was on the mail Saturday and one on Monday. . I think it's a mistake and it should been fixed instead there just getting rid of me .i never got a formal letter saying when i was being tsken off.

  5. Employers should not have racially discriminating mind set. It has huge impact on the society what the big players do or don't do in the industry. Background check is conducted just to verify whether information provided by the prospective employee is correct or not. It doesn't have any direct combination with the rejection of the employees. If there is rejection, there should be something effective and full-proof things on the table that may keep the company or the people associated with it in jeopardy.

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