COA: Trial court didn’t err when modifying parenting time based on basketball schedule

A parenting time modification that was granted to accommodate a teen’s summer basketball schedule was not an abuse of discretion by the Johnson Circuit Court, the Court of Appeals of Indiana has ruled.

Moussa Henry Kante and Carrie E. Long share a teenager, J.K, who was 14 during relevant proceedings. Long, the mother, resides in Noblesville, while Kante lives in Texas.

In the fall of 2021, J.K. enrolled at Noblesville High School. J.K. is active in sports and aspires to play NCAA Division I college basketball.

Long wanted J.K. to remain in Indiana for the summer of 2021 so that he could participate in summer basketball training for the high school and compete in AAU basketball. But that ran contrary to an April 2019 court order regarding parenting time, wherein Kante was entitled to parenting time for “[s]even weeks of summer break[.]” The prior order, issued while J.K. was still in middle school, recognized that, “… any parenting schedule will likely need to be modified to account for [J.K.’s] participation in high school athletics and the mandatory nature of summer practices and camps that are accompanied with those activities.”

Long filed a petition to modify parenting time in February 2021, and Kante responded by filing a petition to modify spring break and fall break parenting time as well as a motion for contempt. Following testimony, the trial court entered its order modifying parenting time in favor of the child’s basketball schedule.

On appeal, Kante argued the trial court’s modification was an abuse of discretion that “restricted” his parenting time.

But the COA found no abuse of discretion and determined the order was consistent with the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines and Indiana Code § 31-14-14-1.

“The parties seem to agree that Father is entitled to sixty-five days of parenting time per year, an amount consistent with the Guidelines,” COA Judge Elizabeth Tavitas wrote. “Father’s calculations of the trial court’s parenting time award, however, only include the parenting time that would constitute overnight visitation in the State of Texas. Father cites no authority justifying this constraint on his calculations. “

Tavitas continued that the COA was “sympathetic” to Kante’s position, as “Father expressed frustration at the difficulties he faces in communicating effectively with J.K. via phone, as well as with the suffering of J.K.’s academics, a decline that Father attributes to excessive focus on basketball.” Even so, the appellate court found the trial court’s order was reasonable and in the best interests of the child.

“All of the relevant factors were considered by the trial court when the court fashioned a parenting plan based upon the specific circumstances of this case,” Tavitas wrote. “To the extent that the parenting time order deviates from the Guidelines, the trial court explained, in writing, why the deviation was appropriate. Father’s parenting time award is reasonable, and the trial court was not required to make the factual finding contemplated by Indiana Code Section 31-14-14-1.”

The case is In the Matter of the Paternity of J.K.: Moussa Henry Kante v. Carrie E. Long, 21A-JP-1470.

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