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Kohlhaas: Notable changes to Indiana’s Parenting Time Guidelines

July 17, 2013
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By Michael Kohlhaas

Earlier this year, the Indiana Supreme Court amended the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines. The IPTG amendments became effective on March 1. A complete copy of the amended rules, with redlining showing the revisions, can be found at http://www.in.gov/judiciary/files/order-rules-2013-0107-parenting.pdf

The notable changes include:

1. Applicability. First, the revised IPTG apply only to parenting time orders issued AFTER the March 1, 2013, effective date. The revised IPTG will not apply retroactively to old parenting time orders automatically.

2. Annual schedule. To facilitate planning, parents are now encouraged to develop year-long calendars that determine in advance who will have parenting time, and when, for the entire year. See Preamble B at Commentary 3.

3. Findings. A trial court’s decision to give a parent more than IPTG time does not require written findings, but giving a parent less than IPTG time does require written findings. See Preamble C(3).

4. Email. Email addresses have been added to the list of contact information that parents should keep current and exchange with each other. See Section I(A)(1).

5. Communication with the child. Facilitating communication between the child and the parent not exercising parenting time is underscored as an important expectation of the parent who is then exercising parenting time. See Section I(A)(7).

6. Punctual exchanges. Added importance is placed upon punctual parenting time exchanges; delays trigger make-up time to occur at the convenience of the parent not responsible for the delay. See Section I(B)(2).

7. Opportunities for additional parenting time. The so-called “right of first refusal” language now essentially codifies the Shelton case (Shelton v. Shelton, 840 N.E.2d 835 (Ind. 2006)). Specifically, the opportunity for additional parenting time is not triggered when a “responsible household family member” is available to care for the child and, further, this term is defined as “an adult person residing in the household, who is related to the child by blood, marriage, or adoption.” See Section I(C)(3). Note also that new language in the commentary discourages use of the term “right of first refusal” in favor of “opportunity to exercise additional parenting time.”

8. Medical instructions. Medical instructions related to a child must be followed by the non-custodial parent. See Section I(D)(4).

9. Young children. For very young children, there is new language recommending overnights only when the non-custodial parent has previously exercised regular care responsibilities. See Section II(B).

10. Summer parenting time. Summer parenting time selection notice (still by April 1) should be given “in writing and verbally.” And, employer-imposed restrictions on either parent’s schedule should be considered by both parents in fashioning the summer schedule. See Section II(D)(3). Also, there is new language for children who have year-round or “balanced calendars” whereby the parents shall equally divide the child’s fall and spring school breaks.

11. Regular schedule versus holidays. The interplay between the alternating weekend schedule and the holiday schedule has been clarified: the tempo of the alternating weekends is not affected by a holiday. See Section II(F)(1). Thus, either parent could conceivably have three consecutive weekends of parenting time when a holiday weekend falls in between two regular weekends. The benefit of this clarification is that a parent who knows the first regular weekend in January can easily determine the regular alternating weekends for the entire calendar year.

12. New Year’s Eve/Day deleted. New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are no longer holidays. See Section II(F)(2)(B). They will now fall as part of the regular Christmas break allocation.

13. Birthdays trumped by holidays. Children’s birthdays and a parent’s birthday continue to be a “special day.” However, in the event of a conflict with another special day, holiday or Christmas vacation, the birthday will not take precedence over the other special day, holiday or Christmas vacation. See Section II(F)(2)(A)(5).

14. Christmas break. The particular start and end times of Christmas break are revised slightly, but the same concept of alternating the first half and second half of the break (with the parent not having Christmas Day to have the child from noon to 9 p.m. on Dec. 25) remains the same. See Section II(F)(2)(B).

15. MLK and Presidents Day weekends added. Martin Luther King Jr. weekend and Presidents Day weekend are added as holidays, from Friday at 6 p.m. to Monday at 7 p.m., if observed by the child’s school. See Section II(F)(2)(C).

16. Fall break added. Fall break is also added as a new alternating holiday weekend, from two hours after the child finishes school until 7 p.m. the evening before school resumes. See Section II(F)(2)(C).

17. Holiday schedule expressly alternates. The holiday schedule is clarified that it is alternated in years between the non-custodial parent and the custodial parent. See Section II(F)(2)(C). (The prior version of the IPTG allocated holidays only to the non-custodial parent, leaving a potential ambiguity about whether the custodial parent was awarded those same holiday periods in the alternating years.)

18. “Parallel parenting schedule.” The revised IPTG adds an entirely new section on “parallel parenting,” including a model parallel parenting order in the IPTG appendix. See Section IV. These orders are appropriate only in “high conflict” situations. There are numerous miscellaneous provisions designed to limit the need for communication between the parents. Mid-week parenting time and make-up time are generally omitted due to the higher level of communication required to schedule these. These orders are to be handled with a 180-day periodic review by the court to determine if the parallel parenting order would benefit from modification, including to the regular IPTG schedule.•

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Michael Kohlhaas is a partner at Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP. He concentrates his practice in a variety of personal representations, including the areas of matrimonial law and wealth transfer planning. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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