Indiana releases massive updates to parenting time & custody guidelines

On Behalf of | Nov 1, 2021 | Family Law |

Part of what makes our system so great is the fact that the laws can change as needed. Indiana lawmakers recently put this to use, passing a massive change to parenting time and custody guidelines that will impact divorce for families with children throughout the state.

What are some of the key differences I should know about before finalizing my divorce?

Current state law encourages parents to create an actual calendar for year-long parenting time schedules. This can include a chart of the time the children spend with each parent and should note how the parents will handle holidays, birthdays, and school vacations. The court now provides an online resource to help create this tool.

Updates also address technological advances, such as the following:

  • Communication. The law has expanded to account for the fact that parents reach out via text and email as well as the traditional phone call to communicate with the child.
  • Limitations. The law allows parents to limit use of electronics like smart phones or tablets as punishment — as long as such punishment is not strictly to prevent communications with the other parent.

Not surprisingly, the updates also address parenting during a public health emergency. The new language encourages parents to be flexible and focus on what is best for the child, but states that the court orders regarding custody and parenting time will remain in place during a public health emergency. As such, it notes that a school’s closure will not change the agreed upon parenting time arrangement. However, the changes do allow both parties to temporarily modify the order as needed during these extraordinary times. In order to be enforceable, these temporary modifications must be written, filed, and approved by the court.

Another important change that resulted from the pandemic was the inclusion of the statement that any parenting time given up promoting the health of the child, such as isolating away from the child if exposed to a dangerous virus, should not qualify as a relinquishment of parenting time. In these situations, make-up time is appropriate.

The changes also outline the factors that the court will consider when reviewing a proposed parenting plan and includes a section outlining shared parenting in place of parallel parenting. The rules are extensive, and available in more detail here. Although extensive can seem overwhelming, it can also mean a better chance to put together a parenting plan that meets the needs of your child as well as your own.